Another huge contributor to the music as well as the cultural scene was the music and artists that emerged from the Bay Area. Together with its counter-cultural community, the artist would perform live in the streets and in the mid 60’s and early 70’s many San Francisco based bands would record those songs. Although different in style and sound the bands from the Bay Area were similar as in their use of different chord progressions, increased emphases on the bass guitar and drums. This sound was not just influenced by the British sound but also from folk rock, Chicago electric blues and soul music of Detroit.
Notable artists of the area and time are, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Santana, The Great Society, Quicksilver Messenger Service, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Country Joe and the Fish.
Even today the San Francisco sound remains a model to many artists from then and today.
Psychedelic music can be found in all genres of music. Rock n’ roll does not have the corner on this form of expression. True its roots primarily come from rock n’ roll of the 1960’s when artists would combine electric sounds and Eastern influences stimulated by the use of mind-altering drugs (LSD being the catalyst for most psychedelic music of the Sixties). Nevertheless, psychedelic music could be found in folk, pop, soul and even Western art music.
Also known as Acid Rock, psychedelic music can be defined as simply surrealism or dream like. The Beatles are well known for their psychedelic music of the mid Sixties. Songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I Am the Walrus” were supposedly drug induced. Many artists and their music of the Sixties have been associated with hallucinogenic drug use. Acts included Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors. The real question being, were these acid rock songs written while on acid (LSD) or is it simply music one listens to while on acid? If I were to guess I would say a little of both.
One needs to keep this in the back of his mind–the music business is just that a business. A big part of an artist’s success is perception, good or bad. Whatever will sell records.
Other acts of the Sixties that have over the years been considered psychedelic music makers are Iron Butterfly, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe and the Fish. Even the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s efforts to match The Beatles released the album “Pet Sounds”. Later the single “Good Vibrations” would become a big Beach Boys hit.
Since its conception in the Sixties, psychedelic rock or acid rock still plays an influential roll to artists and performers today.
The decade of the 60’s was one of many accomplishments as well as tragedy, war and violence. It was a time of technological advances and great individual accomplishments, a decade of firsts: the first heart transplant, the first televised Presidential debate, the first man in space, the first man on the moon and the first Super Bowl.
As a nation we mourned the loss of a President gunned down in Dallas. We cried as his brother met the same fate. The Civil Rights Movement which had made great strides in the Sixties was shook by a gunman in Memphis. Along with the Civil Rights Movement we saw the rise of feminism, the anti-war movement, the rise of the New Left and increased crime–riots in Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit to name a few. We heard it all. Let’s not forget our fallen bothers.
We saw many of our young men as they went off to fight in what was to many a senseless war. This along with the strong materialistic values of the time and the Cold War helped spawn a counterculture or social revolution. These rebels of the time were called hippies. The hippie movement grew massively and very fast. The movement was marked by their drug use, free love and of course, their music.
The counterculture revolution created a vast market for rock, soul, pop, blues, reggae and folk music. Artists influenced by the drug culture music of the times included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, The Who and Donovan to name only a few.
A vast many of these artists and others of the Sixties were greatly influenced by the music that resonated from the Mississippi Delta and into the larger cities like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Memphis. In their youth many of these aspiring artists would spend hours listening to the sounds of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and Son House. This was especially true of the musicians across the pond in England. Even today the Blues are quite popular there. We must not forget the heroes of the 1950’s that left their impressions, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and of course, Elvis Presley. John Lennon once said that Chuck Berry was his teacher but Elvis was his idol.
With all this in mind the artists of the 1960’s took that influence and added their own artistic expression which was augmented by the use of hallucinogenic drugs. The most popular besides marijuana was LSD, which gave birth to music known as Psychedelic Music also known as Acid Rock. The effect of the drug use is reflected in much of the rock music of the sixties. Whether you agree or not with this practice one will have to admit that some of greatest music was claimed to be written under the influence of these substances.
Next post we’ll take a closer look at some of the artists, music and events that had the greatest impact on the overall music scene of the decade.