With the collective anxiety brought on by quarantine and social-distancing, a lot of people are listening to playlists chocked full of easy listening tunes, ambient soundscapes and 70s yacht rock. However, I am not going to sit here and pretend everything's alright while listening to the bucolic sounds of Michael McDonald (Seriously, the top comment on the YouTube version of “I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)” is someone saying they've been listening to it during the pandemic).
I thought I would instead create something which reflects the way I've been vacillating between inner peace/acceptance and crippling anxiety; a playlist of some of my favorite 60's/70's doomsday, dark, moody, apocalyptic, freakout, discordant psych/bad trip tracks about death, armageddon, societal collapse, and whether there might or might not be a "Great Beyond." If you're a bundle of nerves or feeling nihilistic and want to keep it that way, this mix is for you!CANDY JOHN – LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD
Legendary percussion Candy John Carr has played with scores of legendary artists, including rock icon Donovan on his seminal albums. Later this year, Ship To Shore PhonoCo. will release Candy John's first solo album, and we thought we would kick off this playlist with this preview track from CJ's album which reflects his take on the shape of things to come.
THE MONKS – I HATE YOU
A stomping, rollicking growler written and performed by five bored G.I.'s stationed in Germany in 1965. From their classic album Black Monk Time.
LEE HAZLEWOOD & NANCY SINATRA - SOME VELVET MORNING
Perhaps the most enigmatic song to emerge from the unlikely, though iconic pairing of psychedelic cowboy Lee Hazelwood and pop starlet Nancy Sinatra. A dark fairytale, the confluence of song's lush arrangement, unusual time signature changes and haunting vocals – Hazelwood's baritone as the narrator and Sinatra's siren-like delivery as the Greek goddess Phaedra – render the track both tantalizing and extremely unsettling.
THE ELECTRIC TOILET – WITHIN YOUR STATE OF MIND
A reverb-drenched, memorable cut from this psychedelic-rock group's only album, 1970's In The Hands Of Karma. “Within Your State Of Mind” evokes serious post-apocalyptic Road Warrior vibes. If ever a track captured the sound of nuclear fallout, it's this one.
MOTHER SUNDAY – MIDNIGHT GRAVEYARD
Heavy, occult-ish, Swiss dark-psych from 1971 – goth AF. Dig it.
ZAGER & EVANS – IN THE YEAR 2525
This classic, folk-psych from 1968 is all about social distancing! Pop duo Zager and Evans envisioned a dystopian future where – if man is still alive - humans are grown from glass tubes, pills control our thoughts and our limbs are rendered useless as machines perform all of our daily duties. Does a post-quarantine world look like this?
HEINS HOFFMAN-RICHTER – A SELECTION FROM 'MUSIC TO FREAK YOUR FRIENDS AND BREAK YOUR LEASE'
The title says it all! Electronic, futuristic, freakout music that teems with squelching and dissonance. This 1974 album has been lauded by some as a precursor to albums like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. The strangest thing about this record is perhaps not the music itself, but that Heins Hoffman-Richter was actually a pseudonym for “Seasons In The Sun” composer Rod McKuen.
ANDY ROBERTS - MOTHS AND LIZARDS IN DETROIT
Mournful, foreboding song from 1971 about isolation with electric guitar picking and organ-noodling. All the weird feels: Moths. Lizards. In Detroit. Overflowing ashtrays. Blackened trees. "I tried to kill the insects that you taught how to crawl." Waiting on someone to call who clearly is not going to... A song that exists in the space occupied by abstract thoughts that result from two months spent locked up inside your house!
THE BLACK JACKS – MUSHROOM CLOUD
A 1968 doom-psych masterpiece straight out of Hong Kong. It has been said that no other Hong Kong group were able to achieve a psychedelic sound as cutting edge as achieved by The Black Jacks on this record. The brain-zapping fuzz, wa-wa and distortion on the guitar part is a perfect compliment to the lyrics... a mushroom cloud of a record, indeed.
DONOVAN - SEASON OF THE WITCH
What can be said that hasn't already been said? This cut from Donovan's 1966 classic Sunshine Superman was inspired by the atmosphere of paranoia in London as Scotland Yard's Sgt. Norman Pilcher set out on a series of high-profile drug busts. The song's eerie sound, combined with its lyrics about anxiety (When I look over my shoulder/What do you think I see?/Some other cat looking over His shoulder at me”) abnormal happenings and allusions to witchcraft (“you've got to pick up every stitch”) make it a perfect – if not obvious – choice for this playlist.
