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Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson (born July 15, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, harmonica player, and guitarist from Texas. He was a founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators and a pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre.
Erickson was interested in music from his youth: he played piano from age 5 and took up guitar at 10. He attended school in Austin and dropped out of Travis High School in 1965, one month before graduating, rather than cut his hair to conform to the school dress code. His first notable group was The Spades, who scored a regional hit with Erickson's "We Sell Soul"; the song is included as an unlisted bonus track on Erickson's 1995 All That May Do My Rhyme CD and had also been adapted as "Don't Fall Down" by the 13th Floor Elevators for their first album. The Spades' original version of "You're Gonna Miss Me", later a hit for 13th Floor Elevators, was featured on the compilation album The Best of Pebbles Volume 1.
Erickson co-founded the 13th Floor Elevators in late 1965. He and bandmate Tommy Hall were the main songwriters. Early in her career, singer Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators, but Family Dog's Chet Helms persuaded her to go to San Francisco, California instead, where she found major fame.
In 1966 (Erickson was 19 years old) the band released their debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. The album had the band's only charting single, Erickson's "You're Gonna Miss Me." A stinging breakup song, the single remains probably Erickson's best-known work: it was a major hit on local charts in the U.S. southwest, and appeared at lower position on national singles charts as well. Critic Mark Deming writes that "If Roky Erickson had vanished from the face of the earth after The 13th Floor Elevators (band) released their epochal debut single, "You're Gonna Miss Me", in early 1966, in all likelihood he'd still be regarded as a legend among garage rock fanatics for his primal vocal wailing and feral harmonica work."
In 1967, the band followed up with Easter Everywhere, perhaps the band's most focused effort, featuring the epic track "Slip Inside This House", and a noted cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue".
The album Live was put out in 1968 by International Artists. It featured audience applause dubbed over studio recordings of cover versions, alternate takes and older material, and it had little to no input from the band.
|The 13th Floor Elevators arrest in early 1966|
In 1968, while performing at HemisFair, Erickson began speaking gibberish. He was soon diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntarily received electroconvulsive therapy.
The Elevators were vocal proponents of LSD, mescaline, DMT and marijuana use, and were subject to extra attention from law enforcement agencies. In 1969, Erickson was arrested for possession of a single marijuana joint in Austin. Facing a potential ten-year incarceration, Erickson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to avoid prison. He was first sent to the Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he was sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he was subjected to more forced electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, ultimately remaining in custody until 1972. Six tracks from the 1999 Erickson collection Never Say Goodbye were recorded during his time there.
In 1974, after having been released from state hospital, Erickson formed a new band which he called "Bleib alien", Bleib being an anagram of Bible and/or German for "stay," and "Alien" being a pun on the German word allein ("alone") - the phrase in German therefore being "remain alone." His new band exchanged the psychedelic sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators for a more hard rock sound that featured lyrics on old horror film and science fiction themes. "Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)" (produced by The Sir Douglas Quintet's Doug Sahm and inspired by Vladimir Demikhov's 1950s head transplant experiments) was released as a single.
The new band was renamed Roky Erickson and the Aliens. In 1979, after playing with the Reversible Cords on May Day at Raul's, Erickson recorded 15 new songs with producer Stu Cook, former bass player of Creedence Clearwater Revival. These efforts were released in two "overlapping" LPs — "I Think Of Demons" (CBS UK, 1980) and "The Evil One" (415 Records, 1981). Cook played bass on two tracks, "Sputnik" and "Bloody Hammer." Roky performed with The Nervebreakers as his backup band at The Palladium in Dallas in July 1979. A recording was issued on the French label New Rose and was recently re-issued elsewhere.
In 1982, Erickson asserted that a Martian had inhabited his body. He came to feel that, due to his being alien, human beings were attacking him psychically. A concerned friend enlisted a Notary Public to witness an official statement by Erickson that he was an alien; he hoped by declaring so publicly he would be in line with any "international laws" he might have been breaking. Erickson claimed the attacks then indeed stopped.
Several live albums of his older material have been released since then, and in 1990 Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, produced by WB executive Bill Bentley. It featured versions of Erickson's songs performed by The Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., ZZ Top, Poi Dog Pondering, Julian Cope, Butthole Surfers, Bongwater, John Wesley Harding, Doug Sahm and Primal Scream, among others. According to the liner notes, the title of the album came from a remark Erickson made to a friend who asked him to define psychedelic music, to which Erickson reportedly replied "It's where the pyramid meets the eye, man," an apparent reference to the Eye of Providence and the Great Seal of the United States.
♣ Roky Erickson and the Aliens (1980, CBS Records)
♣ The Evil One (1981, 415 Records)
♣ Don't Slander Me (1986, Pink Dust Records)
♣ Gremlins Have Pictures (1986, Pink Dust Records)
♣ Casting the Runes (1987, Five Hours Back)
♣ Holiday Inn Tapes (1987, Fan Club)
♣ Live at the Ritz 1987 (1988, Fan Club)
♣ Click Your Fingers Applauding The Play (1988, New Rose Records)
♣ Openers (1988, Five Hours Back)
♣ Live Dallas 1979 (1992, Fan Club)
♣ Beauty and the Beast (1993, Sympathy for the Record Industry)
♣ All That May Do My Rhyme (1995, Trance Syndicate)
♣ Demon Angel: A Day and a Night with Roky Erickson (1995, Triple X Records)
♣ Roky Erickson and Evilhook Wildlife (1995, Sympathy for the Record Industry)
♣ Never Say Goodbye (1999, Emperor Jones)
♣ Don't Knock the Rok! (2004, Norton Records)
♣ I Have Always Been Here Before (2005, Shout! Factory)
♣ Halloween (2008, Norton Records)
♣ True Love Cast Out All Evil (2010, ANTI- Records)
01. Cold Night For Alligators 03:35
02. White Faces 02:39
03. Don't Shake Me Lucifer 03:21
04. The Interpreter 02:52
05. The Beast 06:15
06. Bermuda 03:23
07. Splash 1 03:23
08. Creature With the Atom Brain 03:42
09. Starry Eyes 03:49
10. Bloody Hammer 05:57
11. Before You Accuse Me 03:30
12. Two Headed Dog 03:45
13. You're Gonna Miss Me 03:17
14. 'Audience' 01:39
15. Night of the Vampire 07:03
16. The Wind and More 06:08
17. I Walked With a Zombie 09:26
18. For You 03:46
19. Mine Mine Mind 03:18
20. Stand For The Fire Demon 07:55
21. I Love How You Love Me 02:58
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