To some oldfolk back in the 1960s
(Art Linkletter comes immediately to mind), all rock
was "acid rock". But it really was just a subset
- yet another rock genre
, for your dining and dancing pleasure. And there was some degree of overlap: while there might have been "pure" acidrockbands, the MC5
, for instance, were both acid rock and something else
We will filter out here psychedelic pop: those who followed in the wake of the Beatles' 1966-67 hermetically-sealed studio innovations, though some examples of acid rock were just as catchy, and some songs made the Top 40 pop charts.
- One trait of acid rock was lyrical: drug references. An example: the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night". Another: "The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice" - Jimi Hendrix's STP/LSD inspired title. And beyond the titles, there were lyrics that had references, or were drug-inspired (e.g. Grace Slick's adaptations of James Joyce and Lewis Carroll in "Rejoyce" and "White Rabbit"); the Linkletters of the world, however, could hear "let's get high, y'all" in just about any song, no matter how harmless.
- Another trait was jamming. This was the origin of jam bands, and the trait that lasted well past the Summer of
Love. Youth buying habits were shifting from 45s to LPs, and freeform radio stations started cropping up, willing to play a ten or twenty-minute album cut, like Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" or the Chambers Brothers "Time Has Come Today". Vanilla Fudge turned an unsuspecting pop song - The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" - into an elaborate ritual, and built an aesthetic on that. Usually these musicians were blues-based, but some had jazz backgrounds as well.
A discerning listener might have noticed that many of these guitarists and organists didn't have the chops to solo for minutes on end, but if you were stoned or tripping, maybe it seemed to work for you - the notion of just grooving on the sound had escaped out of the laboratory of musique concrète (much as Albert Hofmann's wonder drug had), and had reached a generation of listeners who'd grown a new pair of lysergic or cannabinoid ears; trad notions of the "quality" of the solo may have gone out the window. Gonzo listening, perhaps?
Cream's legend was forged on long, loud live soloing from all three members of the group, and the long-running tradition of the in-concert drum solo may have started with Ginger Baker. Blame him.
- Maybe a musical reference to India, the Holy Land of psychedelic transcendence, via the sitar or a sitarish guitar sound. If you were really ambitious, you'd incorporate India's long tradition of improvisation into your jamming; the Butterfield Blues Band's "East West" and The Byrds' "Eight Miles High"/"Why" 45 would be examples of that. Decades later, this would become a way to make quick, parodic reference to hippiedom or the drug culture, as No Longer Music, a Dutch Christian punk band would, in one of their songs (the name of which now escapes me).
- Weird. Weird came in all shapes and sizes. The Syd Barrett version of Pink Floyd, who jammed without either blues or jazz roots, came up with an accessible form of free improvisation, plus their rootlessness made them somewhat prophetic forerunners of similar punk and post-punk experimentation. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, once the foremost blueswailing proponents of garage psychedelia, would go nuts with the classic Trout Mask Replica and follow that path for most of the remainder of their history.
More non-blues-based jamming: Soft Machine, East of Eden, and The Mothers. These were jazz-based, for the most part. The Mothers also incorporated theatre, satire, parody, and electronic music. A handful of bands were mainly electronic, now that hardware was becoming commercially available - The Silver Apples, for instance.
Some bands indulged in weirdness for weirdness' sake, with a song or two that sounded like the ancient drinking songs of the Kalahari peoples, reconstructed from some memory buried (by whom? Cosmo!) in the composer's newly-liberated mind.
The weirdness aspect is probably the trait that is the least lasting; it branched off into other genres, like progressive rock and fusion. Frank Zappa would become a law unto himself, eventually gaining respect as a serious composer.
- And you had the San Francisco bands, fueled by acid, it was said. Acid in their Corn Flakes, acid in the Haight-Ashbury drinking water and all that. The Dead, Quicksilver, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Steve Miller Band, etc. They combined all of the above traits at one time or another, often a trial-and-error process while they were playing for crowds of dance-'til-dawn drug-induced revelers. Gee, that sounds kinda familiar, doesn't it?
I'm doing this from (often vague) memory, so maybe I've got a few things wrong. My true Everything motto is "a node is never really finished": I can always come back and make this writeup better (some other time), for, in this case, I've surely left a lot of stuff out.
Like, Under Construction, you dig? Solid! And no seeds or stems!