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18 Jun 2016

13th Floor Elevators “The Psychedelic Sounds of” USA 1966 a psychedelic masterpiece

13th Floor Elevators “The Psychedelic Sounds of” USA 1966 

full album………a psychedelic masterpiece…!!

The tragic irony behind Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson’s vaunted legacy as the father of psychedelic rock is that the very things that make him so important to so many fans and that keep him prominent in so many listeners’ memories also ensured him a hard life spent in sanitariums and studios. Granted, for many that hard life is an integral part of his cachet: Arrested in 1969 and charged with possession, Erickson pleaded insanity rather than face jail time, and was committed to Rusk State Hospital. As legend has it, his mind was so devastated by the shock therapies and medications that he spent the rest of his life battling serious mental illness that left him easy prey for unscrupulous record promoters (who had him sign away his royalties for numerous reissues) and sabotaged almost every attempt at a comeback.

There are, of course, scores of 1960s cautionary tales, but the music Erickson helped to make and the lifestyle he promoted with the 13th Floor Elevators explicitly advocated drug use as mind expansion, as true spiritual freedom– a bunk idea he shared with Jim Morrison, although even at his most obtuse, Erickson never descended to the empty-headed blathering and lounge-act crooning that were the hallmarks of the celebrated Lizard King. Erickson’s psychedelia was not passive aural wallpapers– all pretty shapes and colors to listen to while tripping– but an active force of social, musical, and psychological change. Aside from the infamous album starter “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, which Erickson wrote for his previous band the Spades before rerecording with the 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds is awash in narcotic philosophy. And in case you miss it, Tommy Hall explains it all in his original liner notes.

However, what makes The Psychedelic Sounds powerful 40 years later isn’t its questionable philosophy but, as the title makes clear, its psychedelic sound. The 13th Floor Elevators were a remarkable band: Erickson’s wild-man vocals create an atmosphere where unfettered mayhem reigns. Stacy Sutherland’s piercing guitar puts a dark mood on “Roller Coaster” and “Reverberation (Doubt)”, while drummer John Ike Walton ties it all together. It’s a dynamic that’s even more pronounced on the eight live tracks on this UK reissue, which were recorded in San Francisco following the album’s release. Their covers of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, the Beatles’ “The Word”, and even their take on that ‘60s live staple “Gloria”, are anything but placid drugs trips or by-the-numbers re-creation; instead, the songs get the full psychedelic treatment as the Elevators play them like they’re handling snakes.

As with any historical legacy, however, Erickson’s reputation as the father of psychedelia is largely oversimplified. He was a late addition to the 13th Floor Elevators, which was the brainchild of Tommy Hall. Hall’s acid poetry informs every song on The Psychedelic Sounds (aside from “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, Erickson’s lone contribution). And, perhaps most important, it was Hall who plugged in his jug and provided the psychedelic sound that evokes the chemical weightlessness of a trip. It’s the wiggedly-wiggedly of a dream sequence, the sound of your hands melting or of a dimensional door squeaking open. That the 13th Floor Elevators could translate that concept into an aural sensation is perhaps the root of their reputation and would have been impossible without Hall.

Erickson, however, undoubtedly was a creative force in the band, as a vocalist on Psychedelic Sounds and also as a songwriter on the follow-up, Easter Everywhere. Selections from those two albums, as well as from subsequent aborted comebacks, are collected on the two-disk I Have Always Been Here: The Roky Erickson Story, which is, unbelievably, the first overview of his long, strange career. Erickson’s is a long career to capture on only two disks, but Shout! Factory makes judicious use of the space not only to provide a chronology of Erickson’s development over four decades, but also to paint him as a sort of outsider artist rather than as a victim.

Emphasizing Erickson’s solo output over his reputation-making Elevators material, the collection includes only a handful of tracks from The Psychedelic Sounds and Easter Everywhere. “Slip Inside This House” is a masterpiece of psychedelic inventiveness, a spacey blues jam that circles back on itself and eats its tail. On “I Had to Tell You” and the heartbreaking same-session outtake “Right Track Now”, Erickson foregoes his usual hysterical vocals for a much more direct, reflective approach.

But I Have Always Been Here is more interested in Erickson’s less-explored post-Elevators period, roughly from the mid-70s to the present. Whether solo or with the Aliens, he churned out potent and patently weird Texas blues rock similar to Stevie Ray Vaughn or early ZZ Top and often mimicked the vocal hiccups of fellow Texan Buddy Holly. In the 1970s, Erickson became fascinated with science fiction, re-creating B-movies with songs like “Creature With the Atom Brain” and “Stand for the Fire Demon”. What makes these songs so kick-ass is that it’s the sound of someone going right off the page of the rock script– like so many B-movie auteurs of the '60s (Ray Dennis Steckler and Hal Warren, ill-fated director of Manos: The Hands of Fate, come to mind), he’s doing whatever he wants with no one to tell him that’s not how it’s done.

As a result, very few of the songs on I Have Always Been Here Before depend for their impact on the listener’s knowledge of Erickson’s mental health at the time. This is perhaps the singer’s true achievement, which this compilation generously spotlights: even when he was suffering, his strange music sounds wholly idiosyncratic and spiritually curious, the sound of a man who won’t let the world’s ugliness diminish his enjoyment of life or hinder his search for something solid and secure….

Did the 13th Floor Elevators invent psychedelic rock? Aficionados will be debating that point for decades, but if Roky Erickson and his fellow travelers into inner space weren’t there first, they were certainly close to the front of the line, and there are few albums from the early stages of the psych movement that sound as distinctively trippy – and remain as pleasing – as the group’s groundbreaking debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. In 1966, psychedelia hadn’t been around long enough for its clichés to be set in stone, and Psychedelic Sounds thankfully avoids most of them; while the sensuous twists of the melodies and the charming psychobabble of the lyrics make it sound like these folks were indulging in something stronger than Pearl Beer, at this point the Elevators sounded like a smarter-than-average folk-rock band with a truly uncommon level of intensity. Roky Erickson’s vocals are strong and compelling throughout, whether he’s wailing like some lysergic James Brown or murmuring quietly, and Stacy Sutherland’s guitar leads – long on melodic invention without a lot of pointless heroics – are a real treat to hear. And nobody played electric jug quite like Tommy Hall…actually, nobody played it at all besides him, but his oddball noises gave the band a truly unique sonic texture. If you want to argue that psychedelia was as much a frame of mind as a musical style, it’s instructive to compare the recording of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by Erickson’s earlier band, the Spades, to the version on this album – the difference is more attitudinal than anything else, but it’s enough to make all the difference in the world. (The division is even clearer between the Spades’ “We Sell Soul” and the rewrite on Psychedelic Sounds, “Don’t Fall Down”). The 13th Floor Elevators were trailblazers in the psychedelic rock scene, and in time they’d pay a heavy price for exploring the outer edges of musical and psychological possibility, but along the way they left behind a few fine albums, and The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators remains a potent delight. …by allmusic….

