The 13th Floor Elevators - Psychedelic Sounds Of...
What do we know about the picture-perfect debut LP by the 13th Floor Elevators? First off, it sounds fresh everytime it hits the platter. We know this. We know it was a record that was made alongside the heavy use of psychedelics, which were legal at that time in 1966. We know that it ushered in the era of psychedelic rock from 1967-1969.
What do we not know? Well casual listeners might be bewildered by that “chooglin” sound accompanying Roky Erickson’s voice. That was Tommy Hall, the mystical part-lyricist and part electric jug player. You may not know that fellow Texan Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators in late ‘65 before deciding to pack her bags for San Francisco. Perhaps, she took a little bit of Roky’s voice with her! You may not know that their use of “psychedelic” in their album title is the first use of the term on a rock album though there's some debate that The Deep’s Psychedelic Moods or The Blues Magoos’ Psychedelic Lollipop were right there with them in November 1966. While both of those LPs are also fantastic, I’ll give credit to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators. You also may not know that Roky Erickson wrote their hit, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” while a member of The Spades before presenting to his new band for recording in January of 1966! Pretty early in the psychedelic era for a tune so mind-bending and overtly trippy.
Whatever the case, The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators is the stuff of legend. The raw, primal sounds of the recording are equally matched by Erickson, Hall and Stacy Sutherland’s catchy songwriting and socially-aware lyrics. There are very few garage / psych records that can match the Elevators debut. LSD was a major influence on their music but it only heightened the music’s already rich and ground-breaking arrangements. Erickson’s voice is clearly a big part of their appeal not to mention Sutherland’s gnarly guitar contributions. They were a band that was very much in “turn-on” mode from the groaning vocalisms on “Fire Engine,” to the groovy and riotous “Reverberation” and the chugging and momentous “Roller Coaster.” And of course, Tommy Hall with his otherworldly and relentless electric jug.
Why is The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators the ESSENTIAL album? I will posit that it broke ground on a movement, started the psychedelic era and turned-on Austin and the rest of the USA. And oh yeah, it’s unequivocally great! Many will say that Easter Everywhere is the one to get, (some will answer Bull Of The Woods?), which is also superb however if not for The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, psychedelic rock might have never even happened. If you haven’t already, get on this roller coaster right away! (Dom)
Check out a track here.