Courtesy of Mr. Bongo.
A detail from the cover of Tom Zé's
A detail from the cover of Tom Zé's Grande Liquidāçao. Courtesy of Mr. Bongo.
I'm 33, and I've collected records since I was 12. The first music I fell in love with was hip-hop; among other things, it gave me a way to rebel against the music of my parents' generation — I felt it ran counter to the music of my upbringing. I remember the feeling of bubbling pride as I talked my father into a train ride from New Haven to Manhattan in search of Scarface's "Mr. Scarface Is Back" 12" in 1992. I thought I'd proved to the old man that I myself was a man, with my own taste in music. A suburbanite urbane enough to listen to a Houston-reared rapper's war stories and relate.
It's laughable now — besides, more than Scarface's rap itself, I was more into his choice of beats. I quickly became interested in the producers who made the tracks I loved by sampling records my parents had in their collection. Within a few years, there I was, rifling through my parents' collection one record at a time, searching for a new context in which to place the albums they'd collected in the '60s and '70s — while quietly appreciating their tastes.
Nearly 20 years later, I'm looking back at one of the most influential styles of my parents' generation, psychedelic rock, and finding a new context in which to place that music.
Others of my generation are doing the same. Fittingly, many of us glean insight from collectors who are roughly our parents' ages. But give me enough time with one of the members of the shadowy circle of collectors described by wannabes as "the psychedelic mafia," and I guarantee you that I'll find something wild, wooly and perhaps forgotten within their collection that furthers this recontextualiztion process. And, as deep as those few are, I guarantee I can offer up something from my own collection for their edification.
My peers and I are not the first to have broken the borders of the psych-bastions of North America, the U.K., Germany, Japan and Brazil in search of the next overlooked psychedelic thing: Hans Pokora, the Dutch psychedelic collector behind the influential Record Collectors' Dreams books, was among the first to highlight the variety of uncommon '60s and '70s psychedelia originating in places as far-flung as Zambia. Pokora's championing of the great Zambian band WITCH's third album Lazy Bones!! led to a bootleg LP, which indirectly led to my contact with the band's last living member.
Four years later, after "Jagari" Chanda sent me his band's rarest 7" single ("Toloka"), I found that WITCH had reached its zenith with a mix of breakbeat drumming, funk bass lines, restrained fuzz guitars backed up by a lean wah-wah, and Zambian folk-influenced call-and-response. That this was "psychedelic rock" was a foregone conclusion to me. But, as I played the record to one of the psychedelic mafia godfathers, the Los Angeles collector Geoffrey Weiss, I wondered what his take would be. I found the veteran blown away by this novel — and definitely psychedelic — artifact.
This year saw a series of record companies further this loosely aligned, mutually agreed-upon mission to extend psychedelia's reaches. Tie-dyed shirts, Zapp comics and LSD aren't necessary. But an open-mindedness toward the unknown — a hallmark of the psychedelic era — certainly is.