It was about 75 years ago that Dr. Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist with the chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories, began working on ways to synthesize the active compounds found in different medicinal plants and fungi for pharmaceutical use when he discovered Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and on April 19th intentionally ingested 250 µg of the psychedelic drug before taking his bicycle home.
He later documented his experiences. Little did he know the type of profound effect it would have on music and the arts in the decades that followed. American novelist Ken Kesey volunteered to be part of a study while he was a student in college. Unbeknownst to him, the tests were part of a CIA-front for a military study called MK Ultra, which set out to determine the effects of psychoactive drugs. It was from his drug-administered trials that he would find the inspiration for his 1962 best-seller, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
He was also one of the first to take his LSD journey “Further,” which coincidentally was what he would name the bus where he would help transport passengers without necessarily going anywhere in particular. It was during one of these particular “Acid Tests” in December 1965, that The Grateful Dead gave their first “official” performance.
DISCLAIMER: DON’T FORGET THAT DRUGS ARE BAD… M’KAY
Just to make this crystal clear, while we acknowledge the role that mind-altering substances played on music…we do not in any way condone the use of illegal substances. Times were much different then and any effects of LSD on the mind were still unknown. Psychedelics have had an undeniable influence on music and culture. That’s why this week #SoundingOFF decided to take a look back at ten of the most “tripped out” albums we’ve ever heard.
#1) Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)
The British rock trio consisting of Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, and Jack Bruce, left their mark on music history as one of the first successful supergroups. They’re also the first band to ever record a platinum-selling double-album.
Cream released their second studio album Disraeli Gears in 1967. Although the title apparently shares the name of 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the title was actually a misnomer for derailleur gears on a bicycle… how appropriate.
#2) Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun (1968)
The Grateful Dead really had a fun time blowing minds and stealing faces and perhaps nothing sums up their own individual experiences quite like Anthem of the Sun, one of the earliest concept albums, which was constructed from an amalgamation of live and studio recordings. The result was intentionally something that was neither live nor studio recorded, yet both at the same time.
#3) Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Although the early Syd Barrett years were considered to be the band’s most psychedelic period, the band continued to try and experiment. Although similar to their earlier recordings, such as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets, it is the first time fans really could hear the evolution in their elongated instrumentals.
The second half of Atom Heart Mother is almost as tripped out, featuring an original composition written and performed individually by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Rick Wright. The final track, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” also featured the entire group, including drummer Nick Mason.
#4) Zappa – 200 Motels (1971)
200 Motels is a surrealistic documentary film written and directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer, which simply put, is an incongruent mindf**k of unfathomable proportions. The film tells a story (I think) through a series completely unrelated vignettes interspersed with actual musical performances by the Mothers of Invention.
The film is somewhat gratifying for its comedic value and various celebrity cameos, including appearances by Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, George Duke, and actor/composer Theodore Bikel.
#5) The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight (1980)
Considered pioneers of the post-punk movement, The Soft Boys were a psychedelic rock group from the late ‘70s led by English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock. Although the band was short-lived, having only released two albums, their music was a major influence on a lot of alternative rock in the 1990’s.
#6) Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle (1991)
If you were looking for your tripped out circus nightmare you’ve come to the right place. The self-titled debut album from the ‘90s experimental rock group mixes actual circus sounds with avant-garde metal to create something that practically sounds like a bad acid trip.
#7) Shpongle – Are You Shpongled? (1998)
The electronic music project created by Simon Posford (a.k.a. Hallucinogen) and Raja Ram combines a blend of different types of world and trance music into a psychedelic mix that includes the track “Divine Moments of Truth,” dedicated to N,N-Dimethyltryptamine or DMT, a tryptamine molecule that occurs natural in many forms of life. Also known as “The Spirit Molecule” it is a powerful psychoactive substance which some cultures ingest for ritual purposes.
#8) Tool – Lateralus (2001)
Five years since their last album, the progressive metal band Tool returned with a transformative new sound and artwork by Alex Grey. Lateralus went on to be the band’s first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling more than 555,200 copies in its first week of release. It was also one of the group’s more mathematically themed records, with all kinds of references to high school algebra and the Fibonacci sequence.
#9) Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (2007)
The Baltimore-based experimental indie-pop group’s first studio album with Domino Records, Strawberry Jam, was noticeably more refined, adding a more lighthearted pop vibe than before. Despite the fact that it predominantly consists of pre-existing tracks that the band performed live in 2005 and 2006, the music is structural insanity thinly veiled beneath nonsensical lyrics.
#10) Tame Impala – Currents (2015)
The Australian psych-rock group was created by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, who would receive international acclaim for his most recent project, which shifts towards more of a synth-heavy dance vibe, which he composed and recorded by himself at his home studio in Fremantle. What makes it such a “tripped out” album is not just its experimental tendencies, but the overall theme of transformation. Even the artwork is reflective of the album’s overall discord with its depiction of a vortex that is seemingly tearing apart reality.