INDEX  were a popular local psych rock group from Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb outside of the Detroit, Michigan area.  Their debut album, commonly referred to as “The Black Album,” was released in December of 1967.  The group consisted of drummer Jim Valice and guitarists Gary Francis and John Ford.  150 original LPs were pressed on DC Records, making this album very rare and super expensive.

“The Black Album” was recorded in mono using a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This primitive, underproduced recording technique has only added to the album’s mysterious, acid drenched mystique.  Gary Francis played a Gibson 12 string electric guitar on most of the album’s tracks, which were recorded in the ballroom of the Ford Estate.  Of the 9 tracks, 4 are instrumentals while the remaining 5 tracks were recorded with vocal arrangements.  Most of the album’s tracks are quality originals although INDEX adds some interesting basement-garage-raga-surf sounds to well known standards such as “Eight Miles High,” “You Keep Me Hangin On” and “John Riley.”  “Eight Miles High” is probably INDEX’s best known track, being full of superb raga guitar work and downbeat amateur vocals.  Other than the Byrds’ original, this is probably the best version of this song I’ve heard but kudos to English band East of Eden, who recorded a very fine unreleased take of “Eight Miles High” in 1969.  “Feedback,” another popular track that received limited airplay back in the late 60s, is an explosive, feedback laden monster (instrumental) that sounds like the Velvet Underground circa 1968.  Other fine tracks are the acid surf instro “Israeli Blues,” psychedelic folk-rockers “Fire Eyes” and “Rainy, Starless Night” and the wah-wah crazed “Turquoise Feline.”  INDEX is without doubt one of the classic “must own”  American psych albums.

Comparisons are hard to draw upon because INDEX doesn’t sound like anything I have heard before.  The group name check The Who, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix as influences but the Velvet Underground and Dick Dale can also be heard in the INDEX’s unique sound.   Vinyl reissues have been around for years but are somewhat expensive.  Lion Productions recently released a fine 2 disc set which includes INDEX’s two official albums along with some unreleased studio material.

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:D Reissue | 2fer | 2011 | Lion Productions | buy ]

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  • Len

    “Superb raga guitar work”? Indeed that goes for Jim McGuinn on the original “Eight Miles High”, but as far as I can hear this version is only an amateurish and inept imitation. What’s so enticing about it? Face it – not all esoteric vinyl is worth the trouble, or the price.

  • Brendan

    @Len, the “amateurish” sound itself is what entices me! It’s mostly musicians and guitarists that wanna hear all that technical stuff. I’m listening to the spirit! It’s superb in its context.

  • Len Liechti

    I’m with both the above commenters to an extent. (Incidentally, the “Len” above isn’t me – good name though, dude, and welcome to the Storm.) I enjoyed the unabashed ballsiness of the playing (reminds me of my first band back around 1971) but the guitar work is hardly “raga” – more penatonic for beginners (sorry, I’m being a musician again). Love the tiny bit of bar-room piano on the end – wonder where they stole that from. Also have to agree with my namesake about rarity not necessarily equating to quality – back around ’77 the semi-pro band I was then in released a four-track vinyl EP of disco covers which was total shite, but only 200 were pressed. One of these amazingly rare artefacts can be yours for $200 – I still have a few dozen left.

  • admin

    Lens up in here. Are you Fing with me??? Hah nevermind. This album is a great one.

  • Brendon

    Pretty great, although the drumming ain’t doing much for me. Feedback is pretty wild, yay for 2-track recording in mum’s basement!

  • Ian

    meh, I’d rather put on The Common People

  • jack bond

    I agree 100% with Brendon. The spirit in this 8 Miles High is superb, as he says. If we wanted only to listen to great expertise and musicianship we’d all be listening to…..I don’t know Joe Satriani or something.


    I don’t get it. Some of you people SUCK! INDEX albums were recorded without any studio electronic tricks…..These guys were true musicians. There was no dropping notes in to correct mistakes like the bands and so-called artists of today do. Everything was live and all at once. The Black album is truly a masterpice. Say what you want but an original vinyl copy of the Black album sold on ebay last year for almost $4,000!….INDEX FOREVER!!

  • Len Liechti

    Take your point, Index Fan, but the Beatles’ first album was also recorded “without any studio electronic tricks” and with “everything live and at once”, and there ain’t really any comparison when it comes to clearly obvious talent. The Fabs laid down that album in three sessions of three hours all on the same day, effectively performing live to the mikes.”Twist And Shout” was first-take. When it comes to talent we’ve all got some but some’s got more than others. As I said above, I enjoyed the ballsiness and joy in Index’s freshman playing but the same is true of the Fabs’ effort and the difference in talent is clear. Rarity and quality don’t always go hand in hand. Wow, four thousand bucks for an album – I can think of other things to spend that amount of dosh on, like a sixties Gibson.

  • Jason

    INDEX goes well beyond “rarity” status…it’s expensive because it’s good (nothing is worth 4000K though) and rare…..collectors and psych fans acknowledge it as a classic too. It’s more the sound and style (feedback, distortion, primitive production) and less about the technical ability. The UK did not produce as many private press/indy LPs when compared to the USA….I can think of a few good ones…the Complex, Ithaca, Forever Amber…Not to compare these guys to the Fab Four but let’s remember, The Beatles music without George Martin sounds very different. He was as important as Lennon and Macca – their first LP has Martin in the producer’s chair so many “live” errors were edited out… addition, they were strong songwriters but as far as musicianship is concerned, many groups were more proficient. That’s what makes the Beatles albums hold up – the production – George Martin was the best. Every Beatles album has two or three weak tracks though – see Srgt Peppers – “When I’m 64” and “Benefit of Mr. Kite” are turds. It’s not always about musicianship – the groups that had this in spades certainly have flaws – ELP and Yes albums are a chore to sit through while Robert Plant’s vocals (he of mighty ZEP fame) are often over the top and dated. But this discussion/debate is less about comparing the Beatles to INDEX (the two have really nothing in common) and more about keeping an open mind when listening to these homemade creations.

  • indexer

    You are right on Jason. Len L conveniently leaves out the genius of George Martin and the use of a real recording studio and not someone’s basement. Also, the Beatles were in their twenties when they recorded. INDEX memebers were 17 and 18 years old…

  • Len Liechti

    Agree with some of all of the above, guys, but would observe that (a) notwithstanding George Martin’s ability on the faders, Abbey Road Studio 2 in 1962-3 was very little more than home-recording standard when the Fabs laid down their first tracks, (b) “Mr Kite” is hardly a turd – quite apart from its astonishing production values, just try writing out the chord sequence for yourself, and (c) while consummate musicianship can be terminally boring – I offer you Weather Report as an example – a certain degree of accomplishment is necessary if the end product is to have more than one shallow, immediate level. I’ve always been impressed by anyone who can do something better than I can, especially musicianship, and conversely not been that impressed by acts where I thought “I could have done that”. I’ve also had occasion to listen to a plethora of school-age musicians and bands over the years, ranging from dogged E-for-Effort to gobsmackingly precocious talent, and let’s face it, you’re always going to be more impressed by the latter. However, in terms of rock, excitement is always the primal driving force, and I’ve hugely enjoyed some individuals and outfits whose musicianship could only be described as primitive but who exhibited something that somehow transcended their limitations – Bob Dylan, ? And The Mysterians, even Neil Young. As with everything else that’s art, you pays your money and you makes your choice.

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