Hear Underground 12, the Earliest Known Case of Musicians Recording While Under the Influence of LSD (1966)

Music and LSD: after “Tomor­row Nev­er Knows” and Sgt. Pep­per, we knew what an acid trip should sound like. Oth­er folks need­ed to know more. Some­where in Los Ange­les in 1966 a group of musi­cians were dos­ing and record­ing while trip­ping.

The result­ing recording–credited to “Under­ground 12” and con­sid­ered the ear­li­est known case of musi­cians record­ing while under the influ­ence of LSD–was only avail­able, as the leg­end goes, by mail order–you can see a copy of it here on discogs, a plain red label with only an address: 12457 Ven­tu­ra Blvd. in Stu­dio City, CA. A lit­tle bit of Google snoop­ing revealed this to be an office for Hunt­ing­ton Park First Sav­ings and Loan in 1966, but assum­ing there was anoth­er office there, an issue of Bill­board from that year also men­tions an artist man­ag­er called Bob Reed at the same address. (Bob, we’re on to you!).

There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly groovy about this music. There’s no sitars, no fuzz ped­als, no incense, no pep­per­mints. There is, how­ev­er, a lot of echo and delay, a lot of sped up tape (which in parts sounds a bit like Zappa’s “King Kong”), plen­ty of aton­al laugh­ing, and welp, that’s about it for side one.

Side two is a bit bet­ter, with an actu­al piano played at nor­mal speed, and an elec­tric gui­tar solo­ing against it. This sounds a bit prog­gy, about five years ahead of its time. But then the pro­duc­er (Bob Reed, is that you again?) starts speed­ing up the tape again.

Con job or bad trip? Did these musi­cians know what they were in for? Did they real­ly dose, or was stu­dio trick­ery seen as a good enough place­bo? Did the LSD pro­duce some pret­ty ordi­nary stu­dio jam­ming and the LP is a sal­vage job? So many mys­ter­ies, so lit­tle time.

Lyser­gia, a Swedish label that re-releas­es rare grooves such as this has also put out The Psy­che­del­ic Expe­ri­ence: The Ulti­mate Jour­ney Through Late 60s Psy­che­delia, Acid Burns and Drug­gy Grooves by Patrick Lund­borg, a Swedish writer whose sub­ject was LSD, and rere­leased the only album by Madri­gal, a Mor­ris­town, New Jer­sey two­some which has a 13-minute track called “Stoned Freak­out.”

How­ev­er if the above sam­pler thrills you and you would like to own an orig­i­nal copy of this dubi­ous clas­sic by the Under­ground 12, it will set you back $666. The sell­er, obvi­ous­ly, knows what’s up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

When Aldous Hux­ley, Dying of Can­cer, Left This World Trip­ping on LSD, Expe­ri­enc­ing “the Most Serene, the Most Beau­ti­ful Death” (1963)

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

Watch The Bicy­cle Trip: An Ani­ma­tion of The World’s First LSD Trip Which Took Place on April 19, 1943

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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