original Woodstock posterCredit: David Edward Byrd

It all started when I was groovin’ on a Saturday afternoon. The song from 1969, “Spirit in the Sky” was playing, and I returned to the state of daydream believer. I never recalled the singer/writer of that song when I sang it back in the days - the author is Norman Greenbaum. Does anyone really care? Anybody know what time it is? Ah, the baby boomer songs from the swinging sixties include a great number of psychedelic bands, and this article will trip up the native sons and daughters of the glorious psychedelic rock bands and all the sub genres.

Many of the artists intermixed from psychedelic rock to folk to soul to pop and other titles not so common. Whoa whoa listen to the music. Supposedly the culture was anti-establishment, drug experimenters (please don’t keepa me waiting, so tired of waiting for you), and called themselves hippies. Huh? Yes, flower power blossomed. Some of the psychedelic rockers were:

  • The Beatles (“Day Tripper”)
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company (I admit that Janis Joplin was my first rock concert . . . “Cheap Thrills”). I will never forget it!
  • The Who
  • The Moody Blues
  • Procol Harum
  • The Grateful Dead
  • The Doors

The list is large and not only did those songs become part of our psyche, they also were/are loved by many of our kids (I think they are the X and Y generations?). I recall having an argument with one of my daughters when she was in high school and totally tuned into the song, “Sally Can’t Dance.” I think she was a bit chagrined that I knew the lyrics, and I casually commented that I had the old Lou Reed song on vinyl. She didn’t know who I was speaking about because some singer of her generation had re-done it and she had never heard of Lou Reed. Funny. Ah well, the beat goes on.

The counter-culture revolutionary musicians and singers actually revived folk music in the 60’s. Bob Dylan crossed over from psychedelic rock to psychedelic folk music. When he sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Peter, Paul and Mary they all began a nice claim to fame as folk singers. The Jefferson Airplane and Donovan are two others classified as psychedelic folk. Perhaps the most famous stand alone female folk singers from then were Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Freedom and civil rights were big themes with Baez, and people listened, and responded by getting active in the movements she sang about. Joni Mitchell was more famous as a songwriter in the 60’s, she gave us “Both Sides, Now.”  

Remember the “White Rabbit” lyrics?

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said;
Keep your head"

I used to ponder the deeper meaning and all, but finally ended up returning to Lewis Carroll’s mighty crazy poem, Jabberwocky, and memorizing it to feel really sane. Strawberry fields forever alight with Lucy in the sky. . . with diamonds, of course.

On to the sub genre of psychedelic soul. “I want to Take You Higher,” by the soulful Sly and the Family Stone just about said it all. Then again The Supremes knocked out “Love Child” in 1968, and The 5th Dimension featured “Stone Soul Picnic” (Laura Nyro)  on an album cover. The explosion of soul music in the 60’s was indeed another bridge over troubled waters where nights in white satin exemplified the age of aquarius. Soul remained very popular having stemmed from gospel and blues with amazing grace. All in all, the classic psychedelic soul music helped us leave the jasmine of our minds and know that what the world needs now and then is love.

Psychedelic pop music was “Good Vibrations” (Beach Boys), and “Eight Miles High” (Byrds). Just the band names alone were pop - The Monkees, Bee Gees, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and The Association all had pop hits. Do you believe in magic and if so, are you a daydream believer? Along comes Mary and that is something to cherish. Okay, putting songs together to make silly sentences is a pop hangover if you will. I’ll stop, maybe, how can I be sure in a world that’s constantly changing?

Now is probably a good time to mention the great accumulation of the 60’s culture which was 1969. Not only could you get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant, but the summer of peace and love rocked at the Woodstock festival 1969. I was a student at the University of Minnesota at the time. One of my roommates was actually living in a commune, but had to keep up appearances as a roommate for the establishment. Deciding whether to split and cruise to Woodstock which was a fairly long drive from Minnesota was the biggest decision I had to make.  To go or not to go. I passed and had to settle for hearing about it from my friends who did go. Oh well, I still had the Triangle Bar on the left bank of the campus. Bobby Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) used to pay there before my time, but at least his vibes lingered. Anyways, the Woodstock festival was a historical event that defined the counter-culture revolution. The original Woodstock poster designed by David Edward Byrd is my featured image (wikimedia commons). It’s truly amazing.

1969 psychedelic music really ventured from “Honky Tonk Women” (Rolling Stones) to a futuristic scare “In the Year 2525” (Zager & Evans), to “Bad Moon Rising” (Credence Clearwater Revival). Gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues.