Psychedelic rock music is deeply connected to psychedelic culture, where hallucinogenic drugs and the hippie movement were popular. The style uses electronic elements, messy rhythms, and thinly veiled metaphors about getting high.
The best psychedelic rock songs are always unique and transportive, offering a perfect way to escape without actually having to take a trip! Find some unforgettable psychedelic music on our playlist below.
Table of Contents
- Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles
- White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
- Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- The End – The Doors
- Interstellar Overdrive – Pink Floyd
- Dark Star – Grateful Dead
- Eight Miles High – The Byrds
- My White Bicycle – Tomorrow
- Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
- Venus in Furs – The Velvet Underground
- Piece of My Heart – Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin
- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
- The Red Telephone – Love
- Happenings Ten Years Time Ago – The Yardbirds
- Dear Mr. Fantasy – Traffic
- I Can See for Miles – The Who
- Incense and Peppermints – Strawberry Alarm Clock
- The Madman Running Through the Fields – Dantalian’s Chariot
- The American Metaphysical Circus – The United States of America
- Beacon From Mars – Kaleidoscope
- Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
- A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum
- Vacuum Cleaner – Tintern Abbey
- Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
- Here Come the Nice – Small Faces
- Broken Arrow – Buffalo Springfield
- Light My Fire – The Doors
- Flying High – The Arcana
- Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- See Emily Play – Pink Floyd
- Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan
- Grace – Country Joe and the Fish
- Who Do You Love – Quicksilver Messenger Service
- Omaha – Moby Grape
- Talkin’ About the Good Times – The Pretty Things
- Roller Coaster – The 13th Floor Elevators
- That’s It for the Other One – Grateful Dead
- The Way – July
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles
This song was inspired by a picture John Lennon’s son drew of his friend Lucy surrounded by stars. ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is full of vivid imagery that doesn’t always make sense but remains transportive nonetheless and is considered by many to be one of the best psychedelic songs. Many people think this song is about hallucinations while on drugs, but that wasn’t the original intention of the tune. Lucy is like a savior figure, surrounded by diamonds that match her shine.
Related: Check out these songs with the word diamond in the title.
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Though Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is thought to be a children’s story, it’s easy to make connections between hallucinogenics and Alice’s experiences. Jefferson Airplane bases ‘White Rabbit’ on some of the details and characters in the book, such as “one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small,” and “the Red Queen’s off with her head.”
Related: This song features on our list of great 60s songs.
Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Bright purple is a common color to see during a psychedelic trip, and “purple haze” is even used as another name for LSD. So, it’s a likely conclusion that this song is about tripping. Jimi Hendrix is lost in the haze of his trip, and the messy guitars and twinkling instruments make us feel like we’re right there with him.
The End – The Doors
‘The End’ spoken about in this song is death, but it’s also a fitting name for the last track on the self-titled album. Yet, there is a lack of fear that most people associate with dying. The Doors look ahead at how the afterlife could be “so limitless and free.” Much of the song references the story of the mythological figure Oedipus, who was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Yeah…definitely trippy!
Related: Spend some time listening to more songs over 10 minutes.
Interstellar Overdrive – Pink Floyd
This instrumental by Pink Floyd takes you through many different musical sections and emotions. Starting with a grungy guitar, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ has all the hints of a classic rock song. But riveting bass riffs, messy drums, and electronic experimentation give it that unique psychedelic style. Though the song is nearly ten minutes long, there is not one boring moment.
Dark Star – Grateful Dead
‘Dark Star’ did not have much success when it was first released, but it eventually went on to become one of the most important songs in the Grateful Dead’s discography. The song is somewhat laid back and almost acoustic compared to other psychedelic rock songs, but lyrics like “mirror shatters in formless reflections” give it that trippy edge. When the Grateful Dead performed this song live, they would often just keep jamming, with the longest performance of the tune coming in at just over 43 minutes.
Related: Head over to our list of star songs.
