List of Psychedelic Songs
In order to judge which songs are Psychedelic, I have developed a point rating system
one point for each quality, but the number one on the list is two points
1. changes in time temp (2 points)
2. subject of lyrics is Psychedelic
3. acid guitar(s)
4. sitars, cow bells, organ, tambourine or other period sounding instruments
5. long trippy musical passage or passages
6. time period 60s and early 70s pre disco and pre 1975
The higher the song rates the more Psychedelic on the scale and the more worthy of being on the list of Psychedelic songs. I don’t include songs that are only protest folk songs, that would go on a separate list of protest music. This was music to protest the war in Vietnam.
I think only The Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers fulfills all six requirements. This makes The Time Has Come Today, the winner as the most Psychedelic song.
The second most Psychedelic song is Eight Miles High by The Byrds
Spinning Wheel by Blood, Sweat & Tears (This song is a winner due to the lyrics, the changes in tempo, the long musical passages, the song is written in 1969 making in fall with in the correct time period, and it even has cow bells. It is not often included on lists, but it fits all of criteria expect for not having acid guitars.)
Other very important Psychedelic Songs to include in lists:
Beatles Songs (not a complete list)
A Day in a Life about Tara Browne who was killed in a car crash
I Am The Walrus (reported to say Smoke Pot, Everybody Smoke Pot)
Blue Jay Way (the tape runs backward to create the sound, this sound is made by backwards tapes, which is not the same as backwards masking.
Backmasking is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking is a deliberate process, whereas a message found through phonetic reversal may be unintentional.
Strawberry Fields Forever is about a place John would go as a boy to play with other kids away from adult eyes.
Lucy in the Star with Diamonds and the Elton John Version has a good long organ passage which sounds Psychedelic
Good Vibrations the Long Version by the Beach Boys & Heroes and Villains
Donovan many of his songs are Psychedelic, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Season of The Witch, Sunshine Superman, and a lesser known track called Super Lungs (She’s my Super Girl) This song is about a young school girl who smokes pot and hangs out with Donovan. Donovan had a thing for young girls.
The Doors Light My Fire has long musical passages, but other songs by Doors could be considered Psychedelic due to the lyrics by Jimi Morrison and the musical passages.
Deja Vu by Crosby Stills & Nash (check on the newly released demo version)
Dark Star Crosby Stills & Nash by not the Grateful Dead Song
Marrakesh Express by Crosby Stills & Nash
Casey Jones by The Grateful Dead and One Toke Over the Line by Brewer & Shipley
Uncle John’s Band by The Grateful Dead (a hippy song but it has a harmony of voices similar to Crosby Still and Nash.)
King Crimson had two worthy songs The Court of the Crimson King and
Thela Hun Ginjeet has an pre rap version of rap music in which the band member, Adrian Belew, recounts his experience in a bad neighborhood when he was walking the street with his tape machine looking for sounds to record. They included the taped conversation in the mix. I had thought they wrote a script for this, but they did not. This is what I would call a bad acid trip song. This song is a bit late for Psychedelic Status as it was record in 1980 in New York right after the John Lennon Assassination.
Mama Told Me Not to Come by Three Dog Night
I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) by the Electric Prunes
Amboy Dukes- The Journey to the Center of the mind
Pictures of Matchstick Men – Status Quo
Incense and Peppermint – Strawberry Alarm Clock
Time of the Season – The Zombies
Santana – Jingo and Oye Como Va, Black Magic Woman
Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
My Green Tambourine – The Lemon Pipers
Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine – Country Joe and the Fish
The Yardbirds – For Your Love and Shapes of Things
Fresh Air – Quicksilver Messenger Company (Have Another Hit)
Psychotic Reaction – Count Five
Happy Together – The Turtles
Tuesday Afternoon & Ride My See Saw – The Moody Blues
Roundabout – Yes ( Note: Yes is more progressive rock)
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Are You Experienced and Purple Haze- Jimi Hendrix Experience (many Hendrix songs are Psychedelic)
The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City (Hot Town) the name Lovin’ Spoonful likely refers to heroin. The Lovin’ Spoonful was a pop music band but this song fits due to the musical passages.