Considering the news that the legendary, infamous Texas band The 13th Floor Elevators are performing for the first time in 45 years, a review of their debut album seemed about right. The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is a brilliant rock album, somewhere between the spooky menace of the Doors and the careening weirdness of Nuggets bands like the Barbarians and Green Fuz. It’s made particularly distinctive by the genuinely wild, revelatory vocals of frontman Roky Erickson and the incredible “electric jug” playing of Tommy Hall; the wispy and ornithological sounds of Hall truly made the Elevators a bizarre myth to be reckoned with.

“You’re Gonna Miss Me” is one of the best rock openers ever, a furious break-up song infused with spite and a descent into the darker recesses of the mind. Stacy Sutherland’s playing here is a benchmark for any psychedelic guitar from Robbie Krieger to the MC5. But this was also a band that could be surprisingly beautiful and warm - the harmonies on “Splash 1” are, as with much of the band’s music, inviting and distancing at the same time. More than many of their ilk the 13th Floor Elevators wanted to expand your mind (“Thru The Rhythm” might have slinky stop-start rhythms but also has genuinely philosophical lyrics) but could also rock the fuck out - “Monkey Island” is just ridiculous fun. This is a clean 35 minute album with a perfect balance of slow and fast songs - “Kingdom of Heaven” though is my favorite on the record, a creepy, moody slow burner climaxing with a perfect Roky Erickson scream of either passion or pure terror (or both at once).

The Elevators’ legend has sometimes eclipsed their actual music - arrests for possession, LSD-drenched shows, and Roky Erickson’s struggles with schizophrenia (and recent comeback) all come to mind as much as their best songs do when thinking of them. But that’s why it’s important to focus on the greatness of this proto-punk classic, whose DNA is in the Butthole Surfers, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sonic Youth, and Ty Segall. Gorgeous, frightening, and immersive, a work swelling with nerve, ideas, and music that wants to take you to the limits of everything as you struggle helplessly then succumb…..

Considering the news that the legendary, infamous Texas band The 13th Floor Elevators are performing for the first time in 45 years, a review of their debut album seemed about right. The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is a brilliant rock album, somewhere between the spooky menace of the Doors and the careening weirdness of Nuggets bands like the Barbarians and Green Fuz. It’s made particularly distinctive by the genuinely wild, revelatory vocals of frontman Roky Erickson and the incredible “electric jug” playing of Tommy Hall; the wispy and ornithological sounds of Hall truly made the Elevators a bizarre myth to be reckoned with.

“You’re Gonna Miss Me” is one of the best rock openers ever, a furious break-up song infused with spite and a descent into the darker recesses of the mind. Stacy Sutherland’s playing here is a benchmark for any psychedelic guitar from Robbie Krieger to the MC5. But this was also a band that could be surprisingly beautiful and warm - the harmonies on “Splash 1” are, as with much of the band’s music, inviting and distancing at the same time. More than many of their ilk the 13th Floor Elevators wanted to expand your mind (“Thru The Rhythm” might have slinky stop-start rhythms but also has genuinely philosophical lyrics) but could also rock the fuck out - “Monkey Island” is just ridiculous fun. This is a clean 35 minute album with a perfect balance of slow and fast songs - “Kingdom of Heaven” though is my favorite on the record, a creepy, moody slow burner climaxing with a perfect Roky Erickson scream of either passion or pure terror (or both at once).

The Elevators’ legend has sometimes eclipsed their actual music - arrests for possession, LSD-drenched shows, and Roky Erickson’s struggles with schizophrenia (and recent comeback) all come to mind as much as their best songs do when thinking of them. But that’s why it’s important to focus on the greatness of this proto-punk classic, whose DNA is in the Butthole Surfers, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sonic Youth, and Ty Segall. Gorgeous, frightening, and immersive, a work swelling with nerve, ideas, and music that wants to take you to the limits of everything as you struggle helplessly then succumb…..

It is easy to understand why The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is a cult-classic. It more or less features a billboard advertisement for LSD and other psychedelics on the back cover. The underground-press typeset on it conjures up the days when hits of Owsley’s magical lysergic was legally obtainable in pure and massive quantities and texts like Timothy Leary et al’s The Psychedelic Experience were read as substitute Bibles. The cover art by John Cleveland evokes the reflections of an ergot eye. Then there’s the music. Though an early contribution of the genre of psychedelic music, its lack of studio trickery and extended guitar solos also squarely places it in the garage rock and proto-punk traditions. The driving musical novelty of the LP is the electric jug playing of Timothy Hall, which serves as a second bass and lead guitar simultaneously, and gives this music an exhaustive immediacy. Lastly, Roky Erickson’s vocals foreshadow the breathy, oscillating crooning of punk-era heroes Iggy Pop and Richard Hell, suggesting this music is as much for heads as it is for rockers who want to fuck shit up.

Though Psychedelic Sounds is uneven (the A-side and “Fire Engine” are vastly superior to the tracks that follow), it reconfigures common perceptions about psychedelic music. This is morose music, music that conjures the images of bad trips and pessimism that must undoubtedly result for the sane brain cleansing the back cover liner notes advocate. This is most clearly delineated in “Roller Coaster.” This isn’t Viewmaster-kaleidoscope-have-fun-watching-tracers mental excavating. This is serious, overwhelming business. The first side of the album communicates this vision, and is only matched by The Doors’ debut in terms of dark psychedelic intensity. Though “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is the clear hit here, “Fire Engine” is the arsonists birthday party highlight it’s cracked up to be. Flower Power is Dour Power here: this is not your grandpappy’s happy memory of his trip to Haight-Ashbury. This is murky, disturbing stuff – the poor production simply reinforces its new clear corrective reality…..

This is a terrific album, a gem for history, and the sounds of the Texas Psychedelic movement. Too many people complain about the production and sound quality and I have to believe that most of them weren’t around when this album was laid down. If you weren’t around, let me tell you, most of us have better equipment in our living rooms then was available at the time to most artists.

On this album and Roky, capture the time in music more then most people were ever able to do. From the very first song they grab hold and draw you deeper into the heat of a Texas summer in the early 60’s. Don’t go blaming them for not being proficient, they were just a bunch of spaced out kids with something to say, using the language of the day. They were true to the spirit of the times, as were not many of the successful psychedelic or want'a be psychedelic artists who just jumped on board the latest trend. These guys lived the life and it’s reflected in their work. So the music is a little insane, so it’s a bit immature as viewed through today’s eyes and ears, but they paved the way for many to follow and I defy anyone out there to not be blown away by “You’re Gonna Miss Me” for the first time.

Still today it knock my socks off. And on a side note, in High Fidelity [the movie, not the recording process] what better song to blast from your window as your lover moves out. Hey, I may just be a chick, but I know my roots.

SOME FUN FACTS: The 13th Floor Elevators formed as a band in Austin, Texas in late 1965. Tommy Hall, a University of Texas philosophy/psychology student, had been experimenting with psychedelics and playing the jug in a folk band. Hall came up with the unique idea of placing a microphone next to his jug which created a very unusual sound. He could see that combining his electric jug with psychedelic lyrics opened up a strange new territory, and Hall recruited several additional musicians from a Port Aransas-Rockport area group called the Lingsmen: Stacy Sutherland (lead guitar), Benny Thurman (bass), and John Ike Walton (drums). The final link was Roky Erickson.

