LSD has a tendency to confuse the senses, so it’s no coincidence that pop’s most acid-soaked years birthed its most visual music. The late sixties’ psychedelic discs often came housed in fluorescent, marvelously garish sleeves, but nothing more than the sounds in the grooves was necessary to paint multicolor images in listener’s minds. Sgt. Pepper’s, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Disraeli Gears, Axis: Bold As Love, and The Doors are among the most celebrated of these trippy masterworks, but as Richard Morton Jack hips us with his new book Psychedelia: 101 Iconic Underground Rock Albums 1966-1970, there was a lot more happening in the acid era.
Frankly, I am ashamed to admit how puny a percentage of Morton Jack’s picks I’ve heard, but I will admit that’s a good thing. Any book of this sort is useless without recommending unfamiliar music, and the hunt was on after reading the write ups on obscurities such as The David’s majestic Another Day, Another Lifetime, The Millennium’s sunny and wonderful Begin, and The Fallen Angels’ haunting (though not exceptionally psychedelic) It’s a Long Way Down. Yes, I missed inclusion of personal favorites such as The Monkees’ Head, The Rascals’ Once Upon a Dream, Shine on Brightly by Procol Harum, and The Who Sell Out (which received similar short shrift in another recent Sterling Publishing publication), but of course, I’ve already heard those albums. Still, Morton Jack’s details are intriguing enough that I may have learned a thing or two about these old favorites had he decided to include them.
Each entry follows a similar format beginning with a bit of background history, details about and critique of the given album (no, the author does not love every album he selects), quotes from participants, and excerpts from period reviews. I wasn’t aware that The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow and Love’s Forever Changes—two widely acclaimed classics now—were so poorly received in their days. We also get a slew of large-scale, full-color images of the genre’s vibrant album covers, which may explain why such pics were missing from that other recent Sterling book to which I referred earlier. Illuminating and suitably visual, Psychedelia: 101 Iconic Underground Rock Albums is a coffee table book that may inspire you to substitute that cup of coffee with something “a bit more potent.”*
*I’m talking about acid. You might want to take some acid while reading this book.