When it comes to the most psychedelic band of all time there are plenty of candidates. There are all kinds of esoteric names with many zoned into the sixties with elaborate monickers that cry out of adventures in dread LSD but no matter how many times you listen to them you just cannot get away from the fact that the most trippy and most psychedelic band of all time was also the most popular..the Beatles.
‘This cannot be right!’ screech the hipsters, adding, ‘the Beatles are too popular and not underground and obscure enough’ they bale but as the result of intense personal and purely scientific research conducted with magic mushrooms in a youthful voyage of discovery the Beatles always came out on top.
Christ we worked our way through the whole lot…Captain Beefheart’s genius Trout Mask Replica tied our heads into knots of noodles and had to be taken off the turntable which was tricky with the debilitating power of the mushrooms whilst the likes of the brilliant Strawberry Alarm Clock and ? Mark and Mysterons were superb in small doses but oddly not as trippy as their names wanted you to think. The Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks was once placed in the turntable as an experiment and was like having an intense and quite beautiful fire raging inside your head and was oddly a lot more psychedelic than you were expecting whilst Can and Neu created their own kind of trip with Can being like floating at the bottom of an ocean surrounded by a giant octopus.
But the one group that always worked were the Beatles. Especially later day period Beatles.
This was the period when the band had turned from lovable moptops and into regency wizards and when your gran moaned that their hair had got too long and they had ‘gone weird’ leaving behind the showbiz world of the likes of Jimmy Tarbuck and the smokey dancehalls of showbiz UK and were now entering a world that the likes of Jimmy Savile could thankfully not be allowed into.
When the going got weird the Beatles got the weirdest and their invention matched their ingestion and the songs they recorded were full of great strange sounds that could send your imagination soaring and the kind of imagery that was rooted in real life but shooting off in all manner of strange tangents but somehow also with an emotional clout and melody that never got lost.
In our experimentation of the great trip tracks, Strawberry Fields Forever would be played over and over. We were not looking for any hidden meanings or any of that kind of rubbish, it was just for the pure sound of it, the little bits of noise behind the main instruments, that swirl and that effervescent glow of the music and that inner melancholy that was always so much part of the mushroom trip. Strawberry Fields had that rainy day Englishness to it, it was sort of about a park in Liverpool, an abandoned orphanage and it all felt somehow local to Blackpudlians like us. It was also about the inner psyche as well as tripping itself and about being detached from the rest of the human race in a warm trip glow and that added to our floatyness.
There were so many adventures to be had in the 1967/1970 Beatles- Blue Jay Way was a genius dirge- a drone that wad lost in an ether that was blue and intense like a wave of weird lost in space. A Day In The Life was terrifying and climactic whilst the White Album was an adventure on its own. I Am The Walrus was Lewis Carroll brought to life and even Yellow Submarine was oddly dripping with a psychedelic imagery of its own.
Of course the Beatles themselves knew all this at the time. They were as tripped out as we were, exploring the boundaries of psyche and wandering deep into the dusty corners of the mind. Somehow they also retained the discipline to bring these adventures back to earth and make some of the best trip music ever, very rarely stumbling into the lunatic mess of some of their contemporaries. Not that there was anything wrong with the lunatic mess but there was also something far better about these constructed adventures of sound that were still pop songs but also pretty damn weird at the same time- what they managed to get away with whist still hitting number one is staggering and oh, I forgot to mention the backwards guitars which stained the mind then and still sound wonderful to this day.
Take it from me, my psychedelic voyages discovered one thing- the Beatles were the king of the trip bands.