British versus American Psychedelia

9 Jan

Last Summer I was intrigued to find out the differences between British and American Psychedelia. Whilst on a quest to study all the details, I listened to The Doors and Jim Morrison singing ‘Gloria’ while the last rays of sun peeked through my curtains in sunset, and I felt the gentle summer breeze, and I made these collages. But before I start, I want to say that these are my visions of psychedelia, so, if I failed to mention a particular band that’s because I didn’t listen to it. These are my observations, take it lightly.


British Psychedelia – Rose-Tinted Visions of the Past, Myths and Magic

“The underground exhibited a curious nostalgia, unusual in people so young. Living in tattered Victorian flats, smoking dope and rummaging for antiques on the Portobello Road, the underground pillaged their cultural history. Part romantics and part vandals, as they pulled away from their parents’ world, they embraced the shadow of their grandparents’ Victoriana, torn between an idealised future and rose-tinted visions of the past.” (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

British psychedelia is more whimsical and deeply rooted in ‘cheery domesticity and a fascination with childhood as a lost age of innocence'(*). It takes inspiration from Romantics and long-haired Pre-Raphaelite beauties, William Morris prints, tea parties, fairies and magic woodlands, love of nature with mystical overtones and books such as ‘The Golden Bough’ by James George Frazer, magical worlds created by Lewis Carrol, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, songs about gnomes, fairies. It’s driven by a desire to go back to childhood and the past.


Screaming through the starlit sky
Travelling by telephone.
Hey ho, here we go
Ever so high.‘ (Pink Floyd – Flaming)


Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let’s try it another way
You’ll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play.‘ (Pink Floyd – See Emily Play)


I want to tell you a story
About a little man
If I can.
A gnome named Grimble Grumble.
And little gnomes stay in their homes.
Eating, sleeping, drinking their wine.
He wore a scarlet tunic,
A blue green hood,
It looked quite good.
He had a big adventure
Amidst the grass
Fresh air at last.
Wining, dining, biding his time.
And then one day – hooray!‘ (Pink Floyd – The Gnome)


The doll’s house, darkness, old perfume
And fairy stories held me high on
Clouds of sunlight floating by.‘ (Pink Floyd – Matilda Mother)


All I need is your whispered hello
Smiles melting the snow, nothing heard
Your eyes, they’re deeper than time
Say a love that won’t rhyme without words.‘ (Small Faces – Tin Soldier)


American Psychedelia:

‘Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light
Or just another lost angel?’ (The Doors – LA Woman)

Unlike British, American Psychedelia was driven by the anti-war protests, and teenagers wanted to have freedom and be adults, some even joined communes. As I see it, American psychedelia is all about sun, beach and rock ‘n’ roll. Colourful houses in San Francisco, whose beauty I’ve first encountered in Jack Kerouac’s writings. For me, American psychedelia is Jim Morrisson’s mystic poetry, mixing Indian shamanism and William Blake, it’s Roky Erickson screaming ‘You’re gonna miss me child yeah’ in the same named song by the 13th Floor Elevators, it’s Janis Joplin in vibrant clothes, singing about love in raw, husky voice, it’s the brightly coloured vans with peace signs, it’s The Byrds with their folk-sounds and cheerful guitars, the imagined sunsets on Ashbury Haigh.


I see your hair is burnin’
Hills are filled with fire
If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar
Drivin’ down your freeway
Midnight alleys roam
Cops in cars,
The topless bars
Never saw a woman…
So alone, so alone…‘ (The Doors – L.A. Woman)


Unhappy girl
Tear your web away
Saw thru all your bars
Melt your cell today
You are caught in a prison
Of your own devise.‘ (The Doors – Unhappy Girl)


She lives on Love Street
Lingers long on Love Street
She has a house and garden
I would like to see what happens

She has robes and she has monkeys
Lazy diamond studded flunkies
She has wisdom and knows what to do
She has me and she has you.‘ (The Doors – Love Street)


Hey what’s your name?
How old are you?
Where’d you go to school?
Aha, yeah
Aha, yeah
Ah, ah yeah, ah yeah
Oh haa, mmm

Well, now that we know each other a little bit better,
Why don’t you come over here
Make me feel all right!

Gloria, gloria
Gloria, gloria
Gloria, gloria
All night, all day
All right, okey, yey!‘ (The Doors – Gloria, originally by Van Morrison)


To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep.‘ (The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn)


I’ve seen your face before,
I’ve known you all my life.
And though it’s new,
your image cuts me like a knife.
And now I’m home.
And now I’m home.
And now I’m home, to stay.
The neon from your eyes is splashing into mine.
It’s so familiar in a way I can’t define.‘ (The 13th Floor Elevators – Splash)


Which one do you prefer, British or American Psychedelia? I’d goes without saying that I’m all about fairies, childhood innocence and tea parties, so it’s British psychedelia for me. Nothing’s gonna stop me this time, I’ll make the Summer of 2017 my Summer of Love! But for now, let these psychedelic tunes warm these short but never-ending winter days.

