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The 10 Hippiest Albums of All Time
When I got to Georgia College, I hosted a weekly, hour-long radio show called “Hippie Happenings,” where I’d play my favorites like Stevie Nicks and Jimi Hendrix, and also dive into overlooked ’60s and ’70s artists. I kept up Hippie Happenings for my 3.75 years of college, until COVID-19 cut my semester short.
Now, in the spirit of Hippie Happenings, I’d love to share my Top 10 Hippie Albums of All Time. Click the next post to see how my list stacks up to the Deaf Man’s!
Note: Ranked in no particular order.
#1. Odyssey And Oracle — The ZombiesTime of the Season is the first song from my 52-hour long, 684-song “Psychedelic Flower Child” Spotify playlist. I started this playlist in 2016, during my last summer before I left for college. This was an emotionally significant summer for me — my summer of freedom. My high school friends and I drove around and swore that the summer would never end, and that we would stay friends forever.
This album captures all of those emotions. It’s light and summer-y, especially the “Free Love” vibe of Time of the Season. However, the opening track, Care of Cell 44 is an overlooked standout in comparison to the smashing Time single. Care of Cell 44 is a deceivingly-positive song about a prison inmate who is set for release. However, with its fun harmonizing and upbeat lyrics, it’s a cause for celebration— especially for a few high schoolers who were freed from their “prison” of hallways and annoying teachers.
However, Odyssey and Oracle isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. It has its somber, and even cynical moments, with tracks like A Rose for Emily and Maybe After He’s Gone. Still, The Zombies are able to work past their less-groovy emotions with gorgeous and lush accompaniments. It’s not as psychedelic or wild as other albums like Pet Sounds, but this is a perfect album for a sunny day’s drive. Bright, colorful songs like Beechwood Park and Hung Up On A Dream are must-haves for your turntable.
#2. Axis: Bold As Love — Jimi HendrixAn album that starts with an interview about aliens and has a Hindu-inspired album cover? Definitely trippy. Jimi Hendrix only put out three studio albums during his short lifetime, and my favorite is the “middle child,”Axis: Bold As Love. Unlike Are You Experienced? and Electric Ladyland, this album doesn’t have smashing singles on the scale of Purple Haze or All Along the Watchtower. However, it boasts some of the best deep tracks of all time.
If the unconventional start, Exp, hasn’t turned you away (and if you’re a true hippie, it won’t!), Axis launches into the relaxing, bluesy track Up from the Skies. This calming song perfectly prepares you for Spanish Castle Magic — a rocking song that will astral project you to the classic rock gods. Spanish Castle Magic was one of the first Jimi Hendrix songs I was introduced to, and it’s stuck since then. I loved driving around during the summer of 2016 and obnoxiously blasting this song out of my car window. As Jimi says, “You know, it's a really groovy place”— and song!
Another standout song from Axis is the existential If 6 Was 9. It represents everything about the counterculture hippie movement and their battles with white-collar conservatives. Some of my favorite lyrics are “White-collared conservatives flashing down the street / Pointing their plastic finger at me / They're hoping soon, my kind will drop and die / But I'm going to wave my freak flag high, high.” Way to go for sticking it to the man, Jimi!
#3. In Search of The Lost Chord — The Moody BluesMy mom introduced me to this one, and man is it a trip. Just like Axis: Bold as Love, it has a strange but memorable starter track that introduces the vibe of the album. Departure launches right into the blissful Ride My See-Saw. The Moody Blues keep the good vibes going with the goofy Dr. Livingston, I Presume, which introduces the theme of world exploration.
Things get trippier with House of Four Doors. This two-part song details the evolution of music. As each door “opens,” The Moody Blues demonstrate their prog rock roots by playing a few notes on a classical instrument— from a baroque-styled piano to a cello. This interesting concept of time travel sets us up for one of the most iconic hippie tracks of all time — Legend of A Mind.
If you don’t know Timothy Leary, who this song references several times, he was a ‘60s psychologist known for LSD experiments. He coined the iconic drug and counterculture catchphrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Just as the lyrics say, you’ll quickly be flying around with Timothy Leary on his astral plane. During the middle part of the song, we get into a mind-expanding flute solo with an orchestral and guitar accompaniment. This builds and builds, until we get to the glorious conclusion. During my freshman year, I tried to convert my roommates into “hippieism” with this part of the song. I danced around and they thought I was insane— they were right.
