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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Laddio Bolocko, 'Nurser (Live in Jönköping, Sweden 2000)'NPR, November 24th
In Laddio Bolocko was the raging firestorm of '60s free jazz and psych rock, the motorik pounding of '70s Krautrock and whatever else fed the foursome's deranged noise a full decade before any combination of such stuff became de rigueur. St. Ivany made...Read more
Tame Impala review: Crowd loses appetite after too much acid-fried psych-rockSydney Morning Herald, November 10th
Tame Impala are pretty much top of the pile worldwide when it comes to making modern, melodic, acid-fried psych-rock and, while such global acclaim is an enormous achievement, this is still hardly the kind of music you'd expect to connect with so many...Read more
Premiere: New Robotic Psych Rock From Heavy BreathingWAMU 88.5, November 9th
The result is often energetic but inhuman psych rock, whipped into a frenzy by a charismatic vocalist who doesn't exist. Take Heavy Breathing's latest single, “Night First” (stream it below). Over a propulsive organ riff, a robotic croon doles out...Read more
Hear Mystic Braves' Psych-Rock Feast 'Days of Yesteryear' (Exclusive Album)Wall Street Journal (blog), November 9th
The 10-track psych-rock album sounds like a forgotten gem from the late '60s that turned up at the back of some paisley-filled closet in the Electric Prunes' basement. The songs are full of Farfisa organ, quavering guitars and wispy, ethereal vocal...Read more
White Hills brings cinematic psych rock to Cleveland's Happy Dogcleveland.com, November 5th
CLEVELAND, Ohio - New York psych-rock band White Hills has released more than 10 albums since forming in 2005. But it's the band's connection with a former Northeast Ohio icon, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, that has brought them the most attention...Read more
Ponteix "Chasing the Sun" (video)Exclaim!, October 29th
French-Canadian Saskatoon-based psych-rock unit Ponteix are currently wrapping up the recording of their debut EP, but before it's ready for release, Exclaim! is giving you the first look at the band's new video for "Chasing the Sun." The clip was...Read more
Richard Bishop Reflects on Sun City Girls' Reissued Classic Psych-Rock LP ...TheStranger.com (blog), October 29th
The song—and the album—goes on to rewrite the psych-rock rulebook in unbelievably vivid, labyrinthine, and sacred calligraphy. Throughout, Richard Bishop's guitar tone shoots turquoise lightning to your root chakra. Each song is an unforgettable...Read more
Psyched out: Denver's Flaural and DéCollage are sick of your labels, manReverb (blog), October 26th
“Psych rock has become this canopying term,” Birch says. “The music is associated with psychedelic drugs, but I think there's a difference between writing what you feel is more artistic or out-of-the-box and, all of a sudden, it gets coined as 'you...Read more