18 Responses to “British versus American Psychedelia”

  1. WadeandRock 9th Jan 2017 at 7:02 pm #

    Love this post…. though Gloria by The Doors really belongs in British/Irish Psychedelia as it was written by Van Morrison.


    • Byron's Muse 9th Jan 2017 at 7:30 pm #

      Thank you! I know it was written by Van Morrison but I really loved Morrison’s version of it. But I’ll add the note just to make it fair to Van Morrison. 🙂


      • WadeandRock 9th Jan 2017 at 7:54 pm #

        Glad you know your Morrisons! I really like both versions.


  2. 1810photography 9th Jan 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    I’m all for Innocent Romanticism too, my favorite being Donovan: no one preached a more innocent message of love, or immersed himself more in the role of Medieval troubadour, than he. Even when Donovan wrote an anti-war song, he did it with the utmost beauty and with a message that makes the heart bloom with flowers:


    • Byron's Muse 10th Jan 2017 at 1:16 pm #

      Thank you for sending me that song, I liked it, though I haven’t listened to Donovan much, apart from the song ‘Season of the Witch’ which I love, but perhaps I should give his music a try. It’s always hard to make a song or an artwork that’s beautiful and has a social message at the same time.

      By the way, my favourite song by Syd Barrett is ‘Dominoes’, I like its melancholic mood and lyrics, and I think you could appreciate it from a musical point of view.


      • 1810photography 10th Jan 2017 at 4:44 pm #

        Excellent! I definitely need to hear more of this Syd Barrett – Before I read your blog I only ever knew Pink Floyd from their post-Dark Side of the Moon, which sounds entirely different from the Barrett era stuff. I think I like the Syd Barrett music more. Likewise, you need to listen to more Donovan! I like Donovan best without electric guitar – when it’s just him with his acoustic guitar and the occasional flute and cello. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is my favorite album of his. I’ll send you some other songs I like particularly.


        • Byron's Muse 10th Jan 2017 at 6:14 pm #

          I’m so glad you like Syd Barrett’s music! I think you’re in for a treat then, ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett’ are fantastic albums, the songs are sad and whimsical at the same time, soaked in loneliness and that ‘dream is over’ mood. And yes, I’d definitely like to hear more of Donovan’s songs by your choice, feel free to enlighten me. I am always interested in discovering new bands and songs.


  3. lautreamont 10th Jan 2017 at 5:03 pm #


  4. lautreamont 10th Jan 2017 at 7:39 pm #

    I definitely prefer the English stuff.Most so called American Psychedelic bands were pretty crap. Maybe bits of the Doors (The End is great) some of Arthur Lee, Skip Spence,bits of Country Joe, but most is pretty poor.Even the English novelty pop is great ,Have you heard From the Underworld by the Herd,they made a miniature masterpiece by mistake.The ISB were truly psychedelic -real acid heads – everyone loved them including Syd and the Beatles. Donovan’s Sunshine Superman has some great tracks on it including your Season of the Witch,it’s definitely worth a listen.Even Hendrix crapped out when he went back to the States.England wins hands down! “There’s a fog upon New Delhi when my friends leave psychedelly”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 11th Jan 2017 at 9:07 pm #

      And I agree! I’m not that into American stuff as well, but I think The Doors are great, not only ‘The End’ but other songs too. I’ll check out the songs you’ve mentioned. Thanks for stopping by.


      • lautreamont 11th Jan 2017 at 10:38 pm #

        If you listen to it at all,listen to the English pressing of Sunshine Superman not the American version-they’re different. Btw,the fog upon New Delhi quote was Timothy Leary paraphrasing the first line of George Harrison’s song Blue Jay Way.Best, A.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Odin Norum 8th Nov 2018 at 10:25 pm #

      It’s a Beautiful Day were a good American psychedelic band. Check out their tune “White Bird”.


  5. lautreamont 10th Jan 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gea Austen 14th Jan 2017 at 1:44 am #

    I love your collections as you know,, its a beautiful tapestry which makes complete sense , I just read your interview , which I |really enjoyed,, thankyou xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 14th Jan 2017 at 10:35 am #

      I’m glad you’ve read it and thank you for reading my posts for such a long time! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Odin Norum 9th Nov 2018 at 12:21 am #

    And let us not forget Jefferson Airplane. favorite cut of theirs- “White Rabbit” or “Coming Back to Me”. All in all,your analysis of the differences was quite good.

    Liked by 1 person

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