Fuzz Acid & Flowers:
The first band to describe themselves as 'psychedelic' the 13th Floor Elevators formed in the Winter of 1965, playing their first gig at the Jade Room in Austin on 13th (?) December, which garnered a mention in Jim Langdon's column in the Austin Chronicle.
Sutherland, Walton and Thurman had all previously played in a Kerrville band - The Lingsmen, who became the 13th Floor Elevators when Max Rainey, their original vocalist, left and Roky Erickson, the lead guitarist of The Spades (another Austin act), was drafted in as a replacement. Their original line-up was completed by Tommy Hall, a local student, who played jug and along with his wife Clementine wrote much of the band's early material. It seems Clementine was responsible for their name too. Most American buildings have no thirteenth floor and the band were saying, if you want to reach the thirteenth floor and achieve a new level of consciousness, ride with them.
Their first 45, released in the Winter of 1965, was You're Gonna Miss Me, which Roky had written when he was still with The Spades.
The band also quickly established a strong 'live' reputation playing at venues like the New Orleans Club and the Jade Room in Austin and La Maison in Houston. Significantly they were the first band to advertise themselves as 'psychedelic', predating The Grateful Dead by about two weeks, and first hand reports of these early gigs, indicate that they were an awesome live act. Indeed, there are even rumours of en masse "flash-outs" brought on by the fervant, pulsating rhythms and feverish foot-stomping by the crowd.
Texas was a highly conservative state in the late 1960s and, not surprisingly, a band like The 13th Floor Elevators with their long hair and penchant for drugs (particularly acid) had a number of brushes with the law. They were eventually busted in early 1966 and all placed on probation. Tensions were increasing within the band, too, and these led to Benny Thurman's departure and his replacement by Ronnie Leatherman.
The band's career received new impetus when Lelan Rogers signed them to his new International Artists label. Rogers had just returned to Texas from LA, where he'd been working for A & M Records. He reissued their debut 45 on his label (with a different recording of the flip side Tried To Hide) and it made No. 55 in the National Charts. Their first album, recorded in Dallas, followed shortly after. Taking a sort of Kinks or Stones styled R & B they added their own highly individual style on what was a classic vinyl offering. Prominent throughout was Tommy Hall's jug playing, which helped to give the group a unique and distinctive sound. The songs were also laced in psychedelic mysticism which was central to their music and the album is often regarded by "heads" as some of the finest psychedelic music to be committed to disc, being particularly notable for how it expands and stretches out under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
In particular, Roller Coaster, oozed the feelings of a psychedelic trip, and revelled in the new purpose to man's life that could result from the psychedelic experience. It's also claimed, that the track is about (or inspired by) Alfred Korzybski, the father of semantics - who was one of Hall's main influences. Korzybski wrote "Science and Sanity An Introduction to General Semantics and Non-Aristotelian Systems" and one of his concepts was "unsanity" which is referred to in the songs lyrics, and in the liner notes to the Psychedelic Sounds... album. Other tracks such as Reverberation dealt with how a person, who organised their knowledge in the right way could overcome problems of doubt (and avoid bum trips); Don't Fall Down dealt with the care that had to be taken to maintain this chemically-altered state; Splash 1, which was written by Clementine Hall and Roky and later covered by The Clique, describes the meeting of two minds which have undergone the psychedelic experience and You Don't Know explained the differences between persons of old and new states of mind. Perhaps the best track of all was Fire Engine, written by Tommy, Stacey and Roky, which began with an unusual siren introduction, and superficially portrayed what it would be like to ride on a fire engine for fun rather than to fight an horrific fire - at a deeper level, the song is said to have a D.M.T. influence, with Roky twisting the words "empty place" into "Let me take you to D.M.T. place on my fire engine"... DMT being the short-term psychedelic Di Methyl Tryptamine.
Like so many bands in this era The 13th Floor Elevators headed for California in August of 1966 and stayed there in San Francisco for the remainder of '66. They played at the Avalon ballroom four times and once at the Fillmore West. Their first album was released during their stay in California and this, plus the fact they gigged a lot at the Avalon ballroom, led many people to believe them to be a San Franciscan band. In fact, they actually put on an all Texan show at the Avalon during their Californian stay with Big Brother and The Holding Company (Janis Joplin was from Austin, Texas and at one time nearly joined The 13th Floor Elevators) and the Sir Douglas Quintet. The band's time in California helped to forge important links between America's West Coast and the hitherto relatively isolated Texas psychedelic scene. The Elevators would return to California two more times in late 1967 and in 1968.
They returned to Texas late in 1966 and immediately ran into disagreements with their record company about what their next single should be. International Artists wanted to target I'm Gonna Love You Too at the Top 40 market, but Tommy keen to uphold the band's quest as psychedelic leaders held out for Reverberation and got his way with this and subsequent 45 releases. Though none of them ever made the national charts again.
