13th Floor Elevators – Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators Mono LP (Sundazed)

As we delve further into the HD age, where the unplucked hairs on a famed celebrity’s face are readily visible on TV screens and radio and TV stations will be going all HD in the next year or so, there seems to be a sort of counter-revolution going on.

Flying in the face of all this fidelity and high-tech precision reproduction of everything we experience, there seems to be a corresponding backlash, yearning for sounds more pure to the artist’s intent and era. In this vein, I recently acquired this Mono edition LP of one of rock’s seminal albums, and a personal favorite, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

The 13th Floor Elevators were wild-eyed visionaries. Led by seminal rock icon Roky Erickson, and founder Tommy Hall, they were one of the pioneering groups in psychedelic rock in the 1960s. Hall’s philosophy, heavily rooted in altered consciousness (LSD), and re-evaluation of language through the lenses of mathematics and numerology, is an overarching theme of this, their debut album. While not their creative peak, the album was notable for being one of the first to coin the descriptor psychedelic for music, and its starkly different sound and mood to most of the music flitting about the 60s.

The mono format serves the record well, enhancing the unhinged quality of the music and recording. The acid-drenched guitars, edges of notes crackling and singed, blare out through the single channel and it truly feels as if the Elevators are verging on overloading your speakers.

Erickson’s characteristic, maniacal howl and yelp are as vital and haunting as ever. Hall’s distinctive work on the electric jug (a miked crock jug) alternates between propulsive on tracks like the Elevators’ only single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” and eerie, filled with mania as on “Roller Coaster.”

This album is a gem, finding the Elevators traversing the territories of folk, garage, blues and psychedelia, often seamlessly as on the almost-tropical “I’ve Seen Your Face Before – (Splash 1).” The upbeat tune “Fire Engine” is one of the only tracks where things feel forced, over the top with ecstasy. This is because the Elevator’s true strength lies in their moodier and psychedelic material. “Reverberation” with its weighty distortion, pounding bass and beat, hypnotically swirling guitar riffs and Erickson’s calm-yet-disturbed vocals. The gorgeous slow-burning “Kingdom of Heaven,” drenched in moody blues guitar, is a highlight and one of a trio of tracks not written by Erickson and/or Hall.

This album is truly one of the great works of rock. It stands the test of time, sounding as fresh to these ears in 2008 as it did the first time I heard it in my teens (and I’m sure as fresh as it sounded to ears in the late 60s). Its bold concepts, both lyrically and musically, are still daring and avant-mainstream today. The sounds just as powerful. The music just as remarkable, showcasing the Elevator’s masterful control over mood. It’s little wonder the Elevators, and particularly the tragic and triumphant figure of Roky Erickson, inspired and influenced so many major and diverse figures in music including Henry Rollins, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, the White Stripes, Sonic Youth and many more. Undoubtedly they will remain a staple influence for generations.

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5 Responses to “13th Floor Elevators – Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators Mono LP (Sundazed)”

  1. Local prog rockers Bad Liquor Pond do a kick ass cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”

  2. Jaguar says:

    Wow. After all these years, glad to see the 13th Floor Elevators still getting the loving.

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  4. thomas Redmond says:

    this album is so fucking good.

  5. DouglasEC says:

    I saw them at a place called “Of Our Own” in University Village (outside Rice U.) in Houston late 60s – the electric jug has to be seen to be believed! The story going around when Roky got busted was that he chose to go to Rusk State Mental Hospital in TX rather than accept the mandatory (at the time) life in prison for being busted with a joint (and a possible planted joint at that – Houston police then were not above that). Years of thorazine and electroshock may have ended up being worse than prison for him. Roky moved into my neighborhood (Montrose) in Houston before finally going to Austin and eventually getting The Aliens together – “(Working in the Kremlin with a) Two-Headed Dog,” anyone remember this fine psychedelic nugget? Like Syd Barrett, “he lives in a time of his own” but still lives and creates. I actually had a class at Rice where we analyzed “Slip Inside This House” as a class project! Amazing song, long may Roky rock! And, Sundazed is famed for good masters and great vinyl, so this album should be a real time warp. I didn’t know the original was mono – I always thought mine was stereo and didn’t see any “electronically reprocessed” warnings…

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