Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. It often used new recording techniques and effects and drew on non-Western sources such the ragas and drones of Indian music. Major features of psychedelic rock are electric guitars, often used with feedback, wah wah, and fuzzboxes, extended instrumental solos or jams, elaborate studio effects, such as backwards tapes, long delay loops and many more features. A sitar was used much early on with recordings of the genre. The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Indian classical music.
Powerful drugs such as LSD, mescaline, peyote and mushrooms were being combined with marijuana and alcohol as a means to disconnect from reality. While under the influence of these substances, musicians and artists felt as if they had entered a higher sphere of awareness. Psychedelic rock musicians felt free to break out of the pop music mode and perform longer pieces based on free-form jazz and blues models. Lyrics were no longer required to make linear sense because they could reflect an altered reality of the drug experience.
It was established by many musicians including The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Yardbirds, emerging as a new genre during the mid-1960s, along with folk rock and Blues rock bands in the United States. Two of the most successful and influential acts of the era, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, were among the first to experiment with such references. Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965), which may have taken its title from a Kerouac novel included the line, “Johnny’s in the basement, mixing up the medicine”, and his “Mr. Tambourine Man” (1965) After being introduced to cannabis, members of The Beatles began experimenting with LSD in 1965. The Beatles introduced audiences to many of the major elements of the psychedelic sound during this period, with guitar feedback in “I Feel Fine” (1964). Drug references soon began to appear more and more in their songs.
Psychedelic rock reached its height in the last years of the decade. 1967 saw the Beatles release the double A-side “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”. It reached its peak between 1967 and 1969 with the Summer of Love and the Woodstock Festival. By the end of the 1960s psychedelic rock was in retreat. LSD had been made illegal in the US in 1966.