Psych is a broad term referring to a genre of psychedelic vinyl albums and singles recorded from roughly 1966 to 1969. As psych record collector Patrick Lundborg describes it in his interview at Collectors Weekly, psychedelic music was created by bands that were influenced by psychedelic drugs, from LSD to mushrooms. Both an album’s cover and the music on the vinyl inside reflected these intense influences.
Although the most active sector of today’s market for psych records is in rare and obscure recordings, some of the most famous psych records are by some of the world’s most popular artists, from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton. Album covers such as Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) place The Beatles squarely in the psych-records camp. Magical Mystery Tour (1967) is also a link to the world of rock music posters, thanks to its cover by renowned poster artist John Van Hamersveld.
Other highly regarded examples of British psych include Donovan’s Sunshine Superman from 1966. The list from 1967 is exceptionally deep—Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones, Cream’s Disraeli Gears, The Who Sell Out by The Who, and Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy are just a few of the trippy English gems from that seminal year.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a multitude of rock bands released a plethora of psych records in the late 1960s. Moby Grape’s eponymous 1967 debut is a must-have for most psych vinyl collectors, as is the Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 After Bathing at Baxter’s, which was reportedly mixed by the band based on how well the music would sound while the listener was under the influence of LSD.
Country Joe and the Fish made the connection between psychedelic drug culture and their music explicit with their 1967 Electric Music for the Mind and Body. Power trio Blue Cheer released Vincebus Eruptum in 1968, which was the same year one of San Francisco’s most influential acts, Quicksilver Messenger Service, offered up its spacey self-titled debut. Also desirable is the pair of albums by H.P. Lovecraft, a Chicago band that was formed in 1967, relocated to San Francisco in 1968, and then disbanded a year later.
The Grateful Dead was the region’s psychedelic heavyweight. Anthem of the Sun (1968), with its mandala-like cover, combined live tracks with studio work, while the band’s studio follow-up, Aoxomoxoa, featured a gloriously psychedelic cover by Fillmore and Avalon poster artist Rick Griffin.
And then there was the back cover of the band’s 1969 double LP, Live Dead, which featured the word "Dead" in big, blocky letters: It was designed by artist R.D. Thomas so that the top part of "Dead" appeared to spell out the word "Acid" in a not-so-subtle wink to the recreational drug of choice for the Grateful Dead’s audience of Deadheads...
As with Northern Soul, though, the most intense collecting activity in psych vinyl records revolves around the lesser-known, cult-status bands that produced discs in small production runs. Like Northern Soul, scarcity is key.
For example, in 1967, the bands Golden Dawn and 13th Floor Elevators, both from Austin, Texas, released a pair of albums that were not widely distributed at the time but today are considered by many to be classics of the genre. Golden Dawn’s Power Plant is less well known than the Elevators’ Easter Everywhere or The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, the group’s 1966 debut. But that extra layer of obscurity, it seems, is at least part of what makes Golden Dawn attractive to collectors.
But for sheer scarcity and cult cachet, few psych bands compare to C.A. Quintet, a Minneapolis outfit that produced just one album in its heyday. Trip Through Hell, 1969, sold less than 1,000 copies for a label called Candy Floss. Today, beat-up copies with tequila-sunrise stains on their covers fetch more than a grand on eBay.
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Recent News: Psych Records
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Space Merchants land their psych-rock asteroid in Cleveland at Happy Dogcleveland.com, August 26th
As in: "Hey, check out this song by this '60s psych-rock band that put out one killer album before disappearing." The Space Merchants could be just such a band. You see, the Brooklyn, New York, quartet sounds like some unearthed nugget from another ...Read more
Psych-Rock band Happy You playing at Shea Stadium Wednesday (9.02)The Deli Magazine National (blog), August 19th
Since releasing their first full-length album 'Giggle' (streaming below), which shows off their upbeat psych-rock summer vibe and doesn't miss a beat over the nine tracks, Happy You have shown no sign of slowing down their performances. They've been ...Read more
8 of the Greatest Psychedelic Rock Albums of All TimeThe Cheat Sheet, August 17th
Psychedelic rock may have gained its greatest cultural prominence during the drug-fueled youth movements of the 1960s, but the genre's experimental sounds created a wave that still ripples outward into modern music today, nearly 50 years removed from ...Read more
R.I.P. Pink Floyd, legendary psych-rock band is officially broken upConsequence of Sound (blog), August 14th
In an interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Gilmour says the band is “done” with Pink Floyd. “I've had 48 years in Pink Floyd – quite a few of those years at the beginning, with Roger [Waters]. And those years in what is now considered to be our heyday...Read more
Psych-rock sameness is holding back Denver bandsReverb (blog), August 13th
At the risk of alienating or pissing off half the bands in Denver, I'm going to say this: I have psych-rock fatigue. “Half” is part colloquialism and part hyperbole, but it also feels close to the statistical truth. There are a lot of psych-rock bands...Read more
Synesthesia and the Growth of Psych Rock in DenverWestword, August 13th
“It's all just rock 'n' roll to me,” he says. “I do enjoy the particular sounds and sonic styling of a lot of the psych bands, but I like to book a broader spectrum of artists. I by no means am only interested in psych-rock, which is why we are moving...Read more
Heaters Explores the Darkest Recesses of Vintage Psych RockPhoenix New Times, August 12th
"It feels good to get into weird stuff," Heaters bassist/vocalist Nolan Krebs says of the trio's deep, spaced-out, fuzzy psychedelia, the kind that comes only from full immersion into the darkest recesses of the form. "It's hard to say why that is, and...Read more
Quick one with Twinkranes: Infectious krautrock driven psych- rock set tongues ...Irish Mirror, August 7th
Their infectious krautrock driven psych- rock set tongues wagging at home and abroad, earning them rave reviews in the music press, but it was through their jaw-dropping live shows that they built their name. Line-up changes meant progress on a follow...Read more