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Published on September 7th, 2018 | by Alan Cross

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The Ongoing History of New Music episode 825: A history of alt psych-rock

“Psychedelic” is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language.

The word first came into use in 1956 when a psychiatrist named Humphrey Osmond was studying a new class of pharmaceuticals that seemed to have some kind of potential when it came to treating certain mental disorders.

A chemical known as lysergic acid diethylamide–LSD for short–had been extracted by from a fungus called ergot by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman. From 1943 on, medical professionals tried to figure out what it could be used for–if anything. It was even marketed commercially for a while under the brand name Delysid.

Osmond was part of this research when he began to use the word “psychedelic” to describe the drugs’ effects. The word–which means “soul-revealing” in Greek–soon became an adjective for anything that might expand the mind.

Then the CIA got involved, thinking that LSD could be used for things like enhanced interrogation techniques, chemical warfare and mind control. (Look up MK-ULTRA if you want to go down that rabbit hole.)

Because LSD and related chemicals resulted in people entertain an altered state of perception, some started using it recreationally. Artists discovered its properties and started taking acid trips, looking for inspiration and new creative roads. Mescaline (which comes from the peyote plant) and psilocybin (which you get from certain mushrooms) were very popular just before they were made illegal.

But by this time, psychedelic chemicals had reached deep into music, resulting in what was promoted as mind-expanding sounds. Psychedelic music became a thing in the 1960s. That sound, feel, vibe, and attitude continues even today. That’s why we’re going to look at a quick history of psych in the world of alternative music.

Here’s the kind of stuff you’ll hear on this show:

Kula Shaker, Tattva,

Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit.

13th Floor Elevators, You’re Gonna Miss Me

Pink Floyd, Interstellar Overdrive

Velvet Underground, Black Angel’s Death Song

Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows

The Soft Boys, Give It to the Soft Boys

Teardrop Explodes, Sleeping Gas

Echo and the Bunnymen, Bring on the Dancing Horses

Siouxsie and the Banshees, Dear Prudence

Spacemen 3, Revolution

Bangles, Hero Takes a Fall

My Bloody Valentine, Soon

The Verve, Slide Away

Tame Impala, Elephant

Eric Wilhite has this playlist for us.

Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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