Welcome to a new Listen to This, Not That, the series where I look at popular bands known for some really great hit songs and I deep dive into their discography to find some under-appreciated and underrated gems. The last Listen to This, Not That was Pink Floyd and before moving onto our next band deep dive, which will be Led Zeppelin, I decided to do another two part master post where we look at a classic rock subgenre. I did that for The British Invasion (part 1, part 2) where I looked at a bunch of bands that I didn’t make a whole post for because they didn’t have a long enough discography or they had only a few songs I wanted to highlight.
In this one, we’re going to look at other psychedelic rock bands and this will be the first blog post where I talk about bands that aren’t British for once! From The Action to Golden Earring, welcome to Listen to This, Not That: Psychedelic/Freakbeat Edition. As always, I love the musicians I talk about and any song listed under “not that” isn’t a bad song, just one that’s more popular. I want to expand your horizons and help you dive deeper into discographies and go beyond the hits.
What is psychedelic and freakbeat?
Psychedelic rock started in the mid 60s, around 1965 or 1966, peaked in 1967-1969, and it was the type of music most frequently linked to the psychedelic drug culture, which grew in popularity as the 60s progressed: rock stars and hippies tripping on acid. There’s all kinds of psychedelic rock, and like all rock, there’s blues and jazz influences, but some psychedelic rock bands had more of a folk sound or took inspiration from Indian classical music, making something called Raga Rock. Psychedelic rock can be beautiful, eccentric, and whimsical or it can be mindblowing, hard, and heavy. After the psychedelic fad faded away, these rock bands usually transitioned to hard rock/heavy metal or progressive rock.
What makes a song psychedelic are these features: fuzz, distortion, reverberation, Indian influences, wah-wah, feedback, improvisation/jams, prominent keyboards/organ/harpsichords/mellotrons, and surreal lyrics. Of course, these things didn’t just suddenly appear in 1967. Some songs utilised some of these elements before that: “Rumble” by Link Wray (1958), “The 2000 Pound Bee” by The Ventures (1962), “Any Way You Want It” by The Dave Clark 5 (1964), “Rosalyn” by The Pretty Things (1964), “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (1964), “Heart Full of Soul” by The Yardbirds (1965), and “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones (1965). The Beatles were psychedelic before it was cool with songs like “Norwegian Wood”, “I Feel Fine”, “Day Tripper”, “Think For Yourself”, and “Rain”. The Beach Boys had “Good Vibrations”.
Freakbeat is a type of psychedelic rock from the UK that was heavier, hard driving, more underground and popular among the mods and peacocks. In this blog post, we’ll be talking about some bands that fall under this psychedelic subgenre. Now, let’s talk about the bands. As with the other blog posts, I’ll give a little biographical information about the rock band and list their most popular songs. The rules here aren’t as strict as they were because these aren’t overexposed rock bands. There are just a few songs that are a bit overexposed on radio, if that. Some of these bands aren’t that talked about in the classic rock fandom so I may not have many popular songs to list. At the end of this blog post, I’ll list five honourable mention psychedelic gems.
The Action were formed in London in 1963 and were originally called The Boys, but changed their name to The Action in 1964. Their biggest influences were soul and R&B music, but like a lot of other beat groups, they went psychedelic in the late 60s. Their sound in 1967-1968 is very Byrds like. By 1969, this band became Mighty Baby. Famous fans of the band include Phil Collins and Paul Weller. Since they weren’t very commercially successful, I don’t really have a “not that” list! I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Action on any oldies/classic rock stations so normie classic rock fans wouldn’t know much about them.
Listen to This:
- “I’ll Keep Holding On” – A good Marvelettes cover, a mod favourite
- “Come Around” – A good example of their psychedelic sound.
- “Something to Say” – I like the guitar intro in this one, a lesser known song, but still good.
- “Strange Roads” – Underrated gem.
- “Brain” – One of my favourites from them, trippy stuff. One of their most popular
The Attack were a freakbeat/psych band formed in London in 1966. They released their version of “Hi Ho Silver Lining” a few days before Jeff Beck. The band never had much commercial success so there’s no “not that” or overrated songs.
