Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Thirteenth Floor Elevators

From an article by Mark Deming

The 13th Floor Elevators were perhaps the inventors of psychedelic rock. Certainly they were among the very first to play it. They were also one of the first bands to suffer the prejudice of the moralists and the law. They were, alas, also among the first to pay the consequences of drug abuse.

The band formed in Austin, Texas, around jug musician Tommy Hall and vocalist Roky Erickson, who had already released an earlier version of his You're Gonna Miss Me in 1965, with the Spades. Tommy Hall, who had a background in science and philosophy and had been one of the first kids in town to experiment with drugs, was the brain behind the project. He wrote the cerebral lyrics to their songs, and he invented the sound of the electric jug that became the trademark of their arrangements. Stacy Sutherland was the quintessential fuzztone and reverb guitarist.

Their first album, The Psychedelic Sound Of The 13th Floor Elevators (International Artists, 1966), released in the spring of 1966, is one of the most fascinating of the acid age, the archetype of psychedelia. The album presents a collection of acid ballads that feed on sound effects (Reverberation), on ethereal folk-rock (Splash), on rhythmic boogie (You're Gonna Miss Me), and on down-and-dirty improvisation (above all Roller Coaster, but also Fire Engine). Theirs is a rhythm and blues a la Rolling Stones, viewed through the deforming lens of LSD.

The group's anthem, You're Gonna Miss Me, which made history in the genre, is a ferocious and dissolute soul song with hints of Tex-Mex and depraved vocalizations, full of instinctive fury, and propelled by the demented rhythm of Hall's deafening electric jug.


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