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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Waxing poetic on Record Store DaySILive.com, April 18th
This will be followed by the soulful-psych, '70s-styled rockers Howlin' Rain (featuring former Comets on Fire singer-songwriter and guitarist Ethan Miller), Saun & Starr, the techno-electronica of Lord Raja, and the "Brechtian punk cabaret" of The...Read more
Jason Statham acts fast to secure Beverly Hills showplaceLos Angeles Times, April 18th
Deschanel, 35, will star in this year's upcoming films "The Driftless Area" and "Rock the Kasbah." The property had previously changed hands in ... Lawson, 34, was a regular on "Psych" from 2006 to 2014. She appeared on "Two and a Half Men" beginning ...Read more
Notes from Left of the Dial: Strange Lot and moreNooga.com, April 17th
In this week's Notes from Left of the Dial, I take a look at some songs from Strange Lot, Ships Have Sailed, Daphne Lee Martin, Kings of the Brushwood Thicket and White Birches. The songs skip across a handful of genres, including psych rock, ...Read more
Psychedelic rock posters recall 1960s concertsDavis Enterprise, April 16th
Fifty years ago, a UC Davis undergrad named Thomas Morris got his start as a graphic artist creating psychedelic posters for rock concerts at Freeborn Hall on campus. Now, eight of those now-historic posters have been reprinted as a box set. Morris...Read more
New EP from NYC-based psych-dreamgazers MALKADOA, April 16th
Award-winning engineer Butch Jones (Madonna, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, The Gun Club, B-52s), The Constant State takes listeners on a genre-melding journey, ebbing and flowing through the realms of dreampop, post-rock, nugaze, and psychedelic rock ...Read more
Dream team: how Stealing Sheep gave psych a new visionThe Guardian, April 14th
Liverpool has long had a history of bands that sound like they've run their tongues along an endless tab of LSD, and many of the acts that rise out of it stick to its psych-rock template. But Stealing Sheep devour a broad range of styles, incorporating...Read more
Toro Y Moi dabbles in psychedelic rock on the aptly titled What For?A.V. Club Denver/Boulder, April 6th
The musical evolution of Chaz Bundick, a.k.a. Toro Y Moi, is characterized by such dramatic stylistic leaps of faith over such a short period of time that it's as though he's executing a progression plotted out years ago. That kind of calculation is...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