Listen to This:
- “We Don’t Know” – This political song has more of an R&B sound, I love the organ in this one. There’s an f-bomb in this one and it’s really weird to hear that in 60s music.
- “Anymore Than I Do” – I like the guitar in this one
- “Magic in the Air” – Has a whimsical intro before transitioning into a heavier guitar sound
- “Sleep Like a Child”
- “Go Your Way”
We finally get to the first non-British band talked about in this series. The Byrds were formed in LA in 1964 and are considered one of the biggest folk rock bands and considered pioneers in that subgenre of classic rock. They didn’t just do folk/country rock, they also went psychedelic in 1966 and had a jangly sound to their guitars and were well known for their vocal harmonies. They’re one of the most important American bands of the 60s, inspiring a lot of rock bands (yes, including The Beatles! Imagine being so iconic you influence The Beatles!), therefore I will actually have some songs to list in the “not that” section. You’ll certainly have heard these songs even if you’re not a major classic rock buff:
- “Mr Tambourine Man” – Originally by Bob Dylan. The Byrds’ version went to #1 in 1965. They changed it up, shortening it and singing it in a different key. Considered the first folk rock hit and it features the band’s famous jangly sound played on a 12 string Rickenbacker.
- “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – Another cover, this anti-war song was originally by Pete Seeger, but The Byrds really made this song their own. Another #1 in 1965. You might have heard this song in Forrest Gump.
- “Eight Miles High” – Their best known psychedelic song. Reached #14 in 1966. I’m honestly surprised that it didn’t chart higher, but you have to remember that in the 60s songs that reference drugs or getting high in any way were controversial and this song received a broadcasting ban. Sounds crazy in the present day and we often take the social progress we’ve made for granted. A great example of raga rock, musically inspired by Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane and lyrically inspired by their flight to London. Planes actually fly about 6-7 miles high, not 8 miles high, but hey, The Beatles sang “Eight Days a Week”.
- “My Back Pages” – Another Bob Dylan cover. Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1964 and the lyrics are interpreted as a rejection of his once politically idealistic views and growing disillusionment and cynicism towards the folk protest movement. The Byrds released their cover in 1967 and it was on the album Younger Than Yesterday, which references the lyric “I’m younger than that now”.
- “Wasn’t Born To Follow” – One of my favourite songs of theirs. Not a chart hit, but made famous by the classic road trip film Easy Rider. Actually not an original composition by the band, but rather written by the legendary Goffin-King songwriting team. It’s a hippie classic and a lovely mix of country and psychedelia, reminds me of The Flying Burrito Brothers (Gram Parsons was in The Byrds briefly before joining the Flying Burrito Brothers).
Listen to This:
- “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” – From Mr Tambourine Man. The b-side to the band’s second single “All I Really Want to Do”. Didn’t make the Hot 100. The riff from the song is based on The Searchers’ “Needles and Pins”.
- “Chimes of Freedom” – From Mr Tambourine Man. Another excellent Bob Dylan cover. The last track recorded for the album and a live staple.
- “I See You – From Fifth Dimension. I first found out about this song because Yes covered it and I can see why because it has a jazz influence and that’s one of the roots of progressive rock. This is an original song by McGuinn and Crosby.
- “Why” – From Fifth Dimension. I first heard Tomorrow cover this song and I had to give the original a listen. The Byrds had so many great original songs and I wish that their original songs were more popular because they’re not a Dylan/folk cover band! This was the b-side to “Eight Miles High” and if you like the raga rock sound from that and want to hear a different song, pick this one.
- “John Riley” – A traditional English folk song derived from Homer’s Odyssey.
The Chocolate Watchband
The Chocolate Watchband were a garage/psychedelic rock band formed in Los Altos, California in 1966. The bands biggest influences were 50s rock and roll, blues music, and British Invasion music. At gigs, they would often cover songs by The Who. The band opened for the Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore and did so well that Bill Graham wanted them, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane to be his personal house bands and travel back and forth from coast to coast, but they couldn’t take that offer because they already signed another management deal. There was a revival in popularity and interest in psychedelic rock in the 80s and 90s and Chocolate Watchband records became collectors items, costing as much as $100 for an original pressing! That I know of, the band didn’t have chart hits so I don’t have a “not this” section for them because I don’t think they are overexposed. If you want a more psychedelic sounding American Rolling Stones, this might be the band for you! Since most of their music is not on Spotify in my country, I’ll put YouTube links below:
Listen to This:
- “Let’s Talk About Girls” – A more garage style song. I remember someone requesting this song when I was at the radio station in university.
