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.
Interviews & Articles
The multicolored, drug-soaked, psychedelic aesthetic of the mid-1960s has never been more popular, or misunderstood. In March, “Ma… [more]
I’ve been interested in psych records for about 25 years now. It started with just 1960s music, the Beatles and stuff like that, a… [more]
When I was a jazz DJ in Philadelphia, Blue Note was always my favorite label. Naturally I had a lot of jazz-musician friends, and … [more]
When the White Stripes got signed, Jack White created Third Man Records as an insurance policy. With the White Stripes and, later … [more]
I was a Hollywood kid. My father was a TV and radio editor in the San Fernando Valley, and he allowed me to do my first writing to… [more]
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Nazoranai Announce July Live DatesThe Quietus, June 19th
Having already worked together in Sunn O))), O'Malley and Ambarchi add their syncopated bass-heavy, cymbal-washing chemistry to Haino's vocal leadership, creating a distinct sound that draws on influences from psych rock to drone metal. Performing last ...Read more
MGMT brings psychedelic rock to Artpark - VIDEOBuffalo.com (blog), June 18th
“Formed by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden as freshmen at Wesleyan University, MGMT emerged as one of the most buzzed-over bands to sprout in the tail end of the 2000s, playing a distinct blend of electronic rock and psychedelic pop,” ...Read more
Vintage Zambian psych rock comes to SFSan Francisco Examiner, June 6th
Madlib, one of America's most treasured hip-hop producers, brings the psychedelic rock and funk of 1970s Zambia to San Francisco for a once-in-lifetime show. On Friday, he hosts another iteration of his "Madlib Medicine Show" at 1015 Folsom. This time...Read more
Hit rewind and revisit garage rock's glory daysHouston Chronicle (blog), June 2nd
Psych-rock band Bubble Puppy, which had a sizable hit in 1968 with "Hot Smoke & Sasafrass" before label mismanagement began to tear the band apart, played reunion gigs in 2011 and 2012. An unearthed live record by the short-lived Houston psych rock ...Read more
Tame Impala Rocks The Fox Theatre With Psychedelic GroovesNeon Tommy, June 2nd
On Thursday night, Tame Impala brought their brand of experimental psychadelia to the Fox Theatre in Pomona. While their sound begs for a proper outdoor festival setting, they provided the crowd with an excellent blast of nostalgia and pop...Read more
Local Music Connection: How a Fort Worth psychedelic rock band found poetic ...Dallas Morning News (blog), May 31st
Fort Worth psychedelic rock band We'reWolves – yes, that apostrophe is in the right place – formed in November 2011 and already the five-man band released an 8-song debut album. It also scored a couple of Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards nominations ...Read more
Teenage psych-rock balladry: Hear “Pray for Me, Fragile” by Dreamers DoseALARM Magazine, May 30th
It's unlikely that you were searching for representation for your up-and-coming psych-rock band. But that's exactly what Dreamers Dose is doing, and if “Pray for Me, Fragile” is any indication, there won't be any difficulty in finding it. The song is...Read more
Psychedelic Furs' marathon rock actU-T San Diego, May 28th
In 1983, I reviewed the Psychedelic Furs at the Adams Avenue Theater (now the Discount Fabrics store) in Normal Heights. On Sunday morning, the Furs perform a free show at Petco Park as part of Sunday's Rock 'N' Roll Marathon San Diego 2013. Granted ...Read more