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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Aussie Artists Up For Grammys As 2014 Nominees RevealedTone Deaf, December 8th
Among the long list of big-name international acts up for recognition at the 56th annual Grammy Awards are Perth's favourite sons of psychedelic rock, Tame Impala, and future soul outfit, Hiatus Kaiyote. Tame Impala are no strangers to trophies, their...Read more
Grammy nominations business as usual for AcadianaThe Daily Advertiser, December 7th
Legg has been playing his trademark “southern psych-rock” style since the early 1990s. • The Savoy Family Band of Eunice, Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band and David Doucet are featured extensively on “They All Played for Us: Arhoolie Records' 50th Anniversary ...Read more
Concert review: MGMT light ups with 3 rock stylesPittsburgh Post Gazette, December 3rd
Someone commented that this show was "four years too late," and, yes, it would have been nice to have seen MGMT and Pittsburgh-raised Mr. VanWyngarden in the "Oracular" heyday. On the other hand, the band's psych-rock/space-rock/indie-pop worlds ...Read more
Os Mutantes brings psychedelic art-rock to The Pour HouseNews & Observer, December 2nd
When musician Sergio Dias brought his '60s Brazilian rock band Os Mutantes back from the dead in 2006, reviving the group after a 28-year hiatus for a show in London, he was shocked to find who was in the audience. “We were extremely surprised by the ...Read more
Tour Stop: Temples tout psychedelic rock at Great ScottWatertown TAB & Press, November 21st
The last year has been a blur for Thomas Warmsley, bassist and co-founder of British psychedelic rock band Temples. In the last 18 months, Warmsley joined with fellow Kettering, England native James Bagshaw to form the band, they recorded a few demos ...Read more
Night Beats bring southern psychedelic rock and guitar fuzz to DCGW Hatchet (subscription) (blog), November 14th
Night Beats recently released their album “Sonic Bloom” early October through The Reverberation Appreciation Society, a record label started by music festival organization Austin Psych Fest. Blackwell told The Hatchet that the album signaled the group...Read more
Monster Magnet interview: Dave Wyndorf talks psych, drugs and rock 'n' rollThe Grand Rapids Press - MLive.com, November 11th
A native of Red Bank, New Jersey, he dogged it in the New York City punk, rock and psych scenes for years before he picked up a guitar and formed Monster Magnet in the late 1980s. That band's story is not unusual: a well-received first album (“Spine of ...Read more
From the Hum: Saturday's Classical, Deep Bass and Psych RockNorth Coast Journal (blog), November 9th
As a former and sometimes current journalist, I appreciate efforts to keep ancient art forms alive, thus a shout-out to chamber music aficionados SquarPeg, appearing in concert at the Fortuna Monday Club on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. SquarPeg is dedicated...Read more