Erickson was seventeen when he had written and released a local Top Ten single with The Spades (August 1965/zero Records) called “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” He was an accomplished rhythm guitar player with a powerful voice, and The Elevators signed with a Houston record company called International Artists. “The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators” was released in August 1966, and the song “You’re Gonna Miss Me” eventually reached #56. The album also included such psychedelic songs as “Roller Coaster,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Reverberation (Doubt),” and “Splash 1.”

Before a second album had been attempted, internal friction and drug problems forced the departure of John Ike Walton and Benny Thurman. Replacements were found in Danny Thomas (drums) and Ronnie Leatherman (bass) although Leatherman only lasted until July 1967 to be replaced by Danny Galindo. This unit entered the studio for two months to cut the worthy follow- up album Easter Everywhere (Sept. 1967). It contained an eight minute poem “Slip Inside This House” as well as “Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)” and a cover of Dylan’s “Baby Blue.”

The Elevators did a good deal of touring that included an appearance on the Dick Clark show. When the Elevators had finished their song, Dick Clark innocently asked Roky, “Who is the head of the band?” Roky’s response was, “We’re all heads.”

The Elevators were having a rough time of it in Texas as they were constantly in trouble with the police and the Texas Rangers. The penalty at that time for being caught with one joint was twenty years in jail. The first time the Elevators were busted they were not prosecuted due to a technicality, but a second bust occurred at a state university with Roky being ordered to stand trial. The defense attorney decided a plea of insanity (based on Roky’s altered state) would be less harsh for his client, but the result was a five year sentence. Roky would spend the next three and a half years at a mental institution called Rusk State Hospital.

The Elevators, without Roky who was their figurehead and unofficial leader, were finished. International Artists tried to capitalize on what success the Elevators had by releasing The 13th Floor Elevators Live album (January 1968) which was essentially studio outtakes that were overdubbed with phony cheering and applause. The last Elevator album to appear was Bull of the Woods (December 1968) that was primarily the effort of Stacy Sutherland.

The Elevators tried to get back together several times after Roky’s release, but an ongoing feud between Roky and Tommy never seemed to get resolved. The death of Stacy Sutherland (killed in a domestic squabble with his wife in 1978) confirmed the Elevators existence was officially over.

Except for a bizarre single called “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)” that was released in 1975, Roky’s sabbatical would last thirteen years. Roky Erickson returned with the 1980 album based on B-grade horror movie material called Roky Erickson and the Aliens (August 198O/CBS-U.K.) It was produced by Stu Cook (ex-bass player for Creedence Clearwater Revival) and included such songs as “Creature with the Atom Brain,” “Cold Night for Alligators,” “Stand for the Fire Demon,” and “I Walked with a Zombie.”

Roky continued to make several more interesting albums throughout the 1980s, but his mental condition seemed to be deteriorating. Then in 1989 he was charged with the federal crime of tampering with the U.S. Mail—apparently he collected mail for an apartment complex and never gave it to the addressees. Consequently, he went to court where the judge did not believe that Roky had a mental condition and had him sent to Missouri for “testing.” At some point in the process, Roky snapped……

Emerging from Austin, Texas in the mid-sixties was the band which many consider to be the pioneers of psychedelic rock, The 13th Floor Elevators. The band was led by guitarist and vocalist Roky Erickson and lyricist Tommy Hall who added a very special and unique element to the band’s sound with the “electric jug”. This was a crock-jug with a microphone held up to it while it was being blown into. However, in contrast to traditional musical jug technique, Hall vocalized musical runs into the mouth of the jug, using the jug to create echo and distortion of his voice.

The band’s debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators was recorded in Texas and released in late 1966. The band found some commercial and artistic success in 1966-67, before dissolving amid legal troubles due to heavy drug use and unabashed vocal advocacy for the practice. In fact, in the album’s liner notes Hall wrote a manifesto detailing the history of mind-altering substances and advocating for societal acceptance of LSD, mescaline, and marijuana as a gateway to a higher, ‘non-Aristotelian’ state of consciousness”. At Hall’s urging, the band played most of their live shows and recorded their albums while under the influence of LSD, which was not yet illegal in 1966. At the peak of their success, the band appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, where the host innocently asked, “who’s the head of the band?” To which Hall replied, “we’re all heads”.

Despite their very short time in the limelight, The 13th Floor Elevators are credited with being major influences for many future artists including Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Allman Brothers, and fellow Texans ZZ Top, whose guitarist Billy Gibbons credits Elevators’ axe man Stacy Sutherland with shaping his band’s earliest sound. Further, Erickson’s wild, banshee-like screams and high-pitched notes have been credited by some as a major influence on Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. The band was also credited by many as being a major influence on the punk rock genre, which wouldn’t fully emerge until a decade later.
The 13th Floor Elevators were formed in late 1965, when Erickson left his band the Spades to complete the lineup. In January 1966, the band went to Houston to record two songs for producer Gordon Bynum to be released as a 45 single. The songs were Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, which he had previously recorded with the Spades, and Hall-Sutherland’s “Tried to Hide”. These songs would eventually bookmark the Psychedelic Sounds… album. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” eventually became popular outside Texas, and by October it peaked at #55 on the Billboard charts, the band’s one and only “hit” single. The song sounds like it was influenced by a mixture of Van Morrison and Them and California surf music. It is quite edgy for the time, with the electric jug going wild and powered by Erickson’s feral vocals and Sutherland’s concise but agile guitar work. “Tried to Hide” finishes the album ends on a “high” note (no pun intended) with some high-pitched percussion up front and all the intensity of Hall’s electric jug and Erickson’s voice.

The album’s body contains a mixture of adequate, sixties-style rock and ballads cut with this new “acid rock” sound the band was forging. “Roller Coaster” is a song with sharp, echoed, electric notes that was likely a heavy influence on Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” on their own psychedelic debut a year later. “Splash 1 (Now I’m Home)” is a pleasant little ballad with a dreamy, nicely picked guitar and the noted absence of the electric jug (which appears on just about every other song). “Reverberation (Doubt)” is a song which was clearly years ahead of its time, a true hippie creed in 1966, while “Fire Engine”, with its wild, freaky siren effects (which may be laughable using today’s technology), may be one of the earliest examples of punk. Although there are some throw-away, forgettable songs on the album, most of it is interesting, innovative, and unique, probably due to the very mind-altering substance that would lead to the band’s quick demise.

By 1968, four of the five members of the 13th Floor Elevators were facing pending drug possession charges and Erickson was eventually sentenced to 10 years for marijuana possession (but pleaded insanity and spent much of the coming decades in and out of mental institutions). To this day, there is much debate over whether the band members were the single originators of “psychedelic rock” or just part of a select movement spearheaded by lesser known artists. In either case, there is no doubt that the 13th Floor Elevators were rock pioneers....Classic Rock Review...~

The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is the debut studio album by The 13th Floor Elevators. The album’s sound, featuring elements of psychedelia, garage rock, folk and blues, is notable for its use of the electric jug, as featured on the band’s only hit, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, which reached number 55 on the Billboard Charts with “Tried to Hide” as a B-side. Another single from the album, “Reverberation (Doubt)”, reached number 129 on the Billboard’s Bubbling Under Chart………. 