In Search of The Lost Chord has many other stand-out tracks” However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the chill conclusion Om. Throughout the album, The Moody Blues are searching for that mysterious lost chord. Turns out, the chord is the Hindu/Buddhist meditation mantra “Om.” If you like the sound of the sitar-infused Within You Without You off Sgt. Pepper, you’ll love this song. Sit back and chant this mantra as you spin this vinyl, and you’ll ascend with Timothy Leary.
#4. Waiting for The Sun — The DoorsWaiting for The Sun has a conventional start, in comparison to Axis and The Lost Chord, but as soon as the iconic keyboards sound in Hello, I Love You, you’re sucked into Jim Morrison’s madness. We get into the groovy ballad Love Street, perfect for a stroll among the flowers. On track three, though, is where things get wacky.
Not to Touch the Earth is one of the most bizarre Doors songs, which automatically makes it my favorite. It has a spooky sound with the keyboard, like we’re going to a haunted carnival. It gets faster and faster, until the song reaches its instrument-bashing climax and the iconic “I am the lizard king, I can do anything.” The lyrics come from one of Jim Morrison’s poems, The Celebration of the Lizard, which he intended to take up the entire first side of the album— at 24 minutes long! Waiting for The Sun is the only part of “The Celebration of the Lizard” that survived, but you can read the poem in its entirety here.
We go from summer to winter, after the back-to-back tracks Summer’s Almost Gone and Wintertime Love. Then, it’s off to battle with the Vietnam War protest song The Unknown Soldier. The Doors were always known for creating controversy, so it’s no surprise that this song was banned from many radio stations for its presentation of the war — metal.
#5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — The BeatlesOf course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Beatles— the band who started it all. Sgt. Pepper was a groundbreaking piece of work, both in content and sound recording. The Beatles continued with their experimentalism on Rubber Soul and Revolver and turned it into a concept album. Everything flows, from the Sgt. Pepper opening and reprise. All in all, it’s a beautiful piece of work.
My favorite track off this album is George Harrison’s Within You, Without You. Harrison wasn’t able to put any more of his original songs on Sgt. Pepper, but this is his standout track. The Indian influences are strong in this existential song, as life will continue with or without humans. It’s a pretty profound “high-dea.” I had the opportunity to see Sir Paul McCartney play a few Sgt. Pepper songs at Bonnaroo. I was only 13 at the time, but hearing Being for The Benefit of Mr. Kite live for the first time will always be one of my favorite concert memories.
#6. American Beauty — Grateful DeadI struggled choosing between Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, but ultimately many of my favorite Dead songs are on American Beauty. Of course, every Dead fan knows that the studio work is nothing in comparison to live versions. However, as a beginner Deadhead four years ago, I was overwhelmed by their massive live catalog— I had no idea where to start! American Beauty gave me a great starting place. Box of Rain is one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, period. This song is about bassist Phil Lesh singing to his dying father. Of course, lyricist Robert Hunter is able to pen the experience so poetically.
The Grateful Dead continue the folky vibe throughout this album with another personal favorite, Ripple. There’s a lot to unpack and analyze in the lyrics, if you’re into that. Or, you can sit back, relax and let the song take you away. With the Dead, there’s never a wrong answer. To pump things up, drop your needle on Friend of The Devil or Truckin' — a song that perfectly describes 2020 so far … “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
#7. If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears — The Mamas & PapasI’ve always loved The Mamas & Papas. My parents had their greatest hits on CD and I listened to it all the time. Out of their albums, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears wins the prize for best single. California Dreamin’ sent The Mamas & The Papas to fame. This song never gets old, and it still hasn’t 54 years later.
This album has some fantastic B-sides too. My favorite of these is the hippie-tastic Go Where You Wanna Go. It embodies the hippie ideals of freedom and movement, and Mama Cass provides the primary vocals. The best “Mama” by a long shot, Mama Cass’ powerful voice makes me yearn to hop in the car and drive out to California. Catch ya there!
#8. Cheap Thrills — Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding CompanyIf I didn’t include Janis, this list would be a travesty. She, along with Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, were pioneer female rockers. My favorite singer, Stevie Nicks, was influenced and moved by Janis when she watched the queen of hippie chicks belt her stuff.