Early in 1967 another split developed in the band. This was partly about the use of drugs as police pressure on the band grew. All were heavily into acid except John Ike Walton - indeed, Roky was reputed to have taken it over 300 times. So when Walton and Ronnie Leatherman left the band because of management disagreements, Walton was already viewed by the band as an establishment figure. After the split Tommy, Roky and Stacey retreated to Kerrville, a small hill town in the countryside, where they spent the Summer of 1967. They recruited two new members, Danny Thomas, a drummer, and Danny Galindo, a bass player and started work on their second album, Easter Everywhere, which entered the shops in the Autumn of 1967. It contained their own interpretation of Bob Dylan's Its All Over Now, Baby Blue. She Lives, a Tommy/Roky composition was also issued as a 45. Musically the album was more controlled and less frenzied than their first album but there are a lot of collectors who consider this to be their best LP. It suffered from under-promotion and Lelan Roger's policy of underpublicising the band to create a mystique around them had by this stage become counter-productive. Sadly, too, the group was beginning to crumble with Roky becoming increasingly unreliable and frequently missing gigs. The record company tried unsuccessfully to put him into a 'rest' hospital, but late in 1968 he was busted again. To avoid being dumped in Huntsville (the Texas State Prison), he claimed to be a Martian and the authorities committed him to Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane early in 1969. Stacey got busted again and was not so lucky - he ended up in Huntsville.
Taking advantage of the band's problems the record company issued their third album, which failed to capture the band at anything like its best. It was not a 'live' album at all - the tracks were studio outtakes, with faked applause added. It did, however, contain five songs not featured on their studio albums - Bo Diddley's Before You Accuse Me (the flip to their 3rd single); Buddy Holly's I'm Gonna Love You Too; Soloman Burke's Everybody Needs Somebody To Love and two original compositions, You Gotta Take That Girl and You Can't Hurt Me Anymore.
When Tommy Hall headed for California the band, already minus Roky and Stacey, literally fell apart leaving behind them an incomplete album tentatively titled, The Beauty And The Beast. It was released after their demise by the record company late in 1968. They changed its name to Bull Of The Woods. Its finest moments included, Never Another, one of the best and most demented tracks ever recorded (the only one on the album written by their usual songwriting duo of Roky and Tommy) and May The Circle Remain Unbroken, a haunting Roky composition issued immediately after Easter Everywhere which had also appeared on one of their later 45s. Nearly all the remaining material was written by Stacey Sutherland often in conjunction with Tommy Hall. Stacey's songs are for the most part rather stark but Street Song and Rose And The Thorn both feature some fine guitar work.
Roky spent three years in Rusk State Hospital and it took a court case to get him out! In 1972 he attempted to reform the band with John Ike Walton using other musicians but it fell apart after two gigs, Thurman later played for Plum Nelly, Galindo was in Rubayyat and Duke Davis, who was also associated with the band was in Gritz, but Erickson's subsequent solo career and the mystique surrounding the band has led to continuing interest in their recordings which prior to the reissue of their first two albums, in 1978, meant copies were changing hands for quite a few dollars. ... ~ (Vernon Joynson / Craig Malek / Tom Bright / Stephane Rebeschini)
"Slip Inside This House" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 8:03
"Slide Machine" (Powell St. John) – 3:43
"She Lives (in a Time of Her Own)" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 2:58
"Nobody to Love" (S. Sutherland) – 3:00
"Baby Blue" (B. Dylan) – 5:17
"Earthquake" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 4:51
"Dust" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 4:02
"Levitation" (T. Hall, S. Sutherland) – 2:41
"I Had to Tell You" (T. Hall, S. Sutherland) – 2:28
"Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 6:30
2003 Charly bonus:
Tracks 11 to 14 recorded live in Texas, 1967:
"Splash 1" (C. Hall, R. Erickson) – 4:21
"Kingdom of Heaven" (Powell St. John) – 3:33
"You're Gonna Miss Me" (R. Erickson) – 3:42
"Reverbation (Doubt)" (T. Hall, S. Sutherland, R. Erickson) – 3:23
Tracks 15 to 18 recorded live in San Francisco, 1966.:
"You Don't Know" (Powell St. John) – 2:35
"Fire Engine" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 3:00
"Monkey Island" (Powell St. John) – 2:42
"Roller Coaster" (T. Hall, R. Erickson) – 5:41
"Levitation" (Instrumental) (T. Hall, S. St. John) – 4:11
"I Don't Ever Want to Come Down" (Unidentified) – 2:41
Roky Erickson – vocals
Dan Galindo – bass
Tommy Hall – jug
Stacy Sutherland – guitar, producer
Danny Thomas – drums
John Ike Walton – drums