With the recent release of Lightning Hopkins' Free Form Patterns U.K.'s Charly Records have completed their Limited Edition Deluxe Digi-book series of the International Artists album catalog. All have been remastered and housed in hardcover digi-books, some containing two or three CDs if enough bonus or rare material was available, and generous booklets featuring photos and memorabilia. Some of the bonus tracks throughout the releases can also be found on the Epitaph for a Legend compilation as well. There have been grumbles in some circles about the remastering, but for the time being these are the best bet out there. Besides this release, which was IA-1, the rest of the series includes RED CRAYOLA 'Parable of Arable Land' (IA-2), LOST AND FOUND 'Everybody's Here' (IA-3), THE GOLDEN DAWN 'Power Plant' (IA-4), 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Easter Everywhere' (IA-5), Lightning Hopkins 'Free Form Patterns' (IA-6), RED KRAYOLA 'God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It' (IA-7), 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Live' (the only reissue not released as a digi-book, a remastered version can be found on 'The Albums Collection' set (IA-8), 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS 'Bull of the Woods' (IA-9), BUBBLE PUPPY 'A Gathering Of Promises' (IA-10), Dave Allen 'Color Blind' (IA-11) and ENDLE St. CLOUD 'Thank You All Very Much' (IA-12). I plan to cover each release in this series, use the link to the next entry to follow the reviews.......

'The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS' is arguably the first true psychedelic album. While the 1960's had it's share of "turned on" poseurs, the 13th FLOOR ELEVATOR's not only walked the walk, they ran the marathon. The band was actually a merging of two bands, THE LINGSMEN and THE SPADES, who had a regional hit with leader Roky Erickson's "We Sell Soul" and "You're Gonna Miss Me," re-recorded for this album. The now legendary Erickson became the band's front man, and the band at this juncture included unsung lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland, Ronnie Leatherman on bass, John Ike Walton on drums, and messianic LSD advocate and main lyricist Tommy Hall on amplified jug. Signed to Houston, Texas' independent record label International Artists, their "You're Gonna Miss Me" single was successful and the band toured throughout Texas, even appearing on local TV. It was also a hit in other major markets throughout the U.S. which encouraged the band to undertake a tour of the West Coast, where they were welcomed with opened ears, successfully playing the legendary Filmore and Avalon venues sharing bills with other soon-to-be legends like QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE and MOBY GRAPE. They even appeared on Dick Clark's teen TV programs "American Bandstand" and "Where The Action Is." During an interview on the latter, their drug references visibly annoyed Clark, who ended the interview and probably the chance of any future television appearances......

'THE PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS OF' was released in August 1966, and to say it sounded like nothing released before or since is not far off the mark. The combination of Roky's ethereal guitar and vocals, Sutherland's sinewy leads and Hall's incessantly rising and falling electric jug are the perfect compliment to Hall and Powell St. John's mystic diatribes. Starting off strong with Roky's re-booted "You're Gonna Miss Me" we take a ride on the adeptly named "Roller Coaster." Hall's wife Clementine duets with Roky on the fragile co-written "Splash 1" (later covered by THE CLIQUE) followed by the throbbing "Reverberation (Doubt)" and the "We Sell Soul" re-write "Don't Fall Down." The original Side Two begins with reverb-laden "Fire Engine" often covered during TELEVISION's heyday. The band then takes us "Thru The Rhythm" before a triptych of fellow Texas scenester and legend Powell St. John's (MOTHER EARTH) compositions, a jug-tastic "You Don't Know," the folk-doom of "Kingdom Of Heaven" and a Dylan-esque "Monkey Island." Our eleven track trip ends with "Tried To Hide," a true ELEVATORS classic......

Since many of the original International Artists masters are long gone, the set features the album in mono, remastered from an original vinyl pressing on CD#1 and a "first-ever release of the 1966 stereo mix in the band's intended running order" from the original 2-track master on CD#2. As a bonus, five of the album's songs are included from an initial "cold" mix by original engineer Bob Sullivan without any added reverb or echo. The hardcover digi-book packaging is beautiful and the discs resemble two different IA label variations. The bound-in booklet is made of heavy stock and has six pages of liner notes by Paul Drummond, author of the excellent band biography Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound, copious discographical minutiae and reproductions of the original album art, posters, rare photos, charts, etc. 'THE PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS OF THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS' is a rare example of a classic album that actually lives up to it's hype and reputation, and should be the cornerstone to any nascent psychedelic rock collection......ByJohn H. McCarthy..~

The 13th Floor Elevators were one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic music; many have cited them as the first true psychedelic rock band, and if they weren't, they certainly predated most of the San Francisco bands that gave the sound a global audience. The Elevators played a bracing fusion of garage rock and genre-defying musical exploration powered by Roky Erickson's feral vocals and rhythm guitar, Stacy Sutherland's concise but agile lead guitar work, and Tommy Hall's amplified jug playing, the latter of which gave them a sound unlike any other in rock. The Elevators were also exploring the outer limits of both consciousness and rock & roll in Texas in the early to mid-'60s, a time and place that wasn't quite ready for them, leading to the myriad problems that at once fueled their legend and cut down the band before their time.

The 13th Floor Elevators story began in Kerrville, TX, where in 1963, Stacy Sutherland (born 1946) was hanging out in the parking lot of a diner and met John Ike Walton (born 1942). Walton was a banjo picker who was playing for anyone who cared to listen, and Sutherland, already an accomplished guitarist, struck up a conversation. The two became friends, and when they met Benny Thurman (born 1943), a classically trained violinist who could also play bass, they formed a band. The Lingsmen featured Sutherland and Max Range on guitars, Thurman on bass, and Walton on drums, and soon landed a steady gig in the resort town of Port Aransas, TX. Meanwhile, Tommy Hall (born 1942) was a student at the University of Texas, studying chemical engineering and psychology. Hall was keenly intelligent and had a philosophical bent, and he fell in with a group of Austin bohemians who were experimenting with peyote. In 1964, Hall claims to have been part of LSD experiments which took place at UT; no records exist which confirm such experiments, but however he became interested in the drug, Hall was a quick convert, and believed it was a tool to reaching the next level in psychological and spiritual evolution. As pop music grew more sophisticated with the emergence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Hall believed that rock & roll could be used as a medium to advance his ideas about psychedelics and philosophy. Sutherland, who had developed a powerful taste for marijuana and downers, began hanging out in Austin, and through mutual acquaintances met Hall; after seeing the Lingsmen play, Hall recruited Sutherland, Walton, and Thurman for the new band he hoped to form.

Hall was a gifted lyricist but no singer, so the group needed a lead vocalist. Roger Kynard Erickson (born 1947), known to his friend as Roky, was the frontman with a popular Austin band called the Spades, who had scored a local hit with "You're Gonna Miss Me." Hall and Sutherland believed Erickson's raw, powerful voice was just what their band needed, and in late 1965 they lured him away from the Spades to join the newly formed 13th Floor Elevators (the name a reference to the floor on a skyscraper that usually goes unnamed). In early 1966, the Elevators re-recorded "You're Gonna Miss Me" for a local label, Contact Records; the new version was in every respect more powerful than the original, and it looked to have the makings of a hit. By the spring, the record had been snapped up by an upstart label in Houston, International Artists Records, and IA was able to turn "You're Gonna Miss Me" into a small nationwide success.