Eight Miles High – The Byrds
‘Eight Miles High’ may seem like an allusion to being high, but The Byrds literally mean it. They began writing this song while on a plane miles above the ground. The electric guitar in this song has a unique sound, almost like bagpipes, and the stacked vocals give the song a disorienting feel.
Related: Fly over to our list of songs about flight.
My White Bicycle – Tomorrow
You should definitely try listening to this song with headphones on—different instruments are panned to different sides, and the unevenness of the track makes it so immersive. When the guitar starts riffing, it pans around, almost like the guitarist is circling you. ‘My White Bicycle’ creates a unique listening experience you can’t always find in other songs!
Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
The bassline in ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ is an iconic one, setting the groove for the rest of the song the second it starts playing. This Cream song is about love and the warmth it brings. The narrator promises to always stay with this love, rejoicing that he is finally washed in the sunshine of love after waiting such a long time to feel it.
Related: Keep listening to the soundtrack from Goodfellas.
Venus in Furs – The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground based this track on the novel called Venus in Furs. The song talks about a man so deeply in love with a woman that he is okay with (and maybe even wants) her to treat him cruelly. The lyrics pull in some themes from the original novel but mainly put their own spin on some of the original sexual themes.
Related: Need a nap? Here are some songs about being tired of life.
Piece of My Heart – Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin
Before she went solo, Janis Joplin was the lead singer for Big Brother & the Holding Company, and ‘Piece of My Heart’ was one of their most popular songs. Joplin’s raspy vocals add soul to the song, telling her love to “take another little piece of my heart now,” even if it hurts her.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
Are 17 minutes too long for a song? Not for Iron Butterfly! This lengthy track has amazing guitar riffs and riveting drums, with sections that ebb and flow to keep you interested throughout the song. The story behind the strange title is a good one—drummer Ron Bushy misheard the drunk vocals of Doug Ingle, writing down “in-a-gadda-da-vida” instead of “in the Garden of Eden.”
The Red Telephone – Love
When this song was written, the US was amidst the controversial Vietnam War. ‘The Red Telephone’ has hints of an anti-war protest song, which would make sense since the song was so popular within the psychedelic hippie scene. The opening line, “sitting on the hillside watching all the people die,” suggests that the song could be from the perspective of a soldier in the war.
Related: March over to our songs about soldiers playlist.
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago – The Yardbirds
Psychedelic trips are known for making the user question time and reality. With themes of hallucinations and reincarnation, this song is thought-provoking, looking at the idea of time and its cyclicality. It may even make you question your own life, asking yourself, “was it real? Was it in my dreams?”
Related: See our playlist of songs about time passing.
Dear Mr. Fantasy – Traffic
This groovy track talks about the complicated relationship between an artist and their audience. Though musicians start out making music for themselves, the more popular they become, the bigger demands an audience has. It’s probably hard to balance authenticity with your audience saying, “sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy.” Yet, that’s exactly what Traffic is doing in ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy.” It’s very meta!
I Can See for Miles – The Who
Often called a psychedelic masterpiece, ‘I Can See for Miles’ is a classic rock song with heavy guitars and building drums helping to build the suspense present in the lyrics. The song is from a perspective of a jilted lover who says that the distance between him and this woman was not enough for her to hide her infidelity successfully. He says, “I know you’ve deceived me, now here’s a surprise: I know that you have,” to confront her about her mistakes.
Related: Were you cheated on? Here are the best cheater songs.
Incense and Peppermints – Strawberry Alarm Clock
The organ-style synth gives ‘Incense and Peppermints’ a creepy feel, which fits the existential subject matter of the song. Strawberry Alarm Clock talks about the meaninglessness of life and how it doesn’t really matter who or what you are because it’s all the same in the end. They encourage you to “look at yourself” and throw away your pride so that you can at least find meaning for yourself.
Related: What’s the point of it all? Get existential with these songs with deep meaning about life.
