Rob Chapman: Psychedelia and Other Colours

A must-have deep-dive into trippier times.

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For those who came of age in the 60s, the evolution of rock’n’roll and R&B through technicolour psych, and the birth of progressive rock at the end of that decade, seemed a very natural process.

Psychedelic music opened the doors, did the heavy lifting and encouraged rock to break on through to the other side, trampling the three-minute time barrier in the process. Most of prog’s major pioneers cut their teeth in psych, which could see Steve Howe accompany his Tomorrow bandmate Keith West on kiddie choir epic Excerpt From A Teenage Opera, or Simon Dupree and the Big Sound morph into Gentle Giant. Over nearly 600 pages, after a suitably lysergic foreword by DJ-producer Andrew Weatherall, Chapman presents his own take on the myriad events, records and many of the characters who shaped and rode the psych revolution, weighted towards beautifully crafted descriptions of key records. Crucially, new missions emerge to track down previously unknown delights (Happy Castle by the Crocheted Doughnut Ring). The text is set out in double columns like the Bible, and could be the closest thing this revolution has to it, as it digs beneath the usual fluff to chronicle the evolution of LSD, then the music and events it inspired. Chapman presents the big picture of that whole seminal decade, ending up with as much of an evocative nostalgia trip as an acid flight when he starts placing TV comedy shows such as Steptoe And Son alongside The Nice’s epoch-making take on America, or cites jazz’s crucial importance to everything before dissecting Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Some overlooked major figures are still marginalised, such as Guy Stevens (who gave Procol Harum their name) and Graham Bond, but even as one man’s time-capsule travelogue, this eye-blasting monolith should beam from any self-respecting bookshelf.