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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Knifeworld: The Unravelling review – complex, mischievous psychedelic rockThe Guardian, July 24th
Dullard indie rock bands may have repeatedly tried to reduce the psychedelic ethos to little more than recycled Beatles riffs and a dash of sitar, but Knifeworld have the keys to the real kingdom of lysergic wonderment. Led by former Cardiac and left...Read more
Pop, Rock & Cabaret Listings for July 25-31New York Times, July 24th
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Watch: 30 Seconds with The UMS band TjutjunaReverb (blog), July 24th
Tjutjuna describe themselves as “loud space rock from the future,” and they rank their futuristic talents somewhere in-between Blade Runner and 2001 A Space Odyssey. The psych-rock band Tjutjuna (pronounced “chutchuna”) derives their name from a ...Read more
The cat's meowBoulder Weekly, July 24th
The thing that helped bring about his transition from the tragically unrecognized psych-rock wunderkind fronting Karma something-or-other, to the celebrated up-and-comer known as Brothertiger was the discovery of live music performance software...Read more
Upgrades can't save White Fence's psych-rock from getting staleA.V. Club DC, July 21st
For throwback garage-psych conservator Tim Presley, last year's Cyclops Reap turned slight tweaks—more prevalent hooks and an increased pop focus—into the most cohesive and promising White Fence album yet. To record For The Recently Found ...Read more
42 Trippy Rock Songs to Psych You UpMashable, July 7th
Over the weekend, we learned that Pink Floyd will release its first new album in the past 20 years in October. Critics and casual fans alike were thrilled by the news; after all, Pink Floyd helped popularize psychedelic rock alongside bands like The...Read more
"Psych Rock's New Rising" with Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 2015 MenswearSENATUS, July 1st
On the seat of every chair for the presentation of Saint Laurent's menswear collection for the Spring/Summer 2015 season was a card that read "Psych Rock's New Rising" and with that, the tone of the runway was set. Psych Rock, short for psychedelic...Read more
Concert preview: Painted Palms make psych-rock safe enough for first timersColumbus Alive, June 25th
San Francisco psych-pop duo Painted Palms leans more to the pop end of the genre's spectrum, crafting shimmering, electro-tinged tracks that come on like Animal Collective at its most tame. The lyrics are similarly muted, and frontman Christopher ...Read more