THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators (International Artist)
THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS Easter Everywhere (International Artist)
These are mono reissues of the first two 13th Floor Elevators albums, the legendary Texan psych outfit who provided the first, and arguably the most successful, home to the damaged talent of Roky Erickson. Beating Jefferson Airplane to the long-player market by a whole month, and featuring a unique selling point in the form of Tommy Hall's electric jug playing(!), "The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators" opens with one of the most defiant statements of intent of the psychedelic era: if your ideas of such music are clouded by visions of dope-addled flower-power hippies "You're Gonna Miss Me" is bound to come as something of a shock, having more in common with the proto-punk The Stooges and MC5 would be playing towards the end of the decade, held together by Erikson's possessed vocals and howling harmonica soloing.
If nothing else on the album lives up to that opener, there's nevertheless much in a similar vein to 'enjoy', such as the siren-riddled DMT tribute "Fire Engine", "Reverberation (Doubt)" and my favourite, the mellower, aching ballad "Splash 1". Tom Hall's sleevenotes (he was a psychology graduate from the University of Texas) attempt to bind the whole into something more than the sum of its parts ("Recently it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state and thus alter his point of view (that is, his own basic relation with the outside world which determines how he stores his information).") but are inconsequential to the enjoyment of this prime slab of formative garage-psych. And possibly the most remarkable thing about this remarkable record is that it was produced by one Lelan Rogers, brother of Kenny.
"Easter Everywhere" was released in 1967 - still before "Sgt. Pepper", note - and betrays a definite mellowing of the band's formerly manic stance. Probably the most famous track here is the opener "Slip Inside This House", if only for Primal Scream's stunning Balearic-y cover on "Screamadelica". Here's the full epic mad ramble eight minute original, which plays like an "American Pie" for the original chemical generation. You may not follow Tommy Hall's mystical lyrical bent, but there's definitely something of a universal language to the chorus' chord progression, which hits a kind of perfection that is rarely found in rock. The rest of the album almost matches up, with perennial Elevators faves such as "She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)" and "Levitation" nudging up to a cover of Dylan's "Baby Blue" and the wry "Dust".
"Easter Everywhere" was effectively the 13th Floor Elevators' last gasp, the group disbanding shortly afterwards when Erickson was arrested for possession of a small amount of hashish, and facing a choice of being sent to jail or a mental hospital chose the latter, where he was subjected to a regime of prescribed drugs and electro-shock therapy until his release in 1972. He then embarked on the same kind of stop-start solo career that Alex Chilton has submerged his talent beneath for the last two decades. Other posthumous Elevators material to be released included an allegedly faked live album and "Bull Of The Woods", a collection of their final recordings, but the most interesting post-"Easter Everywhere" document is probably the tribute album "Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye", featuring contributions from R.E.M., Julian Cope, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream, among others. But whichever way you acquire it, the taste for Erickson's tortured muse will inevitably lead to these two great lost psychedelic classics.