Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: a psychedelic journey

Hi again!

You might have recognized the initials of this post’s title. If you didn’t, look again. Yes, LSD! Now it has almost completely vanished, but in the mid-60’s and 70’s it was a very popular drug, which helped create the whole psychedelic movement. This, as most influential cultures, led to the rise of new art styles, specifically new music genres. Today, I’m going to lead you in a journey through psychedelic rock, a genre which intended to replicate the hallucinogenic, mind-altering effects of the drugs, and most times succeeded! All on board? Let’s set sail to the 60’s, where bands like The Byrds, the Yardbirds or Cream were striving to success with songs like Eight Miles High, The train kept a-rollin’ / Still I’m sad or Sunshine of Your Love.

Most of these bands played extended jams live. A good example is the song on the left, eight miles high, completely transfigurated into this. These 3 bands were of paramount importance to the development of rock music, with three of the best guitarists ever playing there: Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton on both the Yardbirds and Cream. David Crosby, later of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame, came out of the Byrds.

The Beatles and Pink Floyd also had their psychedelic era, with songs like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Astronomy Domine (with Syd Barret) or Echoes (with David Gilmour). Floyd were also one of the first Space Rock bands, as psychedelia is very connected with that genre.

(Note to fellow high-schoolers: remember being on the Colosseum on the second song?)
As you probably understood by now, psychedelic rock was all about noisy guitars, full of feedback, wahwahs and fuzzboxes, prominent organs and sometimes strange instrumentation or sounds. Sometimes repeating, even mono-manic sounding riffs were spread throughout whole albums, or very big songs, such as Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, allegedly written while drunk and high – yes, they meant In the garden of eden, but were too high to pronounce it right 😛 – I’ll leave you here a shortened version of the 18min song:

Other good examples of psychedelia are Atomic Rooster (who were very much related to progressive music, as did Pink Floyd), Vanilla Fudge, Jefferson Airplane, Robert Calvert, Hawkwind (these guys completely embraced the space/psychedelia label till today – their live shows included a tripping girl dancing naked). In Germany, a genre of repetitive, unusual music borrowed much from the psychedelic culture, the so called Krautrock or Kosmische Musik, with bands like Can, Amon Düül II, Guru Guru, Neu!, Gila, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh or the better known Kraftwerk (who later moved on to electronic music) but that could be subject of a future post, with the great musical output that it provided…

As LSD was prohibited on 1966, the genre started to decline, giving way to progressive, hard and heavy rock music. However, there’s been a revivalism in the 60’s/70’s music, and psychedelia is no different. A few great up-and-coming bands are Astra, Hypnos 69, The Flying Eyes (listen to them and you’ll find out that Jim Morrison didn’t die at 27 after all), The Future Kings Of England. Other established artists have wandered through psychedelia too: Lenny Kravitz, Prince

Ok, and that is all for today. I’ve been told by some more loyal followers that so big a post is difficult to follow, so I made this youtube playlist, so that you can listen to all the songs comfortably.

Hope you’ve enjoyed another of my verbiages 😛

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Covering (in) the 60’s

Two weeks and 30 posts later, I think it’s time to finally write a post with a song from the 60’s! We’ve had songs from all the decades  since the 40’s, but somehow we missed what was perhaps the most prolific decade (40% of Rolling Stone’s list of 500 best songs ever are from the 60’s) of modern music history. But I am writing to change that!

In 1968, after the release of two successful albums, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Henrix’s band) released its third and last studio album, Electric Ladyland. “All Along the Watchtower”, a cover of a Bob Dylan’s song that had been released less than a year before, was one of the songs featured in the album.

Dylan’s version was released as a single, but it did not reach the charts. Unlike the original, Hendrix’s version reached number 5 in UK charts and number 20 in the US. Dylan himself understood this quite well, as he praised Jimi’s version and started performing the song in a way that resembles Hendrix’s.

Hendrix did not live to see it (he died two years after, in 1970), but “All long the Watchtower” became one of his most acclaimed songs: it stands at the 47th place of the already mentioned Rolling Stone’s list; it was considered also by Rolling Stone the greatest cover ever; and it has been covered by many artists, including U2, Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton & Lenny Kravitz and the already mentioned in this blog Neil Young (both with Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen) and Dave Matthews Band (with an acoustic version that mixes both Hendrix and Dylan’s versions, while simultaneously diverging from them).

If you had the patience to listen to all those versions, you have probably enjoyed them all, as they are all quite good. But Hendrix is Hendrix 😉