Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book Review – Eye Mind by Paul Drummond

EYE MIND : The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound by Paul Drummond

I just finished reading Paul Drummond’s biography on the 13th Floor Elevators and their charismatic lead singer Roky Erickson. My previous knowledge on the subject was from various magazine articles on the Elevators and the documentary film on Roky, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ from 2006. I first became aware of them after I heard the Elevators on the Nuggets compilations. They had a unique sound with the electrified jug making an other worldly sound.

From time to time I would read about other musicians citing the 13th Floor Elevators as an influence. So with curiosity piqued I located a copy of their ‘The Psychedelic Sounds of…” album. This amazing piece of music was recorded in 1966. The sound is glorious lo-fi and slightly dated in reverb and echo, but the power of the music is amazing for the time. Bristling with an energy that can be described as early punk. This band of misfits from Texas had my respect and attention.

The author is clearly a fan. In writing this book he uses the correct formula that fanatics look for in a book about a band they love, he tells a linear story with plenty of quotes from all parties involved. One can tell he has devoted years of his life to researching this group of psychedelic prophets. His love of his subject matter certainly comes out from across the pages.

Original Drummer John Ike Walton

He does not focus strictly on Roky, but on all the characters that make up the band. They all have a compelling story, from the mental breakdowns, to drug abuse, to mismanagement by an incompetent record company, to the murder of a member. It is fascinating, but ultimately tragic, piece of music journalism.

“By the end of 1969, Roky virtually re-enacted the plot of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ when he pleaded insanity and was incarcerated in a maximum security unit of a prison for the criminally insane, Stacy was imprisoned in the jail Roky was attempted to avoid, Tommy spent two years living in a cave with a LSD mafia cult, their bassist was drafted to Vietnam and the drummer was given involuntary shock treatments.”

Mr. Drummond pretty much just lays out the facts, although he does seem to spend an overt amount of time/space explaining jug player and lyricist Tommy Hall’s philosophy. But what a twisted philosophy it is…starting out with the 60’s innocent dream that LSD would open your mind and change the world. The idea would grow and mutate in his mind to involve various ancient religious texts and neurotheology.

“…neurotheology. Studies using electromagnetic fields on the brain suggest that spiritual experiences are in fact frontal temporal lobe seizures, which begs the question, has God placed an antenna in your brain? It has also been suggested that religious experience is an evolutionary need in the form of survival technique; we simply require a high being to exist for our own well-being.”

Tommy Hall in 2009

Jug Player/Lyricist Tommy Hall in 2009

Tommy was the bully leader of the group wanting to use them as a voice to spread his word. He made sure that the band recorded and performed while tripping on LSD. Roky was the face and voice of the band and he was led and sheltered by Tommy, fed LSD and ultimately sunk down into mental instability and was finally committed to a ward for the criminally insane…he would started a band with his fellow inmates that included child rapist and child murderers.

While incarcerated he “…studied enough to achieve a minister’s card and become the Right Reverend Roky Kynard Erickson.”

Mr. Drummond’s book is full of details and information, also photos and poster reprints. Perhaps it is too much info for the casual reader. But if you are a fan of the Elevators or  if you fancy yourself as a music scholar I highly recommend this book.

He sums up the band’s legacy perfectly…“the Elevators joined artists such as the Velvet Underground and the Stooges as bands whose success couldn’t be measured in record sales during their lifespan, but by their continuing influence over successive generations of musicians.”

Found Photos – Now *That* Is A Party

Keith Richards, John Belushi, James Brown Party Photo

Keith Richards, James Brown, and John Belushi…I wonder who’s holding.

Found Photos – Words of the Prophet

Roky Erickson ‘Throbblehead’

Here is my newest piece of music memorabilia…known to my wife as ‘useless stuff my husband spent money on‘…the Roky Erickson Throbblehead. It is my first purchase from Aggronautix, a company that has a nice slice of the bobble head market catering to the old school punk set. The company has made Throbbleheads of Wendy O. Williams, Milo from the Descendants, the Dwarves, Keith Morris, a few GG Allin and others. Most are limited to 1000 signed and numbered pieces (Wendy O is 2000). When I saw Roky I had to get me one. The price is right at $19.95, the wife can’t be too pissed at only twenty bucks…

The quality is very good, it is one sturdy piece of resin. I am very happy with this unique toy for the music nut. I will be checking for the next ‘must have’ from Aggonautix…a Rollins from Black Flag would be nice or Greg Ginn in full teeth bared grimace…how about a Gibby Haynes…or a Captain Beefheart…or John Doe and Exene…or Bo Diddley…sigh.

Getting licensing agreements to produce these things must be a big headache, so I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a Jello Biafra or Kim Deal or D. Boon or Darby Crash or Gene and Dene Ween…OH! How about authors?? A Charles Bukowski or Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut…

Click over to the Aggronautix website and snag something before they are all gone. Then you will only find them on eBay for double the price.

The Punk Rock Quilt

Shelby Rude's My War Quilt

While searching around on the ‘net I came across this amazing piece of DIY artwork. A custom home made quilt made to look like the cover art of MY WAR. I think this is one of the coolest things ever. Head over to Invisible Oranges for a short interview with the artist.

My Favorite Song: My War

When I am asked what my favorite song is I answer without hesitation. My favorite song is MY WAR by Black Flag. I have listened to this song literally hundreds of times. It is a song that can alternate between an insane war cry or a paranoid rant depending on my mood. The driving beat, the guitars that sound like a swarm of angry bees, the vocals of accusing screams and howls of the pain of betrayal.

