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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Get your weekly fix of psychedelia with WAND's 'Flying Golem' videoEntertainment Weekly, September 22nd
WAND, the excellent psych-rock outfit that spent September supporting reigning genre champ Ty Segall on the road, dropped a new record last month. Now they've released a video for the psychedelic freak-out “Flying Golem.” With their hummable ...Read more
10cc's "I'm Not In Love" Was The Real Song Of The SummerDeadspin, September 22nd
At Strawberry Studios, they collaborated with both Neil Sedaka and a PE-instructor-turned-Egyptian-Pharaoh-incarnate who recorded psych-rock under the name Ramases. (Aside: Six CDs of Ramases music were recently reissued by a label run by actor ...Read more
Live music roundup: Psych revival, serene Americana, smooth jazzThe Missoulian, September 19th
Like many other young bands dabbling in the arena of psych rock, they take the appealing elements of the sound – fuzzbox guitars, nasally vocals, keyboard effects and loop-worthy drums – while editing out the parts that can make vintage psychdelic ...Read more
Brooklyn glam/psych rock collective announce new albumAltsounds.com, September 11th
Brooklyn based glam/psych rock collective Evil Arrows announces the release of their new single, “In Clover”, in anticipation of their new album, EP 4, which comes out on September 30th. The ensemble is the new project from singer Bryan Scary, who made...Read more
Psych-rock band Fractal Cat releases sophomore AlbumDOA, September 2nd
Fractal Cat's second album, Lovingkind, features nine new songs by songwriters Miles Gannett and Keith Jones. The band is completed by Jason Armstrong Baker on drums and Andy Myatt on bass, and is joined by several guest musicians to create an ...Read more
Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band: The Psychedelic Rock Band Discovered in a ...Newsweek, August 26th
One afternoon in early 2013, Josh Marcy discovered an unusual YouTube video on quirky culture blog Dangerous Minds that would set him on the path for the adventure of a lifetime. Stunned by his discovery, he decided to ditch his high-paying day job to ...Read more
The Wytches Unplugged—Monsters Of Psych Rock Sing Quiet, Heartbreaking ...WBUR, August 25th
Their sound incorporates early '90s driving rock, Syd Barrett-style vocals, and a 1960s surf influence. All together it sounds something like Nirvana playing in the 1965 teenybopper flick “Beach Blanket Bingo.” It's quite a contrast of styles, but...Read more
The Death And Uneasy Rebirth Of Cambodia's Psychedelic RockNew England Public Radio, August 17th
Though abruptly silenced by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, Cambodian psychedelic rock has seen a recent rebirth in the modern world of hip-hop, rap and pop music — replayed and remixed by young Cambodian-American musicians. Connecting first over ...Read more