Featuring the yelping vocals and visionary – occasionally demented – lyrics of Roky Erickson, The 13th Floor Elevators were one of the original acid-rock bands.
Formed in Texas in the mid-60s, The Elevators started as a garage rock outfit, scoring their one and only modest national hit with You’re Gonna Miss Me (1966).
Originally recorded in 1965 by the teenage Erickson’s first band, The Spades, the song was the perfect showcase for both Erickson’s blood-curdling shrieks and Tommy Hall’s demonic “electric jug”.
While Erickson’s loopy persona, along with Hall’s odd jug percussion, was the band’s most distinguishing feature, several members of the group’s original line-up contributed strong material to their albums.
Although these inconsistent efforts sometimes wander off into a cloudy haze, they also include sturdy folk-rock tunes and driving psychedelic rockers.
Trips to San Francisco established the group as up-and-coming underground favourites, but Erickson’s drug problems led to the singer’s commission to a state mental hospital in 1969.
He copped an insanity plea to beat a marijuana possession rap, but it was an ordeal from which he never fully recovered. Shock therapy and heavy medication followed until he was finally released three and a half years later.
With Erickson in Austin’s Rusk State Mental Hospital, guitarist Stacy Sutherland took the reins for their third and final album, Bull Of The Woods (1969), largely cobbled together from outtakes and re-recordings of early songs.
Erickson returned from hospital a changed man. Moving from Austin to Los Angeles he put a new band together called Bleib Alien, who would eventually record as Roky Erickson & The Aliens.
The 13th Floor Elevators were really only at full power for a couple of albums, although all of their releases for the legendary International Artists label – produced by, of all people, Kenny Rogers’ brother Leland – are revered among psychedelic collectors.
Live recordings and outtakes of the Elevators continue to surface.