10 Psychedelic Songs That'll Shake Any Progger's Tree


1 The Rolling Stones’ 1968 psychedelic foray Their Satanic Majesties Request yielded fascinating results, the best of which is 2000 Light Years From Home. The spacey vibe pulsates with thunderous drums, mysterious reversed notes and the galactic winds of Brian Jones’ eerie Mellotron. It’s only psych‘n’roll but we like it!

2 The Pretty Things’ Balloon Burning hits the ground running and never lets up. Released in 1968, Dick Taylor’s sustained hyper-lead guitar sounds like what might have happened if Robert Fripp’s drink had been spiked with acid.

3 The 11-minute epic, Seventy Five, from American outfit Touch’s only album sounds like Jon Anderson and company going full tilt on The Yes Album, with guitarist Joey Newman’s wild soloing catching something of Steve Howe’s future spark. Remarkably though, the track was recorded in 1968! Prog before prog was even prog.

4 When Steve Howe joined Yes in 1970 he brought ideas from his previous band, Bodast. Recorded in 1968, Nether Street lay unreleased for several years. Determined that one memorable riff would not die with Bodast, Howe reincarnated it as the pulverising finale to Starship Trooper.

5 Beginning with a blast of stabbing organ and crazily gyrating lead guitar, The United States Of America’s Hard Coming Love is a bacchanalian outburst propelled by primal beats, seeded with subversive electronics and translucent music concrete interludes. Released in 1968, it’s an inspired synthesis of primitivism and sophistication.

Satanic majesty at the Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus, December 11, 1968.

Satanic majesty at the Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus, December 11, 1968. (Image credit: Getty)

6 The Zombies’ Hung Up On A Dream from 1968’s classic Odessey And Oracle evokes the mind-altered, comedown bliss of a waking dream. Colin Blunstone’s angelic voice quivers between baroque pop flourishes fleshed out by guitar and Rod Argent’s soaring Mellotron.

7 Uriel, consisting of Steve Hillage, Mont Campbell, Clive Brooks and Dave Stewart, recorded Arzachel in one afternoon in ’69. Metempsychosis is a far-out, full-blown 16-minute blow showcasing some interstellar guitar from the 18-year-old Hillage. When he quit for college in Canterbury, the remaining trio went to work as Egg.

8 The cosmic sound effects swamping John McLaughlin’s Marbles were added without his consent, causing the future fusion star to disown this 1970, pre-Mahavishnu Orchestra release. Yet McLaughlin’s precision-guided fretboard bombing runs never sounded more psychedelic than they do here, closely followed by the searing vapour trails of Larry Young’s Hammond organ.

9 Before Tangerine Dream became fully-fledged space cadets, Journey Through A Burning Brain sunk deep into their collective psyches, melding 60s West Coast rock beats, Floydian organ breaks, Syd-style slide guitar, live-wire electronics and flute freak-outs.

10 The Shepherd’s Song, Strawbs’ 1971 psych folk pean to bucolic love, offers Dave Cousins’ fevered half-glimpse of mythic Albion via a passing nod to Love’s Alone Again Or. Resplendent in the shimmering dawn light, the red-gold streaks of sun come courtesy of Rick Wakeman’s dazzling Moog solo and early morning Mellotronic mist.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.