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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Miss. band The JAG asks for support after SXSW robberyJackson Clarion Ledger, March 31st
Psychedelic rock band formed in Jackson, The JAG, needs the public's help after $12,000 of gear was stolen from its van during Austin's South by Southwest festival on March 16. An Gofundme page gives a full breakdown of the stolen items and shows that ...Read more
Pizza Punx Two-Year AnniversaryKQED, March 30th
Appearing with the band in Santa Rosa is White Fence, the acclaimed outfit founded by psych-rock wizard Tim Presley; Pennsylvania's Sheer Mag, whose power-pop puts an emphasis on “power”; Los Angeles retro-styled singer Peach Kelli Pop; and last but ...Read more
Album Review: Doldrums – The Air Conditioned NightmareConsequence of Sound, March 30th
From the psych rock of “Blow Away” to the jungle-meets-industrial rhythms of “My Friend Simjen”, this is music for the loners. Woodhead embraces that culture; as tortured as the first moments of “Industry City” are, it all leads to an empowering, shout...Read more
Psych Men 3: Mini Mansions on working with Alex Turner and Brian WilsonDrowned In Sound, March 26th
Until last October, the psych-rock trio of Tyler Parkford, Zach Dawes, and Queens of the Stone Age's Michael Shuman didn't release a note of new music. Their wry harmonies and wicked organ riffs seemed destined to languish in obscurity. As it happened...Read more
Hometown PsychTucson Weekly, March 26th
On the new "Arena Negra" album, The Myrrors embarked on a journey to push their sound to new edges and in new directions. The result, a dramatic and otherworldly collection of psych-rock songs, was released this week on the fittingly named Beyond ...Read more
Concert preview: Michigan psych-rock trio Heaters enters the way-back machineColumbus Alive, March 18th
“Time is this mysterious thing,” said singer/guitarist Andrew Tamlyn, 23, in an early March phone interview. “And it's something that you can't beat.” Not that the band isn't trying. Since forming in the summer of 2013, the trio has kept up a hectic...Read more
Video: Psych-rock band The Wild War playsKSL.com, March 11th
The Wild War came in Wednesday, March 4 for a live studio performance at the KSL Broadcast House. They played "I Saw This." Mark Nott filmed and edited the video, which you can also watch on KSL.com's YouTube. SALT LAKE CITY — Immediately after ...Read more
of Montreal revives classic psych-rock sound for new albumRed and Black, March 4th
While there, he channeled the vibrant music scene that happened in the city during the '70s, drawing musical inspiration from the sounds of prog-rock pioneers. “I was mainly just hanging out and wandering around the city, but the whole experience was...Read more