Every now and then Mister Boomer is asked why he doesn’t post his favorite top 10 lists more often, such as: Top 10 Inventions of the Boomer Years; Top 10 Fashion Trends: Top 10 Colors of the 1950s; and of course, Top 10 Music Lists. His answer, especially when it comes to music, is how could you stop at just a Top 10? Music was so varied lyrically as well as musically, even within each year of the boomer era, let alone across the span of 30 years. Nonetheless, favorite of-the-moments arise for all of us. In Mister B’s case, he has a hankering to hear certain things in a sort-of-cycle. One week he may really want to delve into Del Shannon and Buddy Holly tunes. Another, it may be anything that features vocals by Grace Slick or Aretha Franklin. Still another, it’s all about soul and R & B. Currently, psychedelic music has taken a priority on his playlists, and in particular, the psychedelic music of 1967.
Like all musical genres, psychedelic characteristics edged their way into the various sub-genres of rock & roll, from folk to pop, rock to acid. Most historians agree songs with psychedelic characteristics began appearing somewhere around 1965. This coincided with the spread of mind-altering substances, particularly LSD, known as Acid, and Psilocybin, otherwise referred to as Magic Mushrooms. Psychedelic music was said to have been influenced by these drug trips, or best appreciated under the influence of such hallucinogenics. The music often contained dreamy, surreal and sometimes literary-based lyrics. The musicality of psychedelic music was often played with the addition of non-traditional rock instruments, such as the sitar and tabla, with changing time signatures that could encompass extended instrumental portions within the song. Electric keyboards also played an increasingly important role in the melody.
In 1964, Ken Kesey set out in a bus with a group of followers named The Merry Pranksters to experiment and promote the mind-altering — some said mind-expanding — properties of LSD. The group would host Acid Test parties that included music. Kesey’s favorite band at the time was The Warlocks, later known as The Grateful Dead. Hippies embraced the Native American cultural links to various forms of hallucinogenic “trips,” and combined it with a growing appreciation for Eastern Spirituality, to influence rock music in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychology professor at Harvard, conducted experiments with LSD and other hallucinogens as early as 1962. The University — and the CIA, who reportedly kept a governmental eye on him — did not approve of his work, and in 1963, Harvard dismissed him. In 1967, Leary told a mostly Hippie crowd at a San Francisco Human Be-In to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was a new slogan for a new generation still discovering its way. Music that day was provided by the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Mister Boomer has mentioned previously that he did not partake of the drug culture of the boomer years. Nonetheless, he really dug a song with a great electric organ hook and wailing guitar. That brings us to 1967, an unbelievably creative and prolific year in the world of rock music, which included psychedelic rock music. Here are some key psychedelic releases from that year (in no particular order). Many are now considered classics, and synonymous with the genre:
• The Beatles recorded both the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour albums, the most psychedelic and experimental of their records (which included A Day in the Life and Strawberry Fields Forever)
• Jimi Hendrix released Are You Experienced? in the U.S., (which gave us Foxy Lady and Purple Haze)
• Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers
• Light My Fire by the Doors
• I Can See for Miles by The Who
• Incense and Peppermints by Strawberry Alarm Clock
• Can’t Seem to Make You Mine by the Seeds
• Hey Grandma by Moby Grape
• Mellow Yellow by Donovan
• Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane
• I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) by the Electric Prunes
• I’ll Be Your Mirror by The Velvet Underground
• A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procul Harum
• (We Ain’t Got Nothing) Yet by the Blues Magoos
• She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones
• When I Was Young by Eric Burdon and the Animals
• Flight from Ashiya by Kaleidoscope
• Nights In White Satin by the Moody Blues
• See Emily Play by Pink Floyd
• Strange Brew by Cream
See the quandary? Of course, there was a slew of other top hits in 1967 that were not of this genre. Even still, how can anyone slight psychedelic music from 1966, like Norwegian Wood by the Beatles or Psychotic Reaction by Count Five; or A Question of Temperature by Balloon Farm and Nature’s Way by Spirit in 1968?
At the right time, it’s all good, boomers. So, make your Top 10 lists if you want. Mister B is content to listen to all of it, whenever he wants. Isn’t that what the freedom of on-demand music brings us? How about you, boomers? What 1967 psychedelic hits are drifting through your head these days?