While on the surface the Elevators rise to fame seemed ordinary, underneath things were anything but. Under Hall's leadership, the Elevators did every rehearsal, performance, and recording session under the influence of LSD (except for Walton, who after a bad trip refused to have anything to do with the drug), and while their single was climbing the charts on AM radio, the bandmembers were becoming the heroes of a Texas community that had not yet become known as hippies. When the band released their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, in the fall of 1966, Hall insisted on including bizarre liner notes charting man's efforts to alter his consciousness. And while LSD was not yet illegal when the group began using it, the marijuana they habitually smoked certainly was, and around the time "You're Gonna Miss Me" was released, Erickson, Hall, Sutherland, and Walton were busted for possession. While the group attempted to keep up a busy schedule of performances, they did so knowing they could end up in jail at any time. Despite this, the Elevators went out on tour and even appeared on American Bandstand, where Dick Clark innocently asked Hall, who was the head man of the group, to which he replied, "Well, we're all heads."

After an extended stay in San Francisco, where they made a strong impression on the budding local rock scene (and reconnected with an old Austin friend, Janis Joplin, who was beginning to make a name for herself in California), the Elevators ended up back in Texas in 1967 as they began work on their second album, Easter Everywhere. While the album was a masterpiece, it didn't spawn a hit like "You're Gonna Miss Me," and it was recorded as the band was beginning to splinter; Walton, unhappy with the band's business affairs and their relationship with International Artists, left the group, and Thurman followed. Danny Galindo became their new bassist, and Danny Thomas signed on as drummer. The band's fragile legal situation prevented them from touring and they played only limited local shows in support of the album. When an attempt to record a live album at a concert in Houston went awry after Sutherland sunk into a bad trip on-stage in 1968, International Artists released The 13th Floor Elevators Live, a ludicrous LP in which old studio demos were overdubbed with crowd noises taken from a boxing match.

The Elevators' use of drugs was beginning to catch up with most of them, and Erickson in particular began to buckle under his constant use of LSD and speed, ending up in a hospital for a while. At the same time, Hall grew tired of his role as the band's overseer, so Sutherland became the de facto leader of the group for the recording of their third and final album, Bull of the Woods. With Erickson and Hall making only token appearances on the album, and Galindo replaced by Ronnie Leatherman, it was the most stripped-down and elemental Elevators album, despite IA's insistence on adding horn overdubs to several songs. When Erickson was busted for marijuana again in 1969, it spelled the end of the group for all practical purposes, especially when Erickson, pleading insanity on the advice of a lawyer, ended up in an Austin mental hospital. Hall and some friends attempted to liberate Roky, who had tried to escape several times on his own, and eventually he was sentenced to the Rusk Prison for the Criminally Insane, where he was subjected to repeated shock treatments and powerful psychoactive drugs.

Various handfuls of Elevators alumni played periodic reunion shows during the '70s after Erickson was finally released from Rusk, but those came to an end in 1978, after Sutherland was shot to death by his wife during a domestic dispute. Since then, only Erickson has continued to make music on a regular basis, finally overcoming frequent bouts of physical and mental illness to make a comeback album in 2010. With time, the legend of the Elevators grew, and in 2007, author Paul Drummond published a richly detailed biography of the group, Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound. In 2009, Drummond helped compile Sign of the Three Eyed Men, a ten-disc box set that finally brought together the Elevators' recorded legacy in its definitive form. ~ Mark Deming..~

Forty-six years ago today, rock and roll got a hell of a lot weirder in the state of Texas. On Nov. 30, 1966, Austin garage band The 13th Floor Elevators released their The Psychedelic Sounds Of album on Houston's International Artists label. Powered by the raw, fluttering classic "You're Gonna Miss Me," the record helped fuel an acid explosion in rock from Buffalo Bayou to San Francisco Bay. 

This is a record that still sounds edgy and unbound today. In 1966, it must have sounded shocking. 

The Elevators were on the bleeding edge of a new psychedelic movement, and the influence of LSD shown through clearly in the album's name, sound and artwork. Though the deepest reaches of inner space remained largely unexplored by rock and roll at the time, intrepid LSD explorer Tommy Hall helped infuse the group with his lysergic philosophy and pioneered usage of the electric jug, the hooting instrument that gave the record its appealingly strange sound. 

More than a few micrograms of magic ink have been spilled in the Houston Press and other outlets in recent years about the Elevators and their dynamic frontman, Roky Erickson. As one of the touchstone bands of the early days of psychedelic rock, it's no stretch to say that they tower over Texas' lively psych scene, as much now as then. Even those of us raised on rap and metal know the Elevators. 

But what about the other Texas trippers who followed in their wake? 

Unless you're a counterculture survivor or a serious record collector, it stands to reason that you might not be familiar with the likes of Red Krayola, Shiva's Headband, Fever Tree and the other sonic adventurers who orbited the Elevators at clubs such as Houston's Love Street Light Circus and Austin's Vulcan Gas Company -- at least, I wasn't. The anniversary of the state's first real taste of psychedelia seemed a good occasion to dig in and learn more. 

Turn on, keep hydrated and alert your trip sitter, because what follows is a novice's primer on Texas' earliest (and best) psychedelic sounds...BY NATHAN SMITH..~

In that brief period in the mid to late 1960s when a youthful subculture believed the answers to life lay locked in the chemical complexities of LSD, the psychedelic music that emerged from England and the US took on very different moods. While British groups typically sang of marmalade skies and model villages, American groups described Oedipal nightmares, paranoia and violence. It makes sense when you consider the social conditions of the two countries at the time. The British drug-influenced groups may have received a fair deal of hassle from the man, or the odd catcall as they paraded up and down the King's Road in their dandy finery, but they didn't face a constant threat of being drafted to Vietnam or getting decade-long jail sentences for marijuana possession, as the Americans did. 

The story of the 13th Floor Elevators, one of the earliest American psychedelic groups, is a horrifying illustration of how the struggle between an emerging experimental consciousness and the old order led to nothing less than a war. Hailing from the town of Kerrville in Texas - not a state known for its enlightened attitude towards mind expansion - the band offered a powerful mix of LSD evangelism, mystical philosophy and straight-up rock'n'roll. Needless to say, this didn't go down well with the authorities. 

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By the end of the 60s, countless attempts to rip out the soul of the band through drug busts and intimidation finally had their desired effect. The Elevators' leader, lyricist and amplified jug player Tommy Hall, a charismatic expounder of eastern philosophies who insisted that the band perform every single concert high on LSD, ended up living in a cave. Guitarist Stacy Sutherland spent much of the 70s in jail and strung out on heroin before being shot by his wife in 1978. Drummer John Ike Walton never recovered from the acid trip he went on in a police cell in 1966 and has been treated with lithium for severe depression ever since. Other members variously ended up in Vietnam, had nervous breakdowns and underwent electroshock therapy in mental institutions. 