- “Sweet Young Thing” – Another Rolling Stones like garage rock sounding song
- “Don’t Need Your Loving” – On the Riot on Sunset Strip soundtrack
- “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” – One of my favourite Kinks songs of all time and probably one of the best covers of their songs. This cover is so good that I can’t decide which version I prefer. I love the angsty, angry vocals in this version. If you can only listen to one Chocolate Watchband album, listen to The Inner Mystique. You won’t regret it.
- “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” – Excellent psychedelic Bob Dylan cover.
One of the first bands you might think of when you hear the word supergroup or the term power trio. Bruce, Baker, Clapton – what a lineup. All incredibly experienced musicians: Jack Bruce was in the Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers (met Ginger Baker in the former and Eric Clapton in the latter). Ginger Baker was also previously in Blues Incorporated and Eric Clapton was also in the Yardbirds. The band were only together for a short amount of time, but they released such incredible work. Their popular songs are classic rock radio staples, but is there anything else worth listening to? Of course!
- “I Feel Free” – The band’s first top 20 hit and a brilliant combination of psychedelia and blues rock – that’s what Cream were all about. This was actually their highest charting single in the UK.
- “Strange Brew” – While Jack Bruce mostly did the lead vocals, Eric Clapton did lead vocals in this one.
- “Sunshine of Your Love” – The band’s best known song, but surprisingly only reached #25 in the UK, but it reached #5 in the US. Poet Pete Brown wrote the lyrics for this song. Song began as a bluesy bass riff.
- “White Room” – This song was equally as successful as “Sunshine of Your Love”, reaching the top 10 in the US. The album version is almost 5 minutes long, so they had to release a single edit, which was 3 minutes long. Once again, Pete Brown wrote the lyrics for this song.
- “Badge” – Top 20 hit in the UK. Eric Clapton wrote this one with George Harrison. George played rhythm guitar on it. The song got its title from Eric Clapton misreading George Harrison’s handwriting. He wrote “bridge” and Eric Clapton read it as “badge”. Contrary to popular belief, the song’s chord progression is not B-A-D-G-E.
Listen to This:
- “Toad” – Great instrumental and a great example of why Ginger Baker’s one of my favourite drummers. One of my favourite instrumentals that showcases drums.
- “I’m So Glad” – Skip James cover. Delta blues style song. Cream re-popularised it for a younger audience in the 60s.
- “World of Pain” – Co-written by Mountain bassist Felix Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins.
- “Tales of Brave Ulysses” – One of my favourite Cream songs ever. Co-written by Eric Clapton and artist Martin Sharp. I love the poetic lyrics. Music is based on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City”.
- “Deserted Cities of the Heart” – From Wheels of Fire.
Psychedelic/garage/freakbeat band formed in England in 1966 from members of a band called The Mark Four, who formed in 1963. The band had some success with songs like “Making Time”, which was in the soundtrack for the Wes Anderson film, Rushmore. The band’s biggest hit though is “Painter Man”.
The Creation really didn’t have many hits.
- “Making Time” – Before Jimmy Page played his guitar with a violin bow, The Creation did that on this song!
- “Painter Man” – Reached the top 10 in Germany. Boney M covered this song in the 70s.
Listen to This:
- “Biff Bang Pow” – If you want early Who sounding power pop, give this song a try. The b-side to “Painter Man”.
- “Cool Jerk” – See above comment. Released as a single in 1967.
- “If I Stay Too Long” – A good example of their more psychedelic work. One of my favourites of theirs.
- “How Does It Feel To Feel” – From 1968.
- “Through My Eyes” – Another psychedelic favourite of theirs, b-side to “Life is Just Beginning”.
Scottish born folk singer Donovan started his career singing folk, like a British answer to Bob Dylan. Later though, he went psychedelic with hits like “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow”, and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and I think that’s what people know him best for. He was one of the first British musicians to embrace the whole hippie flower power stuff and getting into that subculture opened him up to different musical influences from around the world, giving his music an eclectic sound.
