Psychedelic music arrived sometime in the mid ’60s just as musical tastes and cultural attitudes began to shift. It’s difficult to pinpoint just when exactly music took that turn, but the below list of the Top 25 Psychedelic Rock Albums highlights an era that started around 1966.
Songs like the Byrds‘ “Eight Miles High” and Yardbirds‘ “Shapes of Things” arrived within a month of each other in early 1966. By the following year, an entire genre was being shaped by new artists (like Jimi Hendrix) and by established ones (the Beatles), as well as in unlikely spots (Brazil’s Os Mutantes) and in specific areas (the San Francisco scene, in just a short time, gave birth to the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and many others).
But psychedelia was about more than music; it was also a lifestyle tied to drugs (especially LSD) and experimentation that led to such counterculture events as the Summer of Love and Woodstock. The best psych-rock goes on an adventure, taking familiar genres like pop and garage-rock to new places via nontraditional instruments, studio manipulation and mind-expanding lyrics based on everything from children’s stories to ancient philosophies. The detours aren’t part of the trip, they are the trip.
Psychedelic music still exists, but as the ’60s turned into the ’70s it took on different forms, some still recognizable in popular music today. The genre’s greatest era, not so coincidentally, came during rock’s golden period. No artist was immune to the music’s pull – but try to avoid psyche records by the likes of Neil Sedaka and Jan & Dean. Some people, as our list of the Top 25 Psychedelic Rock Albums proves, just did it way better.