Cheap Thrills has the classic Piece of My Heart. Fun story, I actually lip-synched this song for my Music and Civilization class freshman year— in front of the entire class. I was mortified, but it was a lot less work than the alternative music video project— and it was fun. I felt like I was channeling the spirit of Janis, and her soulful singing made it easy to act out.
I also adore Flower in The Sun. It gets your blood flow pumping and your toes tapping for a triumphant grand finale. Roadblock is another fun, wild stomper, while the slow build and chorus of Ball and Chain is sure to electrify any audience— even a bunch of Bob Dylan folkies.
#9. Forever Changes — LoveThis album isn’t as popular as some of the others on this list, but it was just as influential. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 40 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list, and it was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame. So, what’s the big deal with Forever Changes?
It has so many different world influences, like the mariachi band on the opening Alone Again Or. Like the Zombies, Love was pessimistic in regard to the hippie movement. This album offers a darker perspective and a reminder that the ‘60s weren’t all sunshine and rainbows.
My favorite tracks are A House Is Not A Motel and The Red Telephone. A House Is a Not a Motel takes a folk approach to Vietnam War protests. It has the George Harrison-esque, thought-provoking lyrics “You are just a thought that someone / Somewhere somehow feels you should be here.” It’s a super groovy song, and when guitarist Johnny Echols lays down the guitar, you’ll be hooked.
The Red Telephone is more of a typical psychedelic song, with strings, harmonies and trippy lyrics. It brings out important issues like race, death and imprisonment. The final few movements of the song, where Arthur Lee declares “We're all normal and we want our freedom” is so chilling.
#10. Volunteers — Jefferson AirplaneAnd finally, my favorite hippie band, Jefferson Airplane. They were the first ‘60s band I got into, and they led me to almost every artist on this list. Something about the two-part vocal harmonies between Grace Slick and Paul Kanter/Jorma Kaukonen/Marty Balin caught my ears. The more I learned about what a badass Grace Slick was, the more I fell in love.
Surrealistic Pillow is their most popular album, but Volunteers is their most political and bold. Originally, they wanted to name it Volunteers of Amerika, pointing fingers at both the racism and the men forced to Vietnam. However, they were forced to keep it just to Volunteers, but with tracks like We Can Be Together and Volunteers, their point is clear.
We Can Be Together did something that no 60s songs did— it swore. You need to listen hard, but at 3:24, Grace Slick triumphantly declares “Tear down the wall mother*****!” This lyric is just as relatable now as it was then, as is the rest of the album. Another personal favorite is the environmentalist Eskimo Blue Day, where Grace sings that all life is connected -- and that one tiny change can ruin everything.
This album also has surprise guest appearances from other notable hippies, like Jerry Garcia, Stephen Stills and David Crosby. If nothing else, at least make sure this momentous, fiery record is in your collection.
#11. Honorable mention: Tusk — Fleetwood Mac
I couldn’t help but put Tusk on this list. Fleetwood Mac falls in the awkward mid-seventies period, where it’s hard to classify them as a “hippie band.” They missed the late ‘60s cutoff, but Tusk still has hippie-ish elements in it. Besides, Fleetwood Mac led me to Jefferson Airplane (which led me to the rest of the list), so I had to include them.
Tusk wasn’t as successful as Rumours, cursed to live in its shadow. However, Tusk provides a welcome change to the “Fleetwood Mac formula.” Critics pointed out the album’s lack of a cohesive structure, but that’s my favorite part. I love how it bounces from Christine McVie to Lindsay Buckingham to Stevie Nicks. It shows how divided the band was at the time — never again would they write a song together like The Chain.
I’m usually not a big Lindsay Buckingham fan, but his post-punk influences are a welcome change in the album. He gets a little weird at times with Not That Funny and Tusk, which is what being a hippie is all about. Christine McVie’s honeyed songs like Brown Eyes and Over and Over set you at ease. And of course, every Stevie Nicks song kicks ass, from the witchy Sisters of the Moon to heartbreaking Sara.
Tusk will always be my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, and one of my favorite albums of all time.
What are your fav hippie albums?
If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me! What are your favorite hippie albums? Don’t forget to look for all of these albums and more in Deaf Man’s inventory!