- “Catch The Wind” – Donovan’s debut single and has been covered many times. Reached #4 in the UK
- “Sunshine Superman” – The psychedelic summer song. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones play on this song. Topped the charts in the US.
- “Mellow Yellow” – Donovan’s other really big hit in the US, reached #2 there, only being kept out of #1 by “Good Vibrations” and “Winchester Cathedral” (the first one fair enough, but I’m pretty sure “Mellow Yellow” is more recognisable to younger generations than “Winchester Cathedral”). John Paul Jones played bass on this one.
- “Hurdy Gurdy Man” – Another top 10 hit. Written while in Rishikesh, India with The Beatles. Stands out in his discography because of the distortion. Donovan has said he wanted Jimi Hendrix to record this song.
- “Barabajagal” – Donovan’s last big hit. The Jeff Beck Group play the backing music for it and Suzi Quatro apparently sings backing vocals on it too!
Listen to This:
- “Three Kingfishers” – Raga rock, love the Indian influences on this one.
- “Ferris Wheel” – See above.
- “The Trip” – A song about LSD? Donovan was the first major British rock star to be busted for drugs.
- “The Fat Angel” – A song about Mama Cass.
- “As I Recall It” – A jazzier song from Donovan.
The Electric Prunes
Psychedelic rock band formed in LA in 1965 from members of a surf rock band called The Sanctions. Known for incorporating electronics and fuzz in their sound. The band had two charting hits, which will be listed below. What helped bring attention to the band was being included in the famous Nuggets compilation, released in 1972, which is an incredible collection of psychedelic and garage rock gems. Absolutely a must listen for any 60s fan.
- “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” – The band’s biggest hit. Reached #11 on the Billboard charts. Was on the Nuggets compilation.
- “Get Me to the World On Time” – Follow up single. Top 30 hit.
Listen to This:
All of these songs are from their second album, Underground. Listen to the fuzzy guitar and Vox Organ. Sadly, none of these songs were a commercial success, but it’s important to keep in mind that to do well on the radio and therefore the charts, you needed to have a poppier sound and let’s just say The Electric Prunes didn’t have that. Still, this album is a favourite of Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT, on a list of greatest albums you’ve never heard.
- “The Great Banana Hoax”
- “Long Day’s Flight”
- “Everybody Knows You’re Not in Love”
- “You Never Had It Better”
Grateful Dead are a band with a huge cult following, known as Deadheads. You really can’t have a psychedelic rock post without talking about them. One of their trademarks is their long instrumental jams at their live shows, making them jam band pioneers. They were formed in the Bay Area as The Warlocks in 1965 and started off as a jug band. The band got their name from a dictionary. Jerry Garcia pointed to the two words and suggested it and the band went with it. Their sound combines rock, folk, country, jazz, blues, and psychedelic rock – really unique. The Grateful Dead didn’t have a lot of chart hits, but below, I’ll list their most popular songs. In the “listen to this” section, I’ll be focusing on their early stuff since this is a 60s psychedelic rock post.
- “Casey Jones” – Jerry Garcia wrote the music and Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics about a train engineer on cocaine who is on the verge of a train wreck because the train is going too fast.
- “Friend of the Devil” – Song inspired by road manager Rock Scully and drama in his life involving various women.
- “Truckin'” – Considered a national treasure, this song is about a drug raid in a hotel they were staying at in New Orleans. The most famous lyric from the song is “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
- “Touch of Grey” – A later hit from 1987. Upbeat song with the lyrics “I will get by/ I will survive”.
Listen to This:
- “Stealin'” – One of the band’s first songs, released in 1966
- “The Golden Road” – Folk song. Based on the Obray Ramsey version of the song.
- “Cold Rain and Snow” –
- “Morning Dew” – Contemporary folk song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Bonnie Dobson. About the last man and woman alive after a nuclear holocaust. This song was the first song the Grateful Dead played at the Human Be-In in January 1967.
