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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Tinariwen's Transcendental BluesSanta Barbara Independent, October 22nd
DESERT SONG: Looking back on my musical upbringing, it seems inevitable that I'd end up drawn to that sweet spot where psych rock and blues collide. As the resident music buff in my young life, my dad wore his love of Jimi Hendrix on his sleeve. He...Read more
Burger Records Launches Publishing Company With Mothership MusicBillboard, October 22nd
Garage-punk/psych-rock/skuzz-funk label Burger Records has launched a publishing company with Mothership Music, which will administer and provide all backroom services for Burger Music Publishing. "When we started in the music business, we knew ...Read more
Shoegaze in a New Decade: Pale Fires interview – London psych rock act ...Britpopnews, October 16th
Not six months after the release of their debut EP Louring Skies, London-based psych rock act Pale Fires have released their second EP, Mammoth. While Louring Skies was the laborious result of an effort to record, Mammoth is a much more organic release...Read more
Temples brings psych-rock to the Riot Room tonightPitch Weekly, October 14th
On Sun Structures, Temples borrows from 1960s psychedelic influences and re-creates them with light alterations to the sound. So anyone who was tripping in the '60s or is fond of romanticizing that particular era has found in Temples the antidote to...Read more
Saint Laurent Presents Psych Rock-Inspired Footwear and Accessories for ...Complex.com, October 7th
Now we're getting a look at the accompanying accessories and footwear collections, and the pieces act as a further compliment to the theme that Saint Laurent dubbed “Psych Rock's New Rising” that was equal parts Woodstock hippie, '70s glam rocker, and ...Read more
Liverpool Psych Fest 2014: The DiS reviewDrowned In Sound, October 2nd
With a line-up pulling together established and lesser-known acts from every corner of the world encompassing all musical genres, the organisers have conjured up a bill far beyond the stereotypical definition of psych rock. We stumble into Friday's...Read more
Talk In Tongues Might Be Your New Favorite Psych-Rock BandNoisey (blog), September 25th
There are a lot of bands that straddle the lines of psych-rock and garage rock—it's difficult being a group who does one without the other. But there are artists like Tame Impala who've successfully walked the difficult line of being a high-fi, well...Read more
KFJC Broadcasting Live From Liverpool Psych FestSilicon Valley's Metro, September 24th
Woods are just one of many psych rock bands playing the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, which will be broadcast—live, in its entirety—by college radio station, KFJC. These days, terrestrial radio isn't the first place most would turn...Read more