Friday, March 18, 2011
The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators - The 13th Floor Elevators
The 13th Floor Elevators
Is this the greatest psychedelic record ever? I say yes. I can only imagine the wonder a straight kid would have experienced encountering the eye on that extraordinary cover in 1966. Perhaps he heard "You're Gonna Miss Me" on the radio and wandered into the record store leafing through the T's, the Temptations, Them, the Turtles, the Tokens and then this record that must have seemed like it came from outer space. The eye in the pyramid, the crazy liner notes and that mesmerizing cover. Maybe he was bold enough to take a chance on it, to buy it and bring it home, sneaking it past his parents, and then giving it a spin only to hear music like he had never heard before. Roky's screaming vocals, the howling guitars, driving drums, relentless throbbing bass and that weird bubbling sound produced by the electric jug all swathed in a heavy layer of reverb that threatened to destroy his puny phonograph speakers. And then the lyrics, the wild ramblings of a drug crazed madman, no not Roky, but the inimitable Tommy Hall, the kid has never heard such weird stuff. If any record could have blown your mind this is the one. This is such a great record. I've heard "You're Gonna Miss Me" hundreds of times beginning with the original "Nuggets" comp where it was the best song on the record. Even today when I hear the opening guitar chords followed by the full band and the electric jug and finally Roky wailing away, my heart starts pumping faster and I start shaking like I'm having a seizure. That is truly a classic song. I think people will still be digging it a hundred years from now. The rest of the record is not far behind. "Roller Coaster," "Splash 1," "Reverberation" and "Fire Engine" are all great songs. Stacy Sutherland's underrated guitar work is tremendously exciting and when these guys are firing on all cylinders there is not a better band in the world. Even the electric jug adds to the kinetic roar on the faster songs, although I find it a little irritating on the slow ones. Maybe these guys only deserve co-credit for inventing psychedelic rock (along with John Lennon and the Yardbirds) but I'm pretty sure they invented the San Francisco sound even if they were from Texas. I've heard plenty of bootleg and archival recordings of the early San Francisco bands and they can't hold a candle to this. I'm positive that Roky taught Janis Joplin to sing, you can't listen to Big Brother and the Holding Company and not hear his influence. I don't have an original International Artists pressing, mine is the 1978 Radarscope Records re-issue put out by WEA in Greece of all places. You could find all sorts of oddball imports in Berkeley when I was there. As you probably know original copies of this are highly collectible and highly expensive. They aren't all that hard to find if you are willing to pay the price. I've seen empty album covers of this sell for about 4 times what I paid for my re-issue. I'm content with my lowly re-issue. If you don't already own this in some form, buy it, buy it now. This is an essential record that is just as awesome and compelling today as it was in 1966. Recommended for anyone who wants to take a trip without taking a drug.