[Ads-l] "psychedelic" music (1964)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 28 21:03:12 UTC 2020

This example strikes me as at least ambiguous on the question of whether 
"psychedelic" as used here refers to the style of music.

In the lyrics of many blues songs, the narrator is said to have the 
"[so-and-such] Blues" - where [so-and-such] is what caused their blues, 
or suggests the type of pain their blues causes them, and does refer to 
the style of the music itself.

An article about Timothy Leary's Castalia commune, written in 
late-August 1965, just before the OED date for the earliest use of the 
music sense, describes the show and its music in a psychedelic theater 
at the commune, although not specifically referring to the music as 

It also includes a shout-out to "lexicography."

"Lights flash through the room, playing on faces and bouncing off 
mirrors.  A disembodied voice intones, 'Our limited lexicography with 
its procrustean subject-object limitations cannot communicate the 
experience.' Slides flash on and off - Mount Rushmore, biological 
specimens, the U. S. flag, Buddha, sliding in and out of focus.  A 
throbbing bass, an oriental flute, a clash of cymbals.  A boy and girl 
begin to dance while a flickering blue light seems to stop the motion in 
jerks.  A movie of a frog embryo in a glass bowl, evolving rotating and 
flipping to a cool jazz score, while a plaintive girl pleads: 'Let the 
thinking box run quiet, let your sensing valves open.  Cry the beauty of 
the single leaf that is you.  And we shall call this joy by the name of 
love. Amen.'"

New York Daily News, August 29, 1965, section 2, page 3.

The following page includes a discussion of influence of the 
"psychedelic" movement in the arts.

------ Original Message ------
From: "Ben Zimmer" <bgzimmer at gmail.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 4/28/2020 9:23:40 AM
Subject: "psychedelic" music (1964)

>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      "psychedelic" music (1964)
>OED3's earliest citation for sense 2a of "psychedelic" ("designating a
>style of popular music inspired or influenced by the effects of psychedelic
>drugs") is from November 1965. On the self-titled debut album by The Holy
>Modal Rounders (Peter Stampfel & Steve Weber), released in October 1964,
>the song "Hesitation Blues" includes these lyrics:
>"Got my psychedelic feet in my psychedelic shoes
>I believe, Lordy mama, I got the psychedelic blues."
>The song is an old blues standard, but these lines were added by Stampfel
>as an intentional application of the word "psychedelic" to music. (Stampfel
>discusses this in the 2006 documentary "The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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