Most dramatic of all, though, is the case of lead singer Roky Erickson.The son of an alcoholic, philandering architect father always "in the office" and an obsessively protective mother, Erickson was an immensely charming wildcard who fell under Hall's LSD-evangelising spell. While it's clear that excessive drug use didn't exactly help Erickson's mental clarity, the damage it did pales in comparison to the abuse meted out by the Texan authorities. After being caught with a small amount of marijuana - which was probably planted - in February 1969, Erickson took his lawyer's advice and pleaded insanity to avoid jail. 

He ended up at Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane, and the profiles of the men with whom he formed a band there illustrate the extent to which he was a butterfly broken upon a wheel. The guitarist was in for killing his mother, father and sister. The bass player had raped a policeman's daughter and killed her two infant sons. The deaf tambourine player had raped and killed a 12-year-old boy and stuffed his body into a refrigerator. Somewhat alarmingly, Rusk's recreation director arranged for this band to play at high school proms. 

By the time Erickson was released in 1972 any chances of a normal life had been destroyed by the trauma of his experiences. The authorities had won the battle, but perhaps not the war. The 13th Floor Elevators went on to become one of those bands, alongside the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, whose musical and cultural influence has far outweighed their initial popularity. 

Millions of joints have been rolled on the multicoloured front cover of their 1966 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and millions of young minds have attempted to decode Hall's gnostic sleeve notes after the joints have been smoked. And Paul Drummond has deemed the band significant enough to spend eight years of his life researching and compiling Eye Mind, an exhaustive combination of biography and oral history that covers every aspect of the 13th Floor Elevators' story in exacting detail. 

The book has clearly become something of a holy quest for Drummond. Not only did he convince the various members to emerge from the shadows and talk about a painful period in their lives, he also sourced every piece of information on the band imaginable, from legal documents to concert posters to psychiatric reports. His diligence occasionally overpowers his discrimination - some of the concert set lists and record company contracts might have been better left as invisible background material - but this is a small criticism, given the clarity and wisdom with which he writes. He has the good judgment to let the remarkable story tell itself, resisting the temptation to put in too much conjecture, and is particularly good at painting a picture of the band's unique situation. 

Being from Texas, they were more psychedelic outlaws than hippies, holing up in hill country hideouts to escape police harassment, dealing drugs to survive and never straying too far from the basic rock'n'roll template they were all schooled in. Add to this Hall's cosmic proselytising, Erickson's compelling, confused personality and the fascistic nature of the Texan authorities at the time and you have a tale that demands to be told. Eye Mind takes its place alongside Jean Stein's Edie and Andrew Loog Oldham's Stoned as a definitive chronicle of a contradictory, dangerous, endlessly fascinating period in pop Paul Drummond...Guardian review...

The Elevators were probably the beginning of psychedelic rock. Nothing like this had been recorded before. No other bands were high and still played on stage, while they were high. This was their debut LP. It didn't chart, but it had a single that did chart. "You're Gonna Miss Me" charted at #55 and was their only charting single. This album is great, better than there final LP, but not as good as their second. The music is great, and even features an "instrument" band member Tommy Hall invented, the electric jug. This was a jug that he made noises into that was amplified with a microphone. Some people find this annoying, but I don't mind it, in fact, I ENJOY it. This album was produced by Lelan Rogers. He did a good job, but it sounds muddy. This probably isn't his fault, as their label (International Artists) didn't really care about them. In fact, drummer John Ike Walton even said they weren't recording when they first playing in the studio but in fact WERE actually recording. They used this material for the 1968 LP "Elevators Live!" and dubbed in the phonny "live" sounds. I quite enjoy this LP. The kind of music you should expect to find here is a psychedelic sound with lyrics that make no real sense. My favorite song here is probably the 5 minute "Roller Coaster". It's a great song with awesome guitar playing and vocals. I also enjoyed the quiter "Splash 1". My least favorite track here is probably "Don't Fall Down". I like the song but the vocals at the end (when it says can you feel it) sound kind of strange. ....

The 13th Floor Elevators could only have come from one place - the heart of Texas - though at the time they might well've sounded like they came from Jupiter.

And when identifying the first full-fledged psychedelic album, most folks - even scholars knowledgable about the 1960's - would nominate the debuts of Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead. But they'd be wrong.

Psychedelic Sounds is as pure an artifact of its time as any document ... never again would the world be so naive in pronouncing the human evolutionary side-effects of LSD consumption, as the liner notes (which must be read to be believed) explain the 'true meaning' of each song. For example, the only hit - the indestructable garage classic "You're Gonna Miss Me" - concerns leaving someone who um, merely 'takes on the superficial aspects of the quest'. "Monkey Island" looks down on us 'straights' who've never 'been experienced' (as Hendrix later put it) as monkeys, when compared to one who has seen through traditional logic stifled by incorrect brain usage, and has thus been able to fully tap the wonders of his mind.

The 'philosophy' on this, perhaps the most pro-LSD album ever, is nonsense of course, but people in the 1960's didn't entirely realize that, and The Elevators were serious. They're so serious in fact, they're downright scary - lead singer Roky Erickson's werewolf howl is a wonder of nature, scratchy and feral, soulful, and not entirely human (a bit like a male Janis Joplin, another good ol' Texan).

Interestingly, the mood The Elevators aim to evoke is sullen and gothic, with an emphasis on songcraft, rather than the extended flaming freakouts of many later psychedelic pioneers. Perhaps that's because none of The Elevators were accomplished musicians - they're a decent garage band, but nothing more - albeit a decent garage band with an electric jug as a lead instrument, which constantly keeps the album offbeat (as if it needed any help).
The songs here are all memorable, and a handful are classic, though hearing one dirge-like mid-tempo number after another tends to make the album a bit dull for a single sitting, unless of course you're hypnotized by the atmosphere. The sound is muddy and distant (which might be the fault of the CD reissue), and The Elevators crude garage stylings don't catch up with the songs. Still, it's amazingly solid for the time, as an album of all good songs was a major accomplishment in 1966!

And these boys sure know how to whip up some serious atmosphere - parts of the album count among the scariest, most unearthly music ever recorded (I'm talking overall mood mainly). As I said, instrumentally they're nothing special aside from that bizarre electric jug. The songs - mainly collaborations between band members - are strange dirge-ish compositions that one might imagine medieval monks chanting, their sombre voices creepily dissipated by the desert wind. These are the doom ballads that Jim Morrison would've wished he could frighten teenagers with in his drugged-up dreams.

The band does kick up a nice garage racket here and there though. "Fire Engine" was later covered by Television. The sinister "Roller Coaster", the incredibly haunting / ghostly "Splash 1", the seemingly conventional love song "Don't Fall Down", and "You Don't Know (How Young You Are)" that refers to those who still think in the 'old way'. They're my favorites, but really all of the songs are quite strong.

Shortly after the album's release, the band were driven out of Texas by constant harassment from the authorities, and found a temporary home in the much more tolerant San Francisco of the late-60's. But the band broke up after Erickson was convicted on a drug charge - he pleaded insanity, and spent three years in a mental institution. Whether or not he was insane when he went in, certainly by the time he was released in the early 1970's there was no doubt Erickson was a mental wreck. He has released sporadic solo albums over the past few decades, many produced by Stu Cook (of Creedence Clearwater Revival), releases that have earned him a cult following and legendary status in the American underground. I have a compilation of those records, and I'll review it sometime. But when Erickson sings about demons and two-headed dogs, whilst it's tempting to laugh him off, remember he really sincerely believes in those demonic visions and voices in his head.