The Madman Running Through the Fields – Dantalian’s Chariot
The narrator in this song is lost and confused, questioning the entire world. The reason for this could be because of a failed relationship, but it’s more likely that he’s dealing with the comedown after his first psychedelic trip. Something made him crack, and he either is the madman or admires the madman, asking, “isn’t that the madman? Wonder how he feels.”
The American Metaphysical Circus – The United States of America
Old-timey horns and overlapping triumphant music make you feel like you are in the midst of a chaotic and patriotic parade. The celebratory sounds eventually dissolve into unnerving electronic sounds. The song seems to be a commentary on the state of American culture and politics, comparing it to a circus you can never escape from—”the cost of one admission is your mind.”
Related: Listen to similar songs on our playlist of songs about America.
Beacon From Mars – Kaleidoscope
Sinister creaking and eerie silence open this song, an emotional track about someone falling out of love with you. We can immediately feel the heartache with the line “the woman I been with for years now said she don’t love me anymore,” and the song continues to build as the singer becomes progressively more torn up about it.
Related: Dealing with a breakup? Here are the best songs about splitting up.
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
‘Magic Carpet Ride’ starts with staticky feedback that preps you for an awesome song. We don’t know explicitly what the metaphorical “magic carpet ride” is (maybe a relationship? An acid trip? A normal getaway trip?), but we do know it’s a fantastical way to escape life. “Fantasy will set you free,” and so will the enchanting sounds of this song.
Related: Hear a version of this in our post about the music from reservoir dogs.
A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum
This swaying song is told in a narrative style, with the main subject a “she” that the speaker is with. The song seems to be about a tumultuous relationship coming to a close, but there are also theories that it’s about an overdose, in which the “she” would be death. The many poetic lines like “I wandered through my playing cards” tell us the end of this story is not yet determined.
Related: Add some color to your playlist with these songs with colors in the lyrics.
Vacuum Cleaner – Tintern Abbey
‘Vacuum Cleaner’ has a thrumming bassline, unpredictable drums, and follows a common theme of psych rock songs where you can’t tell if the song is about a girl or a drug. The line “fix me up with your sweet dose now, I’m feelin’ like a ghost” walks that line perfectly. The “sweet dose” could cause a lover’s high or a user’s high—either way, this song will have you feeling good.
Related: Grab a vacuum and mop! Here are some songs about cleaning up.
Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
This song makes “strawberry fields” feel like an idyllic place to escape to, but it actually was a real place for John Lennon. Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army home near Lennon’s hometown, so there’s a certain nostalgia here of wanting to go back to a simpler time. The psychedelic inspiration is most clear in the line “nothing is real.” Reality is just perception, and everyone has a different one. So is any of it real?
Related: Check out our musical patch of the best strawberry songs.
Here Come the Nice – Small Faces
If you have ever wondered whether or not there are any love songs about drug dealers, look no further! Small Faces seems to have written ‘Here Comes the Nice’ about their dealer, who is “always there if I need some speed.” It’s a laid-back song with a comedic edge, with no shortage of praise for how reliable this dealer is.
Broken Arrow – Buffalo Springfield
‘Broken Arrow’ has a strange arrangement, but it works well as a standout in Buffalo Springfield’s catalog. Neil Young had left Buffalo Springfield because of an identity crisis, but after writing this song, he came back to the band so they could record it. The identity crisis seeps into the lyrics of the track, saying, “the lights turned on, and the curtain fell down, and when it was over, it felt like a dream.”
Light My Fire – The Doors
‘Light My Fire’ was a huge song from The Doors’ debut album, and its popularity has stood the test of time. The song was even ranked number 35 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The keys are the best element in this song, riffing during the instrumental solos to build some great energy. The singer is infatuated with someone, asking them, “come on, baby, light my fire.”
Related: It’s heating up with these song titles with fire.
