Psychedelia was largely a product of California’s hippie movement – Cultivated in the deeper recesses of the mind, often with the help of hallucinogenic drugs, the psychedelic style at its height pervaded clothes, music and particularly graphic design – The most noticeable visual elements of the style being swirling shapes and luminous colours.
Psychedelic graphics usually comprised a collage of Day-Glo coloured images such as flowers and rainbows which found their way into the art of posters and record covers. The origin of the psychedelic graphic style is often traced to Wes Wilson, who produced some striking poster designs for concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium, California.
In Britain, Michael English and Nigel Weymouth formed a partnership called Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, and produced many psychedelic and surreal posters, record jackets and murals, including a giant Red Indian face for the facade of the Granny Takes A Trip store in 1967.
Bands such as Jefferson Airplane, The Soft Machine and The Grateful Dead produced LPs of lengthy (sometimes purely instrumental) compositions, some of which were deliberately distorted in the recording studio to help evoke the hallucinatory experience.
On 29 April 1967, an all-night concert called the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream drew 10,000 groovers to London’s Alexandra Palace with Pink Floyd, The Move, The Pretty Things and John’s Children performing. The psychedelic event also included poetry readings, a helter-skelter and films.
Oz Magazine, published in London under the editorship of Australian Richard Neville, published psychedelic graphics and imagery, particularly the work of fellow Australian Martin Sharp – perhaps most famous for his psychedelic rendering of Jimi Hendrix.
Psychedelic patterns and colours quickly found their way onto mass-produced fabrics and clothes and even penetrated corporate design when Alexander Calder covered one of Braniff International’s aircraft with coloured swirls.
However, the psychedelic style was so strong and unsympathetic to other styles that it inevitably departed as quickly as it had arrived, and as early as 1968 people had “overdosed” on psychedelia.