1. “Thing in ‘E’” by the Savage Resurrection
The idea fell somewhere between desperate measure and fantasy: About a year ago I had this notion — encouraged by my wife — to put together a cover band to play obscure ’60s psych-garage classics as a one-off for a homeowners’ version of a rent party. It never happened, of course, but I’ve made a mental list of some of the songs that would make the repertoire. They’re mind-blowing, but just obscure enough that most of my friends have probably never heard them. “Thing in ‘E’” by the Savage Resurrection, which I first heard on Parke Puterbaugh’s “Rock and Roll Study Hall” show on Guilford College’s WQFS, is a perfect example of the genre. Jagged strafes of metallic guitar sound like an undulating surf until the drums kick in and the vocal claws out of the wreckage. The repeated refrain, “My world’s better than your world,” comes across as both repudiation and invitation.
2. “Here I Go Again” by the Litter
Ever heard of the Litter? While the summer of love was in full flower in San Francisco in 1967, the music scenes in more provincial outposts like Minneapolis were seething with chaotic inspiration and frustration. The fuzzed-out guitar and explosive vocal make “Here I Go Again” sound 10 years ahead of its time.
3. “Psychotic Reaction” by Count 5
As the quintessential ’60s garage rock song, “Psychotic Reaction” is kind of a cheat for a list that emphasizes obscurity. San Jose, Calif., like Minneapolis, was virtually ignored by the music industry while matching San Francisco, its more illustrious neighbor up the coast, with equal talent. Armed with a simple and rudimentary riff, the arrangement resolves into a spare, concise interpretation of a Muddy Waters solo accompanied by trippy rhythm. The lyrics address the most enduring topic of the genre — adolescent angst stemming from romantic rejection.
4. “Deep in the Heart of Nebraska” by Orphan Egg
More proof that sonic invention isn’t limited to the two coasts, Orphan Egg established an outpost of psychedelia in Nebraska in 1968. With an homage to the vast prairie sky, this song delivers gnarled riffs and monster grooves, along with a cryptic vocal: “And if you lose me now you’ll find me on the crystal stair.”
5. “7 and 7 Is” by Love
A multiracial band from Los Angeles fronted by the late Arthur Lee that was active from roughly 1965 to 1968, Love defied category, leaping from baroque pop to folk-rock to psychedelia to cosmic blues. This 1966 track is representative of the band’s early forays into a variant of garage that foreshadowed punk; incidentally, it was covered by the Ramones in 1993. Opening with rat-a-tat-tat drumming and a quivering bass line, “7 and 7 Is” offers two verses of concise-weirdo-poetic lyrics that would have been right at home on the Minutemen’s 1984 masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime.
6. “Dr. Doom” by the 13th Floor Elevators
Every set needs an outlier to inscribe its parameters, and this song from Texas psychedelic pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators’ final album, Bull of the Woods, marks the full distance from the raw garage energy of 1965’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me” to the outer limits of their enterprise in ’68. Roky Erickson and Stacy Sutherland’s vocals sublimely intertwine in a meditation shimmering over music that vibrates with unnatural power. The projection of their voices is gentle and hopeful, yet also edged with sadness.