|13th Floor Elevators|
Years: 1965-1969, 1978, 1984
Styles: Acid Rock, Garage Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Tommy Hall - Electric jug, Guitar (in band: 1965 - 1969)
Stacy Sutherland - Lead guitar, Vocals (in band: 1965 - 1969)
Roky Erickson - Guitar, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1965 - 1969;1978; 1984)
Benny Thurman - Bass Guitar, Violin (in band: Nov, 1965 - Jul, 1966)
John Ike Walton - Drums, Percussion (in band: Nov, 1965 - Jul, 1967)
Duke Davis - Bass Guitar (in band: Jan, 1968 - Apr, 1968)
Danny Thomas - Drums (in band: Jul, 1966 - 1968)
Ronnie Leatherman - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: Jul, 1966 - Jul, 1967; Jul, 1968 - Aug, 1968)
Danny Galindo - Bass Guitar (in band: Jul, 1967 - Jan, 1968)
13th Floor Elevator formed in Austin, Texas, USA in 165 by Rocky Erickson and Tommy Hall together with Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman and John Ike Walton. Erickson had originally written and recorded "You’re Gonna Miss Me" with his first band, The Spades, the single being released on the small ‘Zero’ label. A local hit, the record gained national notoriety in early ’66 after being picked up by the ‘International Artists’ label.
Around this time, self-style psychedelic explorer, Tommy Hall, had introduced Erickson to the aforementioned musicians (all three were ex-Lingsmen) and The 13th Floor Elevators were launched into orbit. The frenzied garage thrash of "You’re Gonna Miss Me" stood out from the pack by dint of Erickson’s apocalyptic vocal threats and Hall’s bizarre amplified jug playing. In addition to his idiosyncratic penned most of the lyrics, setting out of his agenda according to the chemically-anhanced evolution-of-man ethos espoused by the likes of acid guru, Tim Leary.
Debuting with, "The Psychedelic Sound Of The 13th Floor Elevators" in 1966, the band had unleashed nothing less than a musical manifesto for mind expansion. But if the idea was to promote the use of halucinogenics, then the sirens on the DMT-tribute, ‘Fire Engine’, surely encouraged any sane person never to go near the stuff, sounding more like the tortured wailing of lost, limbo-locked souls. Likewise "Monkey Island", with Erickson howling like a man possessed. Elsewhere on the album, tracks like "Rollercoaster", and "Reverbation (Doubt)" made for thrilling, if uneasy listening, and it was obvious that a trip to the 13th floor was with Rocky an Co. Was somewhat different from the rosy hue that the psychedelic experience had taken on in popular mythology.
The follow-up "Easter Everywhere" (1967), was a slighty more contemplative affair, opening with the hypnotic brilliance of "Slip Inside This House" (the subject of an equally essential 90’s interpretation by Primal Scream) through the trippy "She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)" and on to the frantic "Levitation". Inevetably, the Texan police were none too amused with the band’s flagrant advocacy of drugs and after escalating harassment, Erickson found himself in court the album’s release shortly after the albums’s release. Charged with possession of a small amount of hashish, he was faced with a choce of jail or mental hospital and rather unadvisedly he chose the latter. This effectively signalled the end for the band although a disappointing live album was released the following year and a final studio album appeared in 1969.
"Bull Of The Woods" was made up largely of Sutherland-penned tunes although it contained the sublime "May The Circle Remain Unbroken", Erickson’s vocal all the more haunting in light of his tragic incarceration. Subjected to years of mind-numbing drugs and electro shock therapy, Rocky was finally released in 1972 after a judge declared him sane. Ironically no doubt somewhat less sane after this experience, Erickson started making music again, forming a band, Bleib Alien, and immersing himself in B-movie horror nonsense.
After a stint in the studio with fellow Texan, Doug Sahm, of Sir Douglas Quintet fame, Erickson released the inspired psychosis of the ‘Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)’ single in 1975. An album, ‘Rocky Erickson And The Aliens’ surfaced in 1980 and included such wholesome fare as ‘Don’t Shake Me Lucifer’, ‘Creature With The Atom Brain’ and ‘Stand For The Fire Demon’. Yet this was no po-faced heavy-metal posturing, Erickson actually believed what he was singing about, lending the record a certain level of intensity, despite the cliched hard rock backing.
A series of singles and compilations appeared sporadically throughout the 80’s, and after Erickson was hospitalised again for a short period, ‘’Warner Bros.’ Executive and longtime Elevators fan, Bill Bentley, masterminded a tribute album, ‘Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye’, featuring the likes of The Jesus And Mary Chain and Julian Cope. Although a collection of early material, ‘All That May Do My Rhyme’, appeared in 1975 on The Butthole Surfers ‘Trance Syndicate’ label, Erickson appears to have no interest in writing new material.
Music biz legend paints the man as an acid casuality, and while he definately appears to live in a world of his own making, his wayward genius continues to win the respect and admiration of fans the world over.
The Great Rock Discography - Martin C.Strong, Four Edition, by Canongate Publishing, Ltd. Edinburgh, p. 842-843
The band's name was developed from a suggestion by drummer John Ike Walton to use the name "Elevators" and Clementine Hall added "13th Floor". In addition to an awareness that a number of tall buildings don't have a 13th floor, it has been noted that the letter "M" (for marijuana) is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.
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