The Electric Kool-Aid Acid List

The best psychedelic songs about Rock-N-Roll's longest strangest trip

Throw on your favorite tie-dye, your jeans patched with bits of guitar strap, a North American Indian headband and, in the words of Dr. Leary, “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Even though we did all those things (and a few more we don’t care to reveal), we still had a pleasantly far-out but tricky task in limiting the list of great songs to a mere psychedelic 16.

So, we are gladiators entering the arena. The usually friendly crowd wants our blood. Shouts and murmurs ripple through the seats.

SgtPepperAcidPlaylist SongMango.comHow could you have forgotten “Strawberry Fields Forever”? Speaking of berries, what about Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense And Peppermints”? “Season Of The Witch” by Super Session? What about “The Acid Queen” from The Who’s Tommy? Where’s David Bowie? Television?

You missed this, you fumbled that… Well, we had to curb our enthusiasm.

The truth is too, we had to invent criteria. As in so many Rock genres, there is no formula. (Witness the ongoing snappy debate about the first Rock-N-Roll song.)

We fell back on the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist of acid days, the fire and rain, mescaline mellow, magic mushrooms, a sense of a swinging open of the doors of Drop Acid Not Bombs	Anti-War Moratorium, San FranciscoNovember 16, 1969  sheet 468 frame 32perception. (Speaking of which, “Crystal Ship,” one of our favorite Doors songs, didn’t make the cut. It’s a little too opiated.)

Another note should be made, too. If you skeedaddle over to another couple of SongMango Playlists, you’ll find a chestful of psychedelic treasures. Oh my, how those gems sparkle in a certain light.

Try our San Francisco list, heavy with goodies from the orbiters that circled around Planet Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s and ’70s. You’ll catch the Airplane, clean up your synapses with a little Blue Cheer and get the word from Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Though it may seem not quite right in your mind, try SongMango’s Garage Band Crazy list. There are some seminal tunes from the earliest psychedelic lunges and twitches. “Psychotic Reaction” and “She’s About A Mover” lead that list for winners of the “Don’t You Wish You Felt Like Me” awards.

Elsewhere in our DNA Source Song collection, you’ll find “I Am The Walrus,”  “Sunshine Of Your Love,” and “Paint It Black.” In your travels, you might want to take a look and listen to our extended exploration of Buffalo Springfield, a band that employed many psychedelic tools of the trade and uniquely married them often to Folk Rock.

Onward. Try this (below) for a warm-up to the full list that follows. If you would like to read about acid’s wildly amusing introduction to the United States and the world, check out the insanity here. Or skip to the songs and start reading, listening and wonder what the hell happened to such a wonderful way of thinking, breathing and expanding.

Blue Jay Way

The Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Even the mundane took on a strange cast of color and depth during the radical heights of the psychedelic period. “The Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way,” perched weirdly on the pleasantly weird Magical Mystery Tour album, is one instance.

George Harrison was waiting in his L.A. rental house high up on Blue Jay for Derek Taylor, The Beatles publicist, documentarian, and eventually George’s biographer in I, Me, Mine. A fog had settled in, Taylor and his companions were late, things got spooky, acid-punctuated, a great lonely weight on Harrison.

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Cold To The Touch

Brian Jonestown Massacre
Their Satanic Majesties Second Request (1996)

Two decades later, it’s not as difficult to hear Brian Jonestown Massacre as something well beyond an homage band tripping merrily, if a tad late, in the steps of The Rolling Stones and Beatles. Rather, they are a band traveling along a continuum that was abruptly and pointlessly snapped in the mid-1970s.

Poof went psychedelic Rock. Then poof, back it came in the form of BJM.

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Eight Miles High

The Byrds
Fifth Dimension (1966)

“Eight Miles High” is one of the most influential Rock songs since the form was born in the mid-1950s, arguably the very first Psychedelic Rock song (although other songs could hotly contend in that argument).

“Eight Miles High” certainly was the first psychedelic hit and might have been an even bigger hit if its composers – Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby – had gone lighter on the drug references and weren’t quite so musically daring. (Then again, it wouldn’t have turned out to be the same historic song.)

Click to dive even deeper into this song, one of the extraordinary musical works that makes Rock-N-Roll the greatest genre on Earth.

Dance The Night Away

Disraeli Gears (1967)

A song that gives oblivion a good name, “Dance The Night Away” has all the prisms, amoebic bubbles, stroboscopic effects and disorientation associated with the psychedelic years of the mid-to-late-’60s. It’s short, sweet as cherry red on the other side of the madness of peaking, mellow, resigned, but telling the lost love – the “you” in the song – that there are worlds beyond the beyond. It’s a warped goodbye to love and a big hello to the far ends of the imagination.

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Hurdy Gurdy Man

The Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” is so blithely trippy that it’s bound to bring a chuckle and plenty of memories of cigarette tip tracers from days of future passed. You can almost feel your skull reverberate while listening.

Donovan and his band – a line-up that is not ever going to be fully finalized because of crediting mistakes – crank out a grinding, gear-busting meditation on, well, meditation.

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I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

Electric Prunes
The Electric Prunes (1966)

Much like the year it was released, “I Had Too Much To Dream” was caught between eras.

The corduroy-pants-and-peacoat Folk-Rock trend was dying as quickly as it had been born. Hints of psychedelia were popping like little flash bulbs at the edges of reality. And old-line pop was still waltzing around the Top 100 charts.

In fact, Annette Tucker, one of the song’s composers, also wrote for Frank Sinatra, The Brady Bunch and even Roy Rogers. “I Had Too Much To Dream,” was imagined as a rocker by Tucker, although she wasn’t in on the psychedelicizing of the tune.