Flying High – The Arcana
‘Flying High’ has a bluesy feel to it, with its twangy guitars and swinging rhythm. The singer is hitchhiking from an LA freeway and tells the story of his travels. He hops in a Cadillac and plays the drivers a tune while flying high. The track ends with him getting on a plane, quite literally flying high.
Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Many of the instruments used in this song were actually played in reverse, adding a really cool and mesmerizing effect. Jimi Hendrix asks us if we are experienced. Though he might be talking about drugs, the outro suggests otherwise, saying, “not necessarily stoned, but beautiful.” Hendrix may just want us to reflect on if we are experienced and satisfied with our lives.
See Emily Play – Pink Floyd
The “Emily” in this song was supposedly a real person, someone that writer Syd Barrett claimed to see before him after a psychedelic trip. Whether or not she’s real, she is certainly an enigma. She tries, cries, misunderstands, and plays all within the three-minute track. The organ and slide guitar add to the song’s mysterious edge.
Related: Listen to more of the best songs named after women.
Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan
Donovan’s shaky and soft voice gives the vocals a perfect reverence to match the story of enlightenment told in the song. Awoken from his dreams, Donovan says the “Hurdy Gurdy Man came singing songs of love.” It seems he’s inspired by this, knowing that love triumphs over the hardships of time.
Grace – Country Joe and the Fish
This hypnotic tune would do a good job of calming down anyone feeling stressed. ‘Grace’ opens with shimmering cymbals and “shhh” sounds, the sound of dripping water accompanying the lyrics about rain. The track describes an ethereal kind of love, something so pure that it doesn’t feel entirely human. Windchimes and natural sounds make it feel like you’re lying in a field with the love of your life.
Who Do You Love – Quicksilver Messenger Service
The narrator of ‘Who Do You Love’ is desperate to know who “Arlene” loves. He repeats the question countless times, with increasing desperation, hoping that eventually, she’ll say the answer is him. This track is just one part of a series, with follow-up songs asking “when,” “where,” and “how” this person loves.
Related: Will these songs about questions give you the answers? Let’s find out!
Omaha – Moby Grape
‘Omaha’ was one of Moby Grape’s biggest hits, driven by energetic drums and exciting guitar riffs. Most of the lyrics consist of the line “listen, my friends” being repeated, inviting the audience in to have a great time. It’s a song made beautiful by its simple positivity, celebrating being happy after periods of life when happiness was hard to come by—”no more rain from where we came.”
Related: Put a smile on your face with these happy songs about life.
Talkin’ About the Good Times – The Pretty Things
Just as the title suggests, this track sings about the good times of being in love, describing the woman the narrator is in love with. But, with everything good, there are hints of bad underlying the joy. Even when the sun is shining on her, “there’s evening shadows in her eyes.” The pair continues to talk about the good times, though, working to drive away those shadows.
Related: Enjoying your day? Here are the best songs for good times.
Roller Coaster – The 13th Floor Elevators
‘Roller Coaster’ is very on-brand for psychedelic songs that describe a trip, comparing it to a roller coaster. The 13th Floor Elevators encourage the listener to go on a psychedelic trip, saying that it can have enlightening effects and change your outlook on the world. The whole track is filled with instrumentation that creates anticipation, which is probably similar to the anticipation the band feels before starting a trip.
That’s It for the Other One – Grateful Dead
This rocking tune references both an LSD trip and the death of Neal Cassady, a beatmaker popular in the 50s and 60s. Much of the imagery seems to be induced by the trip, such as “Spanish lady comes to me, she lays on me this rose.” The lyrics and production build, crash, and calms throughout the song, mirroring the stages of a trip.
The Way – July
Disorienting instrumentation and fuzzy guitars make ‘The Way’ an awesome psychedelic song. The riffing of the electric guitar is consuming; the song just completely draws you in and allows you to lose yourself in it. Lines like “concrete clouds go by, splash water in my eye” add to the wandering vibe of the track.