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|Cultural origins||Late 1960s United States|
Acid rock is a subgenre of psychedelic rock which is generally considered "heavier," "harder," "louder," or "rawer" than standard psychedelic rock and is often characterized by long instrumental solos, "trippy" lyrics, distorted or "fuzzy" electric guitars and deliberate use of feedback, and frequent musical improvisation.[verification needed][excessive citation]
The LSD-influenced music of bands such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Black Sabbath, Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Seeds, Vanilla Fudge, Steppenwolf, Cream, The Electric Prunes, Blues Magoos, The Music Machine, Love, Jefferson Airplane, Ultimate Spinach, Moby Grape, Blue Cheer, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Great Society, Deep Purple, and the Grateful Dead has been described as "acid rock," with Tom Wolfe identifying many of the aforementioned bands[ambiguous] as "acid rock" in his book about Ken Kesey and the Acid Tests, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
"Acid rock" also refers to the subset of psychedelic rock bands that were part of, or were influenced by, the San Francisco Sound, and which played loud, "heavy" music featuring long improvised solos.
History and use of the term
Acid rock got its name because it served as "background" music for acid trips in underground parties in the 1960s (e.g. the Merry Pranksters' "Acid Tests"). The name was given after the drug LSD. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jerry Garcia quoted Grateful Dead band member Phil Lesh stating, "acid rock is what you listen to when you are high on acid." Garcia further stated there is no real psychedelic rock and that it is Indian classical music and some Tibetan music that are examples of music "designed to expand consciousness."
Former Atlantic Records executive Phillip Rauls is quoted saying, "I was in the music business at the time, and my very first recognition of acid rock — we didn't call it progressive rock then — was, of all people, The Beach Boys and the song 'Good Vibrations'." In 1984, writer Vernon Joyson observed flirtations with acid rock in the Beach Boys' albums Pet Sounds (1966) and the unfinished Smile.
Acid rock bands aimed to create a youth movement based on love and peace, as an alternative to workaholic capitalist society. David P. Szatmary states, "a legion of rock bands, playing what became known as "acid rock," stood in the vanguard of the movement for cultural change." Szatmary also quotes from the San Francisco Oracle, an underground newspaper published between 1966 and 1968, to explain how rock music was perceived at that time and how the acid rock movement emerged: "Rock music is a regenerative and revolutionary art, offering us our first real hope for the future (indeed, for the present)." Rolling Stone magazine includes early Pink Floyd as "acid-rock". In July 1967 Time magazine wrote, "From jukeboxes and transistors across the nation pulses the turned-on sound of acid-rock groups: the Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Moby Grape". In 1968 Life magazine referred to The Doors as the "Kings of Acid Rock". In 1969, Playboy Magazine referred to Led Zeppelin as "acid rock".
Generally, the term "acid rock" is roughly equivalent to and has often been used interchangeably with psychedelic rock, with "acid rock" usually defining psychedelic rock with a harder, heavier attack. Alan Bisbort and Parke Puterbaugh write that acid rock "can best be described as psychedelia at its rawest and most intense [...] Bad trips as well as good, riots as well as peace, pain as well as pleasure - the whole spectrum of reality, not just the idyllic bits, were captured by acid rock." Psychedelic rock and "acid rock" also significantly overlapped with the raw, energetic, "fuzzy" sound of "garage rock" (or "proto-punk") in the early to mid 1960s, as exemplified in the compilation album Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, with "garage rock" bands playing psychedelic rock with the rawness and distortion of "garage rock."[verification needed][excessive citation]
When hard rock and heavy metal became prominent in the early and mid-1970s, the phrase "acid rock" was sometimes applied to these genres, with "acid rock" often referring to early "heavy metal" music, a genre which at its earliest stages had more evident "psychedelic" influence. Over time, heavier bands that had originally been defined as "acid rock," such as Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, fell in under the term "heavy metal," which eventually replaced "acid rock" as the name for their style of music.[not in citation given][verification needed][excessive citation] Many of the bands integral to "acid rock" (Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly) would go on to become increasingly defined as "heavy metal."
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