Before these lines, there has been an article about Garage Rock, which I recommend reading first to fully understand what was about to happen in the mid-sixties, that lead to this intermixture of two genré’s that are otherwise widely considered on their own. There is something special when it comes to the mid-sixties. For some cosmic reason all over the world, there was a strong focus on anything beyond the rational mind. People started excessively to explore the mysterious, seeking mind expansions, opening “the doors of perception” and fulfilling the prophecy of the “Rainbow Warriors”. While Garage Rock -until then- was about lightly revolting teenagers expressing their temper, this newly, globally enlightened aquarian mindset seemed prophetic and holy, somehow from another dimension. Introducing those two players, wild stomping 60s Garage Punk youth on one and sparkling third eye psychedelia movement, on the other hand, it’s hard to believe that they found a conclusion in a mutual dance. But finally, they did and the result is as reasonable as it could be when those two worlds meet.
What lifted tunes out of the usual Garage Rock setting was normally the use of an electric organ such as Farfisa, Vox or Hammond. This being a key element in Garage-Psych I have to say that it’s not the only indicator to make Garage psychedelic. There are tracks that have an e-organ included without necessarily being psychedelic. A well-known example might be the UK R&B/Beat classic “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. But what’s the breaking point then? Well, it’s something beyond instrumentation. Like I wrote earlier in the Garage Rock article, there has been a substyle I prefer to call “psychedelic Folk-Rock” which has its core in Garage Rock with Folk-Rock roots. This subgenré is probably one of the best examples of what it can take to bring in the psychedelic vibe. The stunning thing about it is that this special psych feeling is being triggered by nothing more than the rhythm and the melody structures. It gets along without any buttons saying “hey, look at me, I’m psychedelic”. No effects or drug-related lyrics are needed. It’s probably the most subtle kind of psychedelia that ever came to my ears. The most notable Garage band for this are in my opinion “The Lemon Fog” from Houston, Texas.
Now as we know how subtle it can work, we might face the fact that this is rather a rare phenomenon. Most Garage-Psych includes loads of fuzz, organs, echoes and other swirly effects to generate a state of mind for the listener that’s truly mindblowing.
Another untypical phenomena were “The 13th Floor Elevators“. Besides their live performances, they made their name in psychedelic Garage Rock mainly through the spherically played “jug” which till today remains a rarely used instrument. Another element were tons of hints in their lyrics referring to drugs, alchemy, obscure illuminations and standing one foot in the occult. An also iconic band were the “Seeds” with their hit “Pushin’ Too Hard” which represented a punky raw power, driven by some swirly organ. The Blues Magoos with their stereotypic garage-psych tune “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” have to be mentioned here as well. The Velvet Illusions’ self-titled track (sound) shows the balancing point between Garage and Psychedelia. Well known Garage riffs and a certain kind of rawness in rhythm and vocals merge with hypnotic, lightly horrifying organ and lyrics about an altered state of mind. Exactly here, at the dawn of Psychedelic Rock, in the duty-free zone between two awesome styles, I’m leaving you to listen to the (vinyl only) DJ-Set especially recorded for this article to illuminate this special moment in music history. Yours, Mr. Coconut, written 2022 for www.rum-n-coconutwater.com
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