I love the still unreleased 1982 demo version of the song better than the official version released on the album of the same name. The demo version is much rawer and brighter with energy. It is also one of Henry Rollins best recorded vocal performances. His performance is jaw dropping with his screams of accusations and defiance that are chilling.

The demo version is recorded with a much different band than the one that would record the official release of the song. On the album Greg Ginn would play guitar and bass. I have to think that this bit of studio overdubbing took away some of the song’s power and energy. But on the 1982 demo the band consists of Chuck Biscuits on drums, Dez Cadena on guitar along with Greg Ginn, Rollins on vocals, and Chuck Dukowski on bass. This version sounds more like a complete band, the addition of the second guitar fleshed out the song with a swirling distorted sound. This version just plain works with Rollins pushing his vocals to the brink.

The bassist, Chuck Dukowski, is the writer of this impressively deranged rock music. And recently he has fronted a band that is named after him, The Chuck Dukowski Sextet. The band has released two albums to date, Eat My Life (2006) and Reverse the Polarity (2007) and the band are a true family affair…Chuck’s wife, Lora Norton, is on vocals and his son, Milo, is on guitar.

Their music is a mixture of 70’s proggy-rock and melodic avant jazz/rock with a dash of heaviness and wah-wah. Both albums are available on iTunes and are worth a listen. ‘Eat My Life’ also contains a reworking of My War with Lora handling the vocals quite well.

Mix: Post Surgery Painkiller Fuzzy Dreams

Music for the fever dreams and head full of concrete……

Babbachichuija – Tom Waits Going under or coming back…

Comfortably Numb – The Bad Plus So familiar and so far from normal…

Over the Rainbow – Jeff Beck Beautiful guitar and a remembered melody grounds you…

Life’ll Kill You – Warren Zevon True, frustrating truth…

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks – Seasick Steve Introspection begins….

When Doves Cry – Patti Smith Too much pain, reach for button…

The Spiderbite Song – The Flaming Lips Painkillers take me away…

Dreams – Stevie Nicks w/Deep Dish Sounds wash over as you float…

More News From Nowhere – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds It’s getting stranger here…but you have heard that before…

Don’t Take My Sunshine Away – Sparklehorse Sinking into the ocean…

My Sweet Lord / Today is a Killer – Nina Simone Lost in the clouds, dreaming of the self…

Don’t Let Us Get Sick – Warren Zevon A true prayer…

Heretic Pride – The Mountain Goats Acceptance and calm…

The Man Who Played God – Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse w/Suzanne Vega It was only a text-book false Hollywood happy ending…

Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on Your Knee – Captain Beefheart The messenger spoke from within…

Dinosauria, We – Charles Bukowski The true death of us all…

Mix: Angry Man

Dear God – XTC A fine song from 1987…a more religious friend of mine was upset when I played this for him.

I am Somebody – Jurassic 5 Described as an alternative rap group…whatever that means.

Addiction – Kanye West Love him or hate him…Kanye comes up with some pretty cool music.

Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers Good song…but what the hell is up with the lyrics? ‘the bird I’ll share this lonely view’…huh?

Debaser – The Pixies “Slicin’ up eyeballs/I want you to know.” Now those are lyrics! And they are related to something…watch the 1929 silent film ‘Un Chien Andalou’ and you will get it….maybe.

Old Pervert – The Soft Boys Robyn Hitchcock was the leader this punk/pop band which had been listening to early Syd Barrett Pink Floyd and Captain Beefheart.

Feeling Yourself Disintegrate – The Flaming Lips From the great ‘Soft Bulletin’ album by Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips.

Angryman – The Bees Also know in the United States as The Band of Bees…

No Children – The Mountain Goats This is lo-fi rock, love this ‘band’

Life Goes Off – Jim O’Rourke One time member of Sonic Youth and Loose Fur, producer of Wilco and Joanna Newsom…oh, and musician.

Lost in the K-Hole – The Chemical Brothers K-hole, as in ketamine. Recreational names for ketamine include “K”, “Ket”, “Special K”, “Kitties”, “K2” and “Vitamin K”. Oh, what mankind will ingest to ‘feel better’.

The Sheltering Sky – King Crimson A majestic track with all members of King Crimson contributing.

Houses in Motion – The Talking Heads Produced by Eno from the excellent album ‘Remain in Light’.

Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz This song has it all, great hook and music….rap is done by Del the Funkee Homosapien.

Chunga’s Revenge – Gotan Project This is a Frank Zappa cover from a group out of Paris that is known for the tango music they produce.

Long Distance Call – Phoenix Speaking of Paris bands…here is another one.

Candle – Sonic Youth From the classic album ‘Daydream Nation’.

Video: King Crimson 1974 French TV

This is my favorite era of King Crimson, I rate it just a slight bit above the Disapline era band, and I was happy to find this on the net complete and in such great quality. Bill Buford was/is a drum master, Bill Wenton had a great voice (later would hit it big in the band Asia), David Cross added color with the violin and Robert Fripp was the catalyst of it all. A real heavy band, not so much progressive…but more like a artistic heavy metal band.

Video: Chuck Berry and Keith Richards in Rehearsals

You are witnessing two alpha males butting heads. Keith tries his best to remain respectful to a musician that he obviously holds in high esteem…the looks that he gives the other musicians are priceless. Chuck comes across as just wanting to show that he is still the bigger star. I would bet Keith was ready to get back to only having to deal with Mick’s huge ego after this.

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