I originally emailed this list to a good friend, Tim Hodgin, back in 2012. Tim and I were both DJs at KVRX in Austin back in college and he asked me to send him a list of garage and/or psych albums I thought were kind of “essential” without putting anything too obvious on the list (ie. the Nuggets or Back From The Grave compilations, Sgt. Pepper, Are You Experienced?... anything like that).
I, of course, am using the terms “psychedelic” and “garage” fairly loosely and I definitely do not mean to say that the two genres are synonymous—Billy Childish is usually garage without ever being psychedelic and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is definitely psychedelic, but is very, very far from the garage. I use the terms together because there is much overlap and because it is often in this overlap that I find the most joy (regardless of era).
Vol. 2 to come!
Arthur Brown: The Crazy World Of... (1968) The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown is the James Brown of British, post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelic/impressionistic rock-operas about Hell. ’Nuff said right? But seriously folks, you’ve probably heard the hit single “Fire” (remember “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE AND I BRING YOU... FIRE!”??); that’s a good taste of the album. Arthur Brown and his band wail pentecostal. It’s over-the-top theatrical, freaky shit. Imagine Their Satanic Majesty’s Request performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins backed by the Doors... yeah, that’s about right.
The Yardbirds: Roger The Engineer (1966) A lot has been said about how The Yardbirds are important for incubating Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck... but who gives a shit, right? The Yardbirds are bitchin’ on their own merits, regardless of their connection to rock ‘n’ roll royalty. This album is a 60’s milestone that shreds harder and bends your mind more than just about anything else from the era. Jeff Beck is a genius of feedback and psychedelic tones. Everything is infused with all that is good about blues, garage, raga and heavy psychedelia... and this is a year before Are You Experienced?
Wavy Gravy for Adult Enthusiasts... Various Weird Recordings From The 50’s & 60’s, Vol. 1 (Unknown) Surprisingly little can be found on the internet about this record... but lemme tell you brother, it’s a must listen. It’s a boss mix of garage rock, novelty songs, dark country ballads, radio ads for B horror films and adult party records. “Go Go Gorilla” by The Shandells is one of the gnarliest garage-soul dance tunes you’ll ever hear and “Psycho” by Eddie Noack is probably the creepiest country song of all time. Fuckin’ WEIRD and fuckin’ AWESOME. I like to imagine that Danzig listens to this album while reading Tales From The Crypt. Supposedly there is at least another volume out there called Wavy Gravy: Four Hairy Policeman... but it’s even harder to track down...
The Tony Williams Lifetime: Turn It Over (1970) Most people label this album “jazz” or “jazz fusion,” but this album is absolutely one of the angriest slabs of psychedelic punk ever waxed. The fact that these guys are all also accomplished jazz players just helps them freak-out harder. Tony Williams was the drummer for Miles Davis’ classic 60’s quintet. Around the time Miles started digging on Sly Stone, Tony became obsessed with the harder psychedelic rock from bands like Cream and the Velvet Underground. Lifetime is his outfit for exploring that genre and features John McLaughlin (who would go on to play on Davis’ seminal electric sessions that would produce albums like Bitches Brew, etc.), Jack Bruce from Cream, and avant-organist Khalid Yasin (aka Larry Young). This album is their best and wildest work.
Guitar Player Magazine Presents: Legends Of Guitar—Surf, Vol. 1 (1991) This is the holy grail of surf guitar, man... the best comp I’ve heard anyway. A lot of these tunes are incredibly obscure cannot be found anywhere else. Why Rhino Records didn’t keep this in print is beyond me. Start with “Tally Ho!” by P.J. & the Galaxies for a rare example of “jangle-surf.” Many of the tracks I used on this mix—http://8tracks.com/j_gamma/let-s-go-surfin—are from Legends... (though some are labeled as their original single numbers).
The Sonics: Here Are The Sonics!!! (1965) & Sonics BOOM (1966) I don’t really think I have to explain to you why The Sonics are like totally one of the gnarliest bands ever, do I?
The 13th Floor Elevators: The Psychedelic Sounds of... (1966) & Easter Everywhere (1967) [or Music of the Spheres boxset (2011)] This is another one that I feel like kind of goes without saying... BUT it is really important to once again state the fact that these Texas boys are THE ULTIMATE PSYCHEDELIC BAND. Psychedelic Sounds is perfect punk rock, equal parts adolescent aggression and psychedelic philosophy, and Easter Everywhere is the quintessential sun-drenched cosmic revelation. Nothing surpasses this. (Their other recordings are all also excellent, if not quite on the level of the first two official releases. Music of the Spheres is the only place you can get everything.)
Pebbles, Vol. 3: The Acid Gallery (1979, vinyl / 1992, extended CD reissue) The Pebbles comps are obvious, I know, but this one really stands out from the rest of ’em because it is so fuggin’ WEIRD. Instead of your typical teenage garage bands aping the ’Stones and the Who, a lot of these boys were dropping acid liberally and aping FRANK ZAPPA and CPT BEEFHEART. It makes for a really strange trip.
Billy Childish: 25 Years of Being Childish (2002) THEE father of modern garage rock. Without this guy, there’d be no White Stripes, no Thee Oh Sees, possibly no garage rock revival at all... but he’s been in so many damn bands and has put out so many damn albums it’s really hard to know where to start. This is a good place to start. It’s got goodies by all his important bands: The Pop Rivets, Thee Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, Thee Headcoats, Buff Medways...