Psychedelic Sounds is a bizarre curio for 60's aficianados. There's psychedelia, and then there's the truly strange. Reviewer: Creative Noise ....

One of those legendary albums that everybody should give a listen to - I seriously doubt, though, if you'd wanna put it under your pillow or something. For one thing, the CD transfer on here is horrible: the sound is awfully muddy, with everything floating into one entangled mass as soon as every single song actually starts. It badly needs a remix, which would definitely help, as proven by the remixed, crystal clear version of the lead-in track, 'You're Gonna Miss Me', which you can find on the Nuggets boxset. Or maybe it has been remixed already, I dunno. 

But in the long run, the Elevators' problems don't end right there with the sound quality. Roky Erickson and his buddies were pioneers, no doubt about it; but this is the kind of pioneering album which would be unquestionably improved upon by future artists. It is a massive, full-blown, tremendously sincere (and tremendously naive) psychedelic experiment, the likes of which the year 1966 never saw done by anybody else. It's definitely not a bunch of poppy songs "psychedelized" with LSD-praising lyrics and trippy instrumentation; it's a whole new kind of music on here. It's so self-consciously revolutionary, in fact, that they even go into great deal in the liner notes about how "recently, it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state and thus alter his point of view... he can then restructure his thinking and change his language so that his thoughts bear more relation to his life and his problems, therefore approaching them more sanely...". Prime balderdash par excellence, but these guys believed it in a BIG way, and so did many bands after them. 
I don't really know if these particular songs were written or performed while the band members were "chemically altering their mental states"; quite possibly so. What I do know is that the actual music is... weird. A couple guitars that combine elements of folk, blues, and boogie; a crazyass "electric jug" reserved for a separate band member, buzzing around every single melody like an insistent bumble-bee; and a ferocious lead vocalist - Roky himself - whose delivery ranges from incomprehensible mumbling to wild inhumane screaming, done in an extremely high-pitched, piercing voice. They're obviously influenced by the Stones, but even more obviously by the Byrds, whose jangle and hypnotic atmosphere they're often trying to suit to their own acid needs. 
This could actually be the recipe for a great collection of groundbreaking tunes, but unfortunately, it's not that great. Few of the tunes are memorable at all; the major exception, of course, is 'You're Gonna Miss Me', but, if you neglect the constant electric jug, it actually sounds like it belongs on a different album: obviously, it was written specially as a single, and thus given more commercial potential than the rest of this stuff. It's a classy wild rocker that certainly deserves its Nuggets spot. But nothing else on here rocks with the same power, and the emphasis is certainly on "mind altering" rather than "rocking". It's one mysterious, occasionally creepy dirge after another, with Roky's voice climbing out of the guitars/electric jug mire to utter something you couldn't possibly understand. And speaking of the electric jug, it gets really annoying really fast - because the only thing you can do with it is make that stupid bubbling noise over and over again. You can't exactly tune an electric jug, I guess. And when every song is accompanied by this endless bubbling, it pretty much destroys its value once and for all. 
After a while, certain songs start coming to life, but only if you're really interested. Thus, 'Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)' is a fine Byrdsey ballad, with that pretty 'and now I'm ho-o-o-o-o-me' refrain that will melt the heart of anybody who's ever had it melted by anything the early Byrds had ever done. 'Reverberation' is mean and lean, with Roky giving it his all when he spells 'reverberaaation' in that sleazy, sly, and yet deadly serious tone. The song must have been sensational in its day - a slab of hard, edgy psychedelia to knock you right off your feet. Too bad it was already dated by the standards of 1967, I guess. So was the werewolf howling on 'Fire Engine', based on a primitive Chuck Berry/Stones pattern but lacking the grit of both - it's still fun to listen to nowadays as a period piece. 'You Don't Know' is 'Now I'm Home Vol. 2', and thus salvageable. The rest is... uh... 
...well, you know what I'm going to say anyway - it's goddamn hard to separate the songs from each other. I mean, every single one of them has the double guitar interplay, the electric jug, and the muddy vocals, so it's understandable, isn't it? These guys were so intent on pushing forward their druggy formula they forgot to give the songs individual identities; not an uncommon travesty for second-rate Summer of Love bands, but still a painful blow for those who'd like to see the 13th Floor Elevators as not just forefathers of the psychedelic genre, but also its best representatives. 
I DO have to say, though, that maybe it's all because of the godawful CD mix. Trust me - I'm far from an audiophile, but the sound here is horrible, as if they mastered this from a tape that spent a year in nitric acid or something. Add the goddamn electric jug which still keeps reverberating in my ears after all this time, and you understand how this can be a terrible sonic experience. That doesn't mean I'm not recommending the album, though, not at all! Whatever I might say, the sound the Elevators get on here is unique, and while most of the stylistic elements on here were later done better by anyone from Cream to Jim Morrison (the influence of this band on the Doors is pretty obvious, too), nobody really sounded quite like that....~

Considering the news that the legendary, infamous Texas band The 13th Floor Elevators are performing for the first time in 45 years, a review of their debut album seemed about right. The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is a brilliant rock album, somewhere between the spooky menace of the Doors and the careening weirdness of Nuggets bands like the Barbarians and Green Fuz. It's made particularly distinctive by the genuinely wild, revelatory vocals of frontman Roky Erickson and the incredible "electric jug" playing of Tommy Hall; the wispy and ornithological sounds of Hall truly made the Elevators a bizarre myth to be reckoned with. 

"You're Gonna Miss Me" is one of the best rock openers ever, a furious break-up song infused with spite and a descent into the darker recesses of the mind. Stacy Sutherland's playing here is a benchmark for any psychedelic guitar from Robbie Krieger to the MC5. But this was also a band that could be surprisingly beautiful and warm - the harmonies on "Splash 1" are, as with much of the band's music, inviting and distancing at the same time. More than many of their ilk the 13th Floor Elevators wanted to expand your mind ("Thru The Rhythm" might have slinky stop-start rhythms but also has genuinely philosophical lyrics) but could also rock the fuck out - "Monkey Island" is just ridiculous fun. This is a clean 35 minute album with a perfect balance of slow and fast songs - "Kingdom of Heaven" though is my favorite on the record, a creepy, moody slow burner climaxing with a perfect Roky Erickson scream of either passion or pure terror (or both at once). 

The Elevators' legend has sometimes eclipsed their actual music - arrests for possession, LSD-drenched shows, and Roky Erickson's struggles with schizophrenia (and recent comeback) all come to mind as much as their best songs do when thinking of them. But that's why it's important to focus on the greatness of this proto-punk classic, whose DNA is in the Butthole Surfers, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sonic Youth, and Ty Segall. Gorgeous, frightening, and immersive, a work swelling with nerve, ideas, and music that wants to take you to the limits of everything as you struggle helplessly then succumb. ...C.M. Crockford ..~

Dick Clark seemed befuddled by the grungy band standing before him. The year was 1966, and the freaky quintet from Austin, Texas, had just appeared on "American Bandstand" performing their Top 40 hit, "You're Gonna Miss Me," a stinging slice of lysergically fueled garage rock. 

