The 60s Psychedelic Experiment – Pop Psych – Strawberry Alarm Clock

29 Mar

Something about Tuesdays has started smelling a lot more psychedelic, and in the nasal orifice of a certain psychedelic band from Los Angeles, psychedelia smells like strawberries. We continue our psychedelic exploration of the 1960s with the genre of psychedelic pop music and one of the bands that mastered this potential corny genre was Strawberry Alarm Clock, who rode the line of bubblegum and psychedelic music like a professional.

So, I guess the first question we have to ask is what exactly is psychedelic pop music and why is music that can be considered “watered down” relevant on our psychedelic trip? The answer to this question is simple. Psychedelic pop, at its finest, is not hackneyed, but rather creative and infectious. Yes, I understand that because the music had to fit under the description of “pop” it usually needed close-knit harmonies and catchy rhythms, but, while it was “mainstream” at the time, these necessities did not take a way from the music’s worth. While the music succumbed to rigid specifications, it was still allowed to venture forth into the world of guitar distortion and zany instruments. Take a listen to this.

In the first 20 seconds the genre is practically described. “Incense and Peppermints” by Strawberry Alarm Clock was released in 1967 and it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The keyboard mixes beautifully with the reverbed, distorted guitar. The background vocals provide a haunting beginning to the tune. The song’s high-pitched keyboard provides an unmistakable psychedelic presence to the song that is a shining example of why the song is psychedelic.

Can you get the song out of your head? No. I didn’t think so. It fits the pop convention perfectly and this is why it was so popular. I consider this an instrumental work of psychedelic music and I disagree with those who believe that pop’s conforming to the psychedelic phenomenon was a bad thing. It allowed pop bands to create psychedelic pieces (a la Beach Boys) and psychedelic bands to market themselves with pop classics like “Incense and Peppermints.”

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