Most people know this Dutch band for their two big hits often played on classic rock radio, but before all that they were a Nederbeat and psychedelic rock band. The band were formed in the early 60s by teenagers George Kooymans and Rinus Gerritsen as The Tornados, but they changed their name after seeing that another band got famous with that name so they changed to Golden Earrings, named after an instrumental by The Hunters. The band released their debut single in 1965. By 1968, they had more of a psychedelic sound when lead singer Barry Hay joined. They were even more successful in their psychedelic era and went on their first American tour in 1969. They’re such a great band and one of the best to come out of the Netherlands and they’re so much more than “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone”.
- “Radar Love” – This song reached the top 10 in many countries across the world in 1973 and is a song with multiple movements – because of time constraints on radio, you don’t hear the whole song and listeners are being short changed. Imagine not playing the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Stairway to Heaven”, why do “Radar Love” dirty like that? Anyway, the song is about a driver who has a psychic relationship with his girlfriend – “we got a thing and that’s called radar love”. I’d also recommend listening to all of Moontan.
- “Twilight Zone” – Their other big hit, from 1982 – inspired by the book The Bourne Identity and of course, the 60s TV show The Twilight Zone. This song was even more of a success in the US, topping the Billboard charts and popular on MTV with its spy themed music video.
Listen to This:
The first three songs on this list are on the album Miracle Mirror, a great album and the first Golden Earring album with Barry Hay on lead vocals. At this time they were still known as Golden Earrings. Definitely a good album to start with if you’re wanting to get into Golden Earring.
- “The Truth About Arthur”
- “Mr Fortune’s Wife”
- “Magnificent Magistral”
- “Eight Miles High” – One of their biggest successes of the 60s, this is an extra long jam version of The Byrds’ classic. When Golden Earring would play this live, it could go on as long as 45 minutes!
- “Another 45 Miles” – A more psychedelic folk pop kind of song. One of my favourites from Golden Earring.
Since I love psychedelic rock so much and there are so many one off great songs, I wanted to share five more songs with each of these blog posts. If I have any information on the song and band, I’ll share it.
1. “Gone” – The Factory (1968)
The Factory were formed in England in the late 60s. They only recorded two singles which went nowhere, but later on became sought after by vinyl collectors. This song was originally by Paul Revere and the Raiders as “Gone – Movin’ On”. I think of this song as The Stone Roses’ dad and this freakbeat version is better than the Raiders’ original, sorry!
Here’s the original:
2. “Love at Psychedelic Velocity” – The Human Expression (1966)
The Human Expression were a short-lived psychedelic rock band formed in LA in 1966. They only released three singles, but all of them are very much loved by psychedelic superfans and vinyl collectors. The Human Expression were offered “Born to Be Wild”, but they turned it down. That song became one of Steppenwolf’s signature songs. This, “Love at Psychedelic Velocity” is a danceable song and reminds me of the 13th Floor Elevators, The Allah-La’s, and The Growlers. It’s their best known recording, despite being a b-side.
3. “Magic Potion” – The Open Mind (1969)
The Open Mind were formed in London in the 60s and were originally called The Drag Set. The band later changed their name to The Open Mind and released only one self-titled album, which has become a collector’s item. Their best known song, the proto-metal/heavy psych “Magic Potion” was not on the album. The song has been covered by The Seers, Sun Dial, and The Damned.
4. “Egyptian Tomb” – Mighty Baby (1969)
I decided to talk about The Action in this post and technically, this band were the sequel to The Action, made up of a lot of the same band members. Even more trippy and psychedelic than The Action. This song was released in 1969. I remember hearing it at a concert before the show started and I luckily had Shazam and that’s how I found out the title and artist. Their self-titled album is definitely worth the listen!
5. “Yes I Need Someone” – Eire Apparent (1968)
Jimi Hendrix played on and produced this Northern Irish psychedelic rock band’s album. My favourite track on this album is “Yes I Need Someone”. The band formed in Belfast in the early 60s as Tony & The Telstars, but later changed their name to The People, and finally to Eire Apparent to make it obvious that they’re Irish. The band toured with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Soft Machine. The two most famous band member was Henry McCullough, who went on to join Wings.
Here’s the playlist for this blog post:
So that concludes part 1 of Listen to This, Not That: Psychedelic/Freakbeat Edition. What songs and bands do you think are underrated? Have your say in the comments section below.
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