MYSTIC SIVA – SPINNING A SPELL
Eerie organ? Check. Fuzzy, distorted electric guitar? Check. Hypnotic vocals which give way to full on blues hollering at the song's climax? Check. If you're looking for some trippy, mind-bending psych, this one's for you.
JUPITER'S CHILDREN – CHECK YOURSELF
Spooky reverb chorus. It’s like The Munsters on drugs.
APHRODITE'S CHILD – END OF THE WORLD
A desperate plea to join the singer at the “end of the world without telling your parents and your friends.” A 1967 cut from Greek prog rock-band Aphrodite's Child, who fled their country's military dictatorship for the less prohibitive London rock scene.
THE PURPLE SUN – DOOMSDAY
Gritty, Houston-born garage rock circa early-70s. The lead singer's snarling delivery of the word “DOOOOMMMSSSDDAAAYYY” in the intro sets the tone. “A purple sun I know will rise/A doomsday morning will greet my eyes.” This track rips.
PARLIAMENT – THE SILENT BOATMAN
Imagine you're at your own funeral whilst listening to this bagpipe-driven dirge from the less commercially successful leg of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective.
THE SOUND OF IMKER – TRAIN OF DOOMSDAY
Aggressive, up-tempo Dutch-psych from 1967. Lead guitarist Tokker Imker Dutch later played with Dutch rock 'n' roller Herman Brood. He also became a drug addict, overdosed and died in the 1980s. This song rules.
KALEIDOSCOPE – OH DEATH
Psych-folk cover of American folk legend Dock Boggs' seminal “Oh Death.” From Kaleidoscope's 1967 album Side Trips. Creepy as hell.
KLAATU – SO SAID THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER
Klaatu are highly underrated. All their albums are great. This song from their 1977 album Hope is from the point of view of an interplanetary lighthouse keeper, waxing philosophical in the lonely void space. What could go wrong?
HAMILTON CAMP – LONELY PLACE
Reverb-heavy, ghostly psychedelic track from folkie Hamilton Camp. Cool? Yes. Will it leave you feeling warm and fuzzy? No.
BOB DYLAN – THE BALLAD OF HOLLIS BROWN
There's seven people dead on a South Dakota farm. Need I say anything else?
CAPE KENNEDY CONSTRUCTION COMPANY – FIRST STEP ON THE MOON
As one apt YouTube user said: “like The Association on crystal meth.”
SKIP SPENCE - WEIGHTED DOWN (THE PRISON SONG)
As the legend goes, Moby Grape guitarist turned acid casualty Skip Spence was released from a stint at Bellevue and motorcycled to Nashville in his pajama's to record Oar, the album from which this track originates. And it SHOWS.
THE MENDITION OF THE QUAY - WE LIVE IN A HAUNTED HOUSE
My old band. Realized we couldn't handle the stress of too many Norwich, CT area shows and decided we better call it quits in 2014 before we buckled under the pressure of being booked on a tour of New Hampshire VFWs. Before split though, we did record a 45 and this was the b-side; inspired by the Obama Administration's foreign policy with respect to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Seems a fitting addition in light of the recent false rumors of Marshal Kim Jong Un's demise and the fear about who might inherit his nuclear arsenal.
CHAD & JEREMY – REST IN PEACE (ALBUM VERSION)
In the twilight of their career as 60s icons, pop duo Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde recorded two psychedelic masterpieces, Of Cabbages And Kings and The Ark, with the legendary producing team of Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher. This folk-psych cut from Of Cabbages And Kings features comedic, nihilistic lyrics from the perspective of a cemetery memorial maker.
LES YPER SOUND - TOO FORTICHE
Unrelenting French psych instrumental from 1969, accentuated by frequent, discordant synth sounds. Makes me think of the buzzer sounds in Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.
GLENDA COLLINS – IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE IT
Joe Meek was one of the greatest record producers who ever lived - even if he shot his landlady and then himself in 1967 on the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death. Glenda Collins' teenage vocals combined with Meek's signature echo/reverb sounds with lyrics about mankind hurtling toward oblivion make this song not only great for this playlist, but one of my favorite deep cuts of all time.
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