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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Hear Jeffertitti's Nile Cover Bessie Smith's 'Blue Spirit Blues' in Psych-Rock ...SPIN, February 28th
On "Blue Spirit Blues," the lead single from their upcoming sophomore album, they settle on sweaty, psych-tinged blues fury, offering a down-and-dirty cover of a song originally done by jazz legend Bessie Smith. Stream "Blue Spirit Blues" below, and...Read more
Scene Report: Turkey's psych-rock explosionRed Bull (International), February 27th
and Erkin Koray. The Gaslamp Killer, Andy Votel's Finders Keepers and others have done their best to promote the music and when Mos Def sampled Selda Ba?can's ?nce ?nce on Supermagic he exposed Turkish psych-rock and Anatolian pop to the world...Read more
SXSW rock pick: Temples' sound harkens back to psychedelic-era BeatlesCultureMap Austin, February 26th
Why we chose them: Speaking of Black Angels, Temples will be back in town in May to play the Black Angels-curated Austin Psych Fest. SXSW official showcase: Take your pick: they've got three official showcases. 10 pm on March 14 at Bar 96, 8 pm on ...Read more
Roky Erickson and Black Angels: The Ultimate Psych-Rock Trip at Grand Central ...Miami New Times (blog), February 26th
Last night, we here at Crossfade witnessed what may truly be the ultimate in psych-rock shows: A tour featuring the living legend and originator of the genre, Roky Erickson, and the band that has preserved and carried on the spirit of psychedelia, The...Read more
Artist Profile: 'Temples' and the Revival of Psychedelic RockBowery Boogie, February 19th
Temples is the latest and greatest British psych rock that we've set our ears on in a long while. Even Johnny Marr (Smiths) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis) have given the band two thumbs up as being one of the best new sounds to come out of the island kingdom...Read more
Rose Windows plays psych-rock with a global twist at McmenaminsCoast Weekend, February 11th
The band follows standard Western traditions in its instrumentation, using the basic tools employed in past decades of American and British rock music. Elements of The Band's folk-infused rock, The Doors' organ-driven psychedelia, and Black Sabbath's ...Read more
Artists Line Up for 'A Psych Tribute to the Doors'Ultimate Classic Rock, February 11th
'A Psych Tribute to the Doors,' due March 4, rounds up “several leaders of psych rock's next wave of sonic visionaries” to offer new renditions of classic tracks from the band's catalog, including the Black Angels, whose version of 'Soul Kitchen' can...Read more
Leaders of The New Psych Rock Movement Pay Tribute to THE DOORSBroadway World, February 10th
On March 4th, L.A.-based indie label Cleopatra Records will release A Psych Tribute to The Doors a heartfelt salute to the hometown heroes who put L.A. on the astrological map, legendary psychedelic rock band The Doors! Contributing to this epic...Read more