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San Franciscan Nights

Eric Burdon and The Animals
Winds Of Change (1967)

Once the goofy, kitschy spoken-word intro is pushed out of the way, Eric Burdon And The Animals – a reconstitution of the group that gave us “House Of The Rising Sun” and “It’s My Life” – deliver a moody, foggy song that captures the darker, druggier side of San Francisco in 1967.

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Sunday Morning Call

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants (2000)

“Sunday Morning Call” conveys the bleary after-effects of party nights that grew too long, grew too twisted. What do people want from their involvement in drugs?

Something untouchable – completeness. And when they fail to attain it, they immerse themselves in self-recrimination over taking a detour that wasn’t clearly marked. There’s the ditch, there’s the aching bump on the head as you stumble home.

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Mr. Soul

Buffalo Springfield
Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)

“Mr. Soul” from 1967’s Buffalo Springfield Again is one of a handful of examples when it all went down just right, all the parts fitting like those in a Swiss clock. One painted Day-Glo colors, of course.

The result is a classic Psychedelic Rock track, a bizarre meeting of guitar minds, and the ghost of music groups yet to come – in this case Neil Young’s monumental work with Crazy Horse, and the conflict-ridden Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young efforts that careened from lollipop music to killer heavy Rock.

Click to dive even deeper into this song, one of the extraordinary musical works that makes Rock-N-Roll the greatest genre on Earth.

Wasn’t Born To Follow

The Byrds
The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)

“Wasn’t Born To Follow” gushed forth from the never-ending spring of the Carole King and Gerry Goffin song-writing partnership that gave the world “Locomotion,” “Up On The Roof” and “(You Make Me Fell Like A) Natural Woman.”

“Wasn’t Born” was a thematic departure for the duo, who would divorce shortly after the composition was finished and handed over to The Byrds. In the last verse, indeed, lyricist Goffin addresses his soon-to-be ex.

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Haunted station, impressionistic word bursts, sadness, dark veils of a world in psychedelic gloom.

Ginger Baker tattoos the drums like a mad tribesman. Jack Bruce, who co-wrote the song with regular collaborator and wordsmith Pete Brown, works his bass sparely but effectively and delivers broken-down palace ghostly vocals.

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Paper Sun

Mr. Fantasy (1967)

The psychedelic era seems all excess and tiny droplets of colors pulsing from windowpane acid doses, but the intense creativity, while undeniably inspired by “the scene,” also imbued it with a distinctive stamp.

There is a “feel” to the years 1966 through 1969 that marks them as the absolute end of the post-World War II era. Experimentation in all the arts, in dress, in the way people interacted with their governments, in sexual mores, were all telltale signs. A generation of young people had come of age and it sought something quite a bit different than what their parents had wanted.

Click to dive even deeper into this song, one of the extraordinary musical works that makes Rock-N-Roll the greatest genre on Earth.

Sea of Intranquility

The Halfways
The Halfways (EP) (2014)

The easy-peezy take on The Halfways’ brilliant psychedelic ballad is to say they’re influenced by The Beatles, yada yada. OK, they are.

But what you’re actually hearing – whether The Halfways themselves have listened directly – are the influences of San Francisco ’60s groups like Blue Cheer (in particular) and Quicksilver Messenger Service. SongMango treats with them on our San Francisco Playlist. 

You can also pick up the threads of a song by another Bay group from the first golden era of psychedelia: “Coming Back To Me,” by Jefferson Airplane. We say “first golden era” to distinguish it from the current, second golden era – because psychedelia is alive and out there. Way out there.

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Itchycoo Park

The Small Faces
single, A-side (1967)

Steve Marriott, (died 1991), is at risk of being the greatest forgotten singer of his generation. Robert Plant learned most of his chops and directly lifted a few more from Marriott, notably “Whole Lotta Love,” which Marriott popularized in its original form, “You Need Lovin.”

“Itchycoo Park” puts the mad Mod vocalist’s abilities in a strobing spotlight. The band, the special effects, the ridiculously happy, goofy lyrics, practically made for Londoners, blokes and birds swingin’ down the street so fancy free.

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Little Wing (Hendrix)

Jimi Hendrix Experience
Axis: Bold As Love (1967)

Did someone say, “Psychedelic Blues”? Did someone say, “melting interior monolog”? Did someone say, “Everything Jimi did had a sort of orange acid, cheerful-morose atmosphere lurking about, bad angels and good angels plucking the same expanding guitar”?

Oh righty-o,we’re saying it.

Shifting phaser-like effects, the watery wah-wah, odd-beats drumming and Jimi’s hallucinatory vocals mix up deliciously into a potent electric cocktail. Shake-uh-shake-uh.

Although the musical seeds were planted some time before, the vision of an apparently vision-like girl in the crowd at the storied Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was the catalyst for this “hey-ma-I’m-peaking-on-C20H26N2O” masterpiece. 

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Strange Brew

Disraeli Gears (1967)

“Strange Brew” flashes out sparks of significance in all imaginable ways, contributing mightily to the weaving of the DNA of Rock-N-Roll. It is on the high-classic album Disraeli Gears by Cream.

It also marks the emergence of Eric Clapton as a songwriter and lead singer for the group. On Fresh Cream, Clapton sang lead on only one song, Robert Johnson’s “Four Until Late,” which Clapton also arranged to suit the debut album. The LP was rounded out mostly by bassist Jack Bruce’s compositions and interpretations of other Blues standards.

Click to dive even deeper into this song, one of the extraordinary musical works that makes Rock-N-Roll the greatest genre on Earth.