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(en) Psychedelic Angeles

Psychedelic music cradle was rock n’ roll. But from there, the concept of “psychedelia” derived to other styles of music, as well as other art forms.

      Once surrealistic… Psychedelia today is almost turning into an ideology (and this is bad). Psychedelic music is everywhere: In rap (hiding under sub-genres like left-field rap¹ and boom bap²,) in electronic (where psychedelic meets progressive amidst experimentation: experimental beats, psychedelic trance, dubstep, etc) and last but not least, in rock n’roll, with the advent of technology, like in the music of Australian group King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard³.

      And it doesn’t mean that psychedelia in electronic appeared only in the 2000’s: Morton Subotnick “Silver Apples of The Moon” (1967)⁴ mixtures psychedelia with the computerized universe, soaking the synths into illogical, yet organized music.

       Way different from Wendy Carlos’ “Switched on Bach” (1968)⁵, for example. A work that proves how progressive music can be as precise as  classical music, as a case study, over Johann Sebastian Bach.

              Psychedelia is also found in science fiction. It has no address, but time: Kurt Vonnegut avant-garde books, like “Slapstick”⁶, “Jailbird”⁷ and ultimately, “Breakfast of Champions”⁸, were all written in separate periods, respected one style (similar to creators and their musical genres) of writing, thus one lineage of thinking.


Those who have witnessed the Tv Show “Space 1999”⁹, produced in Pinewood Studios, England, where lead actor Martin Landau interprets a space crew commander - the remaining humans who live in the moon, after Earth destruction - might agree that the story looks like a prediction. Regardless, the concept of the show involves simplicity and originality, also found in psychedelic arts; in this case for a sci-fi theme. Visual effects originated from distortion of the light spectrum, scenario with bulky computers (from today’s eyes), “diy” moves by the cast to create action (at their own risk)… And in overall, a different concept from the “progressive” point of view. It came before “Star Trek”.

         In opposition to pseudo-intellectuals, psychedelic arts does not imply the use of drugs. Chemistry (or call it Alchemy) is actually a contributor for works being not delivered, or delayed, either because of misjudgment, or just taboo: As the author of Playpower (1970), Richard Neville, would say in his self-bio, “Hippie Hippie Shake” (1995): 

      “Looking back, I’m glad that marijuana entered my life. Overnight, I became stupider, but nicer. The story of a generation. The drug’s virtue were over-hyped, and we confused the quantity of intake with the quality of experience, the Coca-Cola illusion - more is better. Over the years, I have found that the opposite is true - less is more.

         It’s wonderful in a ritualised setting to reconnect with a partner or a power spot; for lovemaking, yoga, surfing, singing, dancing, all kinds of creativity, and more. But too-frequent intake invokes the law of diminishing returns. Save the hooch for moments of celebration, I will tell my grandchildren, in the unlikely event that they will be interested in my opinion. Treat it as a homeopathic elixir and not as a crutch. Opening the doors of perception is a prelude to one day closing the doors on drugs”¹⁰.

         Many are the examples of creators who were sober (or maybe smoked cigarettes and consumed alcohol exceptionally): Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Zappa, Salvador Dalí. Their art was beyond borders of common comprehension. Yet, they used techniques like free writing, practice and near sleep writing (one technique I thought I’ve created during my teenage poetry days) instead of psycho-tropics.

      Born in the 60’s, it’s rock n roll origin is undeniable. Psychedelic rock came from counter-culture, and reverberated through the upcoming decades, being marijuana and LSD legal, or not. In Los Angeles, psychedelic gained a theatrical perspective with Jim Morrison’s poetry and stage presence - simple but creative. A fine arts student, Morrisson focused on cinema (acting, writing scripts, editing and lighting) before meeting music. He’s not the only case study of that era, but his example brings to surface the nearest association of sound and image that L.A consists of. The city preserved the architecture of their “golden days” in areas like Hollywood or Sunset Blvd. Until today, the city nostalgia is what sells souvenirs for worldwide tourists. A motion picture capital, which survived longer than Detroit, luckily will overcome the dark cloud of the streaming nightmare.

      Not only for the city, but for the entertainment industry and general, I embrace Neville’s words: Less is more !    


  1. Boom Bap, overview. Wikipedia -

  2. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard -

  3. Morton Subotnick’s “Silver Apples of the Moon”:

  4. Wendy Carlos “Switched on Bach”:

  5. Vonnegut, Kurt. Slapstick (1976):

  6. Vonnegut, Kurt. Jailbird (1979):

  7. Vonnegut, Kurt. Breakfast of Champions (1973):

  8. Pinewood Studios, “Space 1999” (1975): Space: 1999 Season 1   (Yes, full episodes, enjoy !)

  9. Neville, Richard. Hippie Hippe Shake (1995) Bloomsbury paperbacks, p.351

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