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) by The First Edition
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown The Fire Suite
Wikipedia as being Psychedelic, there is another song on that album, called Come and Buy and in spite of the cynical lyrics fits.
My favorite song is Dark Side of the Moon, almost all the songs on that Album are Psychedelic including Us and Them. Interstellar Overdrive was used for the Lazarium show at The Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park in the late 70s and early 80s. Many Pink Floyd Songs are Psychedelic.
The Red Telephone by a group called Love (This is a song I had never heard of before. It kind of fits so I am giving it a pass, but it’s not extremely Psychedelic)
The Buffalo Springfield – Rock and Roll Woman (not very Psychedelic and reminds me of Crosby, Stills and Nash. This is a hippy song, but still I am going to give it a past and include it.)
Syd Barrett: It’s No Good Trying to place your hand. The song is about an acid trip in which he is talking to a hallucination, but does not have the acid guitar sounds of other features to make it Psychedelic. Expert from the lyrics:
“It’s no good trying to place your hand
Where I can’t see because I understand
That you’re different from me
Yes I can tell
That you can’t be what you pretend”
The hallucination is pretending to be a real person.
Wonderin by Neil Young and The Shocking Pinks
In spite of being part of Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young is a hard rocker or a soft rocker who does not normally make psychedelic music, but this one song I am including because of the Music Video that he made for the song. The song and video came out in 1983, and it was played on MTV. If you have not seen the video go to You Tube and check out, and you will see why it’s Psychedelic.
The Bad List
(These are songs that are included on other lists, but I don’t like them)
Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles (Too much going on at once and it sounds like noise, vocals are unispiredly performed by George Harrison)
The American Metaphysical Circus – The United States of America (really bad music)
At The Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft
(At the Mountains of Madness” (1968), song by the psychedelic rock group H. P. Lovecraft on their second album, H. P. Lovecraft II, really awful music)
A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum (not Psychedelic but yet always included and played constantly on Sirius Radio, a boring sort of middle of road pop song with some orchestration)
2000 Light Years from Home – The Rolling Stones ( The Rolling Stones wanted to jump on the Psychedelic Band wagon, but did not really make it. They are more of a blues/rock/funk band.
My White Bicycle – Tomorrow (not even from the 60s from the 80s)
Translucent Carriages – Pearls Before Swine (horrible song, painful to listen to)
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane (The vocals are very harsh on the song and kind of disturbing. Grace Jones seems to scream them. This song could be a lot better.
Lauren’s Notes: Although my father was a lawyer for the Jefferson Airplane, they failed to be a Psychedelic. If I was forced to pick the song by Jefferson Airplane that I find to be most Psychedelic I would pick “I Saw You Comin’ Back to Me” recorded in 1966 from the album Surrealistic Pillow which was clearly supposed to be a Psychedelic Album. This song stands out due to the long flute musical passages.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly (This song is not a terrible song, but it’s not Psychedelic for me, as it’s too bass heavy. It could be Psychedelic if one’s musical taste were more into Heavy Metal. The lyrics were supposed to be “In The Garden of Eden.”)
Revolution 9 – The Beatles
Not Psychedelic and not actually a song, this song is like a bad acid trip. One struggles to make out the bits of dialogue that were created from John Lennon’s experiments with tape recorders and tape loops. The tapes and looped back on each other and many layers are created. This type of track would be easy to create with modern music software, but no one would listen to it, if it was not made by someone big like John Lennon. I have found pages and pages of analyses of Revolution 9 including all of the voices on the track translated. Paul McCartney did not like the track, and he did not want it included on the album, but John insisted
Charles Manson thought that when they screamed the words “Right!” it was actually “Rise!” meaning the black community rising over the white people. (I think this is not true. The song, is in fact, Black Bird in which Paul McCartney Sings “You were only waiting for this moment to arise.” Manson thought the Black Bird was the Black People.)
Please add any songs you like in comments
Notes on messages found when songs are played backwards
Backwards masking is creating a hidden message in the song, when the song is played backwards. Sometimes this is occurs by accident. But, it can be done intentional by recording the lyrics, and then playing them backwards to another tape and then adding that sound to the song.
Stairway to Heaven
Reverse: ‘Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He’ll give those with him 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.’
I’m So Tired by the Beatles
Forward: Indistinguishable gibberish that john says at the end of it
Reverse: ‘Paul is a dead man. Miss him, miss him, miss him.’
Queen – Another One Bites the Dust
Forward: ‘Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust.
Reverse: ‘It’s fun to smoke marijuana. It’s fun to smoke marijuana. It’s fun to smoke marijuana. It’s fun to smoke marijuana.’
Strawberry Fields Forever has a message when played backwards on a phonograph, that says Turn Me On Dead Man. I have tried it and it does work. This is the only one I have tried, it’s very easy to scratch up your record trying to turn the table in the opposite direction by hand.
I Am The Walrus has a mysterious passage at the end. For years I did not know what play it was from. It was from Shakespeare’s King Lear (Act IV, Scene 6), lines 219–222 and 249–262, were added to the song on 29 September 1967 direct from an AM radio Lennon was fiddling with that happened to be receiving the broadcast of the play on the BBC Third Program. The roles were read by Mark Dignam (Gloucester), Philip Guard (Edgar) and John Bryning (Oswald). This foreshadowed along with many other clues that John Lennon was the die by gun violence. John Lennon wrote a song called Happiness is a Warm Gun on the White Album.
The Ballad of John and Yoko has the lyrics:
Christ, you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me
John Lennon, at one time, went insane due to drugs, and told the other Beatles that he was Jesus Christ. He also caused a scandal when he said, the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but that was just working up to the realization that he was Jesus. It’s no big deal. David Bowie thought he was King Arthur, at one point. Why do no David Bowie Songs make the Psychedelic lists of songs. I believe it was because in the 60s, David Bowie was concentrating on Folk Rock and then harder Rock as he worked on Ziggy Stardust. After Bowie retired the character Ziggy, which was a very unpopular decision, he decided to follow in the footsteps of James Brown and created what he called Plastic Soul as seen in his song Young Americans. I believe if David Bowie had wanted to make a Psychedelic Song he would have succeeded. He could make any kind of song he wanted to make in his heavy cocaine use period, but then he became burned out, unfortunately. He also claimed he had to drink a lot after trying to give up cocaine. If I had to pick out one David Bowie song to include, I would pick Ashes to Ashes. This is an early 80s song, but the video that goes with it clearly shows it was meant to be Psychedelic. David Bowie dressed as a Club Kids Clown is walking down the beach with an old lady who is supposed to be his mother who is nagging him to quit using drugs, but he can’t or won’t do it.
There are many other mentions and foreshadowing of John Lennon’s Death in the Beatles Songs and the works he did as a solo artist after the Beatles. Was his death a self fulling prophecy? John Lennon put himself in harm’s way, by signing autographs for fans without security protection in front of his apartment at the Dakota Apartments in New York City.
Updated 2019: I continue to look for more psychedelic songs that I may not have heard yet. I found the Apple Music List of songs, and I was surprised at how good a song Psychotic Reaction was. I had not paid it much attention, but it has the correct sound and the complete change of tempo making it into a different song in the middle that I consider to be a important indicator of a psychedelic song.
Apple failed yield any new songs that I really liked. Most of the Songs on the Apple List are very heavy in feel. Notable on the list was a strange song called My Crystal Spider by a band called Sweetwater in which a woman sings or raps to a beat, but I did not like the song very much. The song is similar in nature to White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, which I am not really a fan of either.
2 thoughts on “Psychedelic Songs”
Some of the songs on Sergeant Peppers that I can think of off the top of my head that aren’t psychedelic are When I’m 64 and She’s Leaving Home.
There was such a lot of thoughts and research put into this post! I liked almost every song on this list of psychedelic songs.
I think (to me) all of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band sound psychedelic, but I am definitely not an expert! 🎶🎼