British Psychedelic Bands of the 1960s Underground – extract from Rock Routes a book on Rock Music by Opher Goodwin

Everything you might want to know on Rock Music.

British Psychedelic Bands of the 1960s Underground


Towards an end of the Progressive scene were the songs that were trying to create the sounds that were convivial to the use of LSD. These bands created a spacey type of music with soaring movements and electronic effects. They extended out long ethereal pieces of music using organs, synthesisers and guitar effects to create echoey wafting sound, with tape loops, building, with a basic rhythm towards peaks and crescendos reflecting the mind blowing experience of an acid trip. The music was more complex and with the use of light shows created a total environment to augment the experience of the audience and the band. Their minds would get lost in it.

The British psychedelic scene was closely connected to the US Acid Rock scene. They respected and fed off each other. They were influenced by bands such as the Jefferson Airplane, Doors, Captain Beefheart, Grateful Dead, Byrds and country Joe & the Fish.

A number of clubs sprang up to satisfy the need and provide all-night venues for psychedelic experience. These included Middle Earth, UFO Club, and The Roundhouse. These were places for experimenting with mind expansion and were the model for other similar ventures around the world like ‘The Paradiso’ in Amsterdam.

Many of the Progressive Rock Bands of the Underground contained elements of Psychedelic music or played psychedelic material along with their other material and many of the established bands dabbled successfully with the new psychedelic sounds. They all buoyed each other along. The ground breaking work of these established bands can be seen on albums such as the Beatles ‘Revolver’, Srgt Peppers Heart Club Band’, ‘Beatles (Double white)’, the Rolling Stones ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’, the Pretty Things ‘S F Sorrow’, the Animals ‘Winds of Change’, the Who ‘Tommy’ and the Small Faces ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’.

The Pink Floyd was the stand out Psychedelic Band. They had evolved out of an R&B band due mainly to the genius of Syd Barrett. The name was taken from a Blues record from Barrett’s collection of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The group had previously been known as Sigma 6, the T-Set and the Abdabs. They were signed up by Peter Jenner for Blackhill Ents and started out at the Marquee and UFO clubs developing one of the first light shows in the business.

Syd was heavily into LSD at the time and the music he dreamt up reflected the state of his consciousness.

Peter Jenner put on the infamous ‘Games for May’ and other similar free events similar to Kesey’s ‘Acid Tests’ in 1967. They released a couple of singles without success and hen it all came together. Their unusual ‘Arnold Lane’ – a song about a fetishist who stole washing off washing lines – and then ‘See Emily play’ were hits. It paved the way for their quintessential psychedelic album ‘Piper at the gates of Dawn’. They were up and oaring as Britain’s top Psychedelic act.

Unfortunately no sooner had they achieved success than Syd became an Acid casualty and cracked up. Roger Waters took over and they drafted in Dave Gilmour and managed to keep up the standard with ‘Saucerful of Secrets’.

Syd was persuaded back into the studio with the aid of Dave Gilmour and Rick Wright to produce two extraordinary albums that were psychedelic masterpieces in their own quirky way – ‘Syd Barrett’ and ‘The Madcap Laughs’.

The Soft Machine was Floyd’s stable mates and took part in the free festivals and underground club scene. They featured Kevin Ayres and Robert Wyatt and produced a number of psychedelic Jazz/Rock fusion albums. They became jazzier as they went along.

Hawkwind were a community band, indeed often joined up with the Pink Fairies to create Pinkwind, and featured such individuals as Dik Mik, Del Detmar, Lemmy Kilminster (Later of Motorhead), Dave Brock and Nik Turner. They were based at Notting Hill and produced a space-Rock Sci-Fi type of psychedelia. In their early development they were closely associated with the Sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock who actually performed with the band. They were infamous for their intricate light shows, soaring music as well as playing a lot of benefits in aid of drug busts and the like.

Tomorrow feature Steve Howe and Keith West and were briefly one of the up and coming psychedelic acts before Keith had his very light-weight hit with his ‘Excerpt from a teenage opera’ and lost all credibility with the underground scene. Tomorrow had an impressive stage act with strobe lights and the use of long colourful gowns that jerked around with the flashing light.

The Misunderstood started of as the Blue Notes in California. They had played Surf Music and had the trade mark blue colour. This included guitars, hair, shoes, and clothes. In 1965 they changed their name to the Misunderstood and began playing Garage Punk. By 1966 this had become psychedelic and they were discovered by John Peel. He persuaded them to try heir luck in London. Their sound was based around Glen Ross Campbell’s distinctive wild steel guitar on numbers like ‘Children of the sun’. Unfortunately they then got visa problems and most of the band had to leave. Glen formed Juicy Lucy and went on to do psychedelic versions of things like Bo Diddley’s ‘Who do you love?’.

The Crazy world of Arthur Brown was an extremely theatrical outfit. Arthur used to wear long gowns and big headdresses that he set on fire. He’d be lowered on to stage from a crane. It was a four piece band with Vincent Crane, Nick greenwood and Drachen Theaker who went on to form Atomic Rooster.

Other Psychedelic bands included the Pop songs from early Status Quo – ‘Pictures of matchstick men’ and ‘Ice in the sun’; the Lemon Pipers ‘Green Tambourine’, Purple Gang’s ‘Granny takes a trip’.

There were the minor bands – Dantalion’s Chariot, Syn, Mandrake Paddle Steamer, Smoke, and Wimple Wynch.

Established bands got into the scene like the Move – with ‘Night of Fear’ & ‘I can hear the grass grow’.

The Beatles released ‘Srgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and the Rolling Stones ‘Their satanic majesties request’. The Yardbirds released ‘Roger the Engineer’ and the Pretty Things ‘SF Sorrow’.



Artist Stand out tracks
Pink Floyd Arnold Layne

See Emily play

Candy & a currant bun

Astronomy Domine

Lucifer Sam

Take up your stethoscope and walk

Interstellar overdrive

The Scarecrow



Pow R Toc H


Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Mathilda mother

Saucerful of secrets

Let there be more light

Green is the colour

Cirrus minor


Careful with that axe Eugene

Grantchester meadows

Fat old sun

Atomic heart mother

Julia dream

Soft Machine I did it again

Joy of a toy


Hawkwind Hurry on sundown

Silver machine

Masters of the universe

Children of the sun

Tomorrow My white bicycle


Strawberry fields forever

Misunderstood Children of the sun

I can take you to the sun

Juicy Lucy Who do you love

Willie the pimp

Crazy World of Arthur Brown Fire

Fanfare/Fire Poem


Move I can hear the grass grow

Night of fear

Flowers in the rain

Fire brigade

Cherry blossom clinic

Dantalion’s chariot Madman running through the fields
Syn Flowerman

14 hour technicolour dream

Created by Clive

Mandrake paddle steamer Overspill

Cooger & Dark

Smoke My friend Jake

High in a room

Wimple Wynch Save my soul
Kaleidoscope Flight from Ashiya
Fleurs de lys Moondreams


Blossom Toes What on Earth

Look at me I’m you

Idle Race Here we go round the lemon tree
Man Erotica

Spunk box

My name is Jesus Smith

Beatles Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Strawberry fields forever

A day in the life

Rolling Stones She’s a rainbow

2000 light years from home

Sing this all together

Pretty Things LSD

SF Sorrow is born

Walking through my dreams

Yardbirds Over under sideways down

Psycho daisies

The Nazz are blue

Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!

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Opher Goodwin

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