Clark tried one of his surefire conversational gambits. "Who's the head of this band?" he asked. The long-haired guitarist with the piercing eyes and the unnaturally high voice smiled broadly. Said Roky Erickson: "We're all heads, Dick!" 

More than any other group, including the vaunted San Francisco bands that followed during the fabled Summer of Love, the 13th Floor Elevators proudly espoused the virtues of breaking on through to the other side via psychedelic drug use. "Recently it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state," read the liner notes of their debut album. With their music, they intended to provide the soundtrack for this journey. 

Born Roger Kynard Erickson (his first two names were truncated into "Roky," pronounced "rocky"), the youngest member of the group was kicked out of Austin's Travis High School in his junior year for growing his hair like the Rolling Stones. He'd already written "You're Gonna Miss Me," a minor hit for garage rockers the Spades, when he was approached in 1965 to join a sort of Texas supergroup. 

Guitarist Stacy Sutherland, bassist Benny Thurman, and drummer John Ike Walton had progressed from playing bluegrass to raunchy garage rock with Port Arthur's Lingsmen; their friend and neighbor, Janis Joplin, briefly sang backing vocals for the Elevators before setting out on her own. The musicians were introduced to Erickson by University of Texas undergrad Tommy Hall, who played the "electric jug" in another band called the Conqueroo. 

The new band's very name declared a desire to be different: The 13th floor doesn't exist in many high-rises. The group was also fond of pointing out that "m" is the 13th letter of the alphabet, as well as the first letter in "marijuana." 

Several years older than his bandmates, Hall was a self-styled Beat poet who quoted the writings of Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley. "When rock 'n' roll was happening and the music was coming on, it would [tick] you off that people would write really dumb lyrics," he said. "You had Leary and the psychedelic concept, the beginning of that, and people didn't follow it. They'd just come out with the same old type of songs, so you'd think, 'Hey, you guys, talk about this. This is what we want to hear about!' " 

While Hall gave the band a philosophical backdrop, Erickson provided its musical focus. Blessed with a talented family--his mother was an amateur opera singer, and his younger brother Sumner is a world-class symphonic tuba player--Roky emulated the soulful screaming of Little Richard and James Brown. But during the Elevators' more tender moments, such as the beautiful ballad "Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)," the plaintive emotion of his voice brought to mind another great Texas singer, Buddy Holly. 

The Elevators built a reputation on powerful live shows and an independent single featuring a new version of "You're Gonna Miss Me." This diatribe against an errant lover contrasted sharply with the prevailing sentiments of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and Erickson's vocal veers between grief-filled pleading and psychotic threatening. "You're gonna wake up one morning as the sun greets the dawn/You're gonna look around and you'll find that I'm gone/You didn't realize/You're gonna miss me, baby!" he sings. 

This explosion is delivered over a propulsive back beat and Sutherland's churning, Duane Eddy-gone-bad guitar, which tears through a classic E-D-A-G chord progression. And through it all runs the high-pitched burbling of Hall's electric jug. 

The jug had been a staple of the folk and bluegrass combos of the early '60s, but Hall amplified his by holding a microphone close to the opening. He claimed to draw musical inspiration from the free jazz of John Coltrane, but more than anything else, his random noises foreshadow the chaotic synthesizers of later art-rock bands such as Roxy Music and Pere Ubu. 

The Elevators were signed to Houston's International Artists label by Lelan Rogers, the brother of rocker-turned-country crooner Kenny Rogers. The group came to despise Lelan for his dubious accounting practices, and his involvement as producer of their first album seems to have been marginal. "I didn't produce them, I baby-sat them," he said. 

Despite the fact it was recorded quickly on three tracks in what sounds like a cave, "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" is an impressive accomplishment. As Erickson said, "The music makes you see things if you want to," and the sounds and song structures viscerally evoke the lyrical topics at hand. 

The wild "Roller Coaster" careens like an out-of-control amusement-park ride. The chorus of "Reverberation (Doubt)" echoes as if bouncing off the walls of a dark cavern; "Splash 1" creates waves of sound like the ripples on a still pond, and "Fire Engine" is propelled by the guitar and jug combining to evoke urgent, wailing sirens. 

"Let me take you to the empty place on my fire engine," Erickson sings, but he later offered another reading of the line referencing a potent psychedelic smoked by South American natives. "Let me take you to DMT place,'" he said. "It was like a fire engine without the calamity of a fire." 

With lyrics by Hall, "Roller Coaster" is even more explicit in its heralding of the psychedelic experience: "After you trip life opens up/You start doing what you want to do/No one can ever hurt you/But you know more than you thought you knew." 

Not surprisingly, the band attracted the attention of law enforcement, and Hall's philosophizing aside, that hurt the group plenty. "It was sort of like being in Jesse James' gang," said bassist Danny Galindo, who joined the group in 1967. "We had the cops after us wherever we went." 

Shortly after recording a second brilliant offering, "Easter Everywhere," Erickson was arrested for marijuana possession. In court, his lawyers called a psychiatrist who said the singer had taken 300 LSD trips that had "messed up" his mind, but the strategy backfired: He was acquitted by reason of insanity but confined to a state mental hospital, drugged with thorazine, and subjected to shock therapy. 

Friends and family say Roky was never the same when he emerged. Though he produced several strong solo recordings through the mid-'80s, he became increasingly incoherent and unstable, and eventually dropped out of the music scene. Together with Syd Barrett, he is one of rock's most famous recluses, and the words "acid casualty" often follow his name. (According to a recent article in Texas Monthly, his brother Sumner is now trying to nurse him back to some semblance of mental and physical health.) 

Though "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" never connected with a mass audience, it certainly inspired the band's peers. The Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were reportedly wowed by the Elevators when they traveled north to perform at the famous Fillmore Ballroom; the Rolling Stones rewrote "Monkey Island" as "Monkey Man," and Pink Floyd lifted the main theme for "More" from "Roller Coaster." 

Later, during the punk explosion, Lenny Kaye included "You're Gonna Miss" as the central track on his garage-rock compilation "Nuggets," and Television covered "Fire Engine." 

And at the dawn of alternative rock, Warner Bros. released a two-disc tribute to Erickson entitled "Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye." With contributions from the likes of R.E.M., the Butthole Surfers, Poi Dog Pondering, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, its stellar roster is ample tribute to the enduring power of an unforgettable voice and one of the greatest albums of the psychedelic era....BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC..~

Roky Erikson – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitars 
Stacy Sutherland – Lead Guitars 
Benny Turman – Bass, Violin 
John Ike Walton – Drums, Percussion 
Tommy Hall – Amplified Jug

You're Gonna Miss Me 2:24
Roller Coaster 5:00
Splash 1 (Now I'm Home) 3:50
Reverberation 2:46
Don't Fall Down 3:00
Fire Engine 3:22
Thru The Rhythm 3:05
You Don't Know 2:38
Kingdom Of Heaven 3:05
Monkey Island 2:38
Tried To Hide 2:43 

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