1001 Albums: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

#72

Album_72_Original

Artist: The 13th Floor Elevators

Album: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Year: 1966

Length: 34:31

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Garage Rock

“Oh yeah!
Ahh!
You’re gonna wake up one morning as the sun greets the dawn.
You’re gonna wake up one morning as the sun greets the dawn.
You’re gonna look around in your mind, girl, you’re gonna find that
I’m gone.”

Woo-hee, what a week I’m experiencing. Nothing really out of the ordinary. I’ve hit the end of my semester at school so all my assignments are due and I have about five exams to study for. On top of all that, I was at a shoot all weekend and am trying to make a demo reel (2 actually) for another class. It’s nothing crazy, but oh boy is is overwhelming when all piled on at the same time. Especially the demo reel. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to wrap my head around it, like my brain goes into overload when thinking of how to go about making one. I need one, it’s important. Every job I apply for asks me to submit one, so it’s absolutely necessary that I have one. But man… am I having difficulty doing it. How do you show off your best work in 60 seconds or less? I don’t know… I don’t know!!!!

Either way, I got to lose myself in the crazy psychedelia that is known as the 13th Floor Elevators. A garage band that delved into psychedelic music, they managed to take the best of both worlds and blend the two styles quite seamlessly creating a sound that can only be characterized as their own. I remember hearing their biggest hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in a psychedelic rock class I took back in University. From the second Roky Erickson blares his voice in that raspy, aggressive way, wailing and screaming with all the angst of a 19 year old, I knew I was in for something special. But it didn’t end there. Backing him up is some dirty, raw sounding guitars, heavy drum beats and some rave-up instrumentals enough to send you on one hell of an acid trip. If that wasn’t enough, accompanying these instrumental is a strangely, odd bubbling and gurgling sound, an instrument not easily recognizable. What could this mystery instrument be?

Obviously it’s the electric jug.

41X1F0KEBWL

wait… what? A Cuisinart?

Ok, so it’s obviously not that type of electric jug, but this seems to be an instrument so obscure I couldn’t even find a picture of it on Google. So please if you do, do share it because that’s something I’d love to see.

In all seriousness though, the band was actually using an electric jug. How they made the jug electric in the first place is beyond my understanding and falls in the realms of when we all make the joke that we’ll join a band and play the electric triangle. Everyone who finds this out is always beyond astonished, but in the best way possible. The fact that they incorporated such a ludicrous instrument just adds to how awesome they really are.

When listening to the album part of me was a little sad that Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction wasn’t included on this list. But, in hindsight, I can see why. Psychotic Reaction is another great example of a garage band that blends psychedelia with it’s style very well and has some amazing rave-ups in their songs. But, they don’t really do anything different from the 13th Floor Elevators and I guess if you had to choose one or the other the 13th Floor Elevators is the obvious choice. But if you like this, check out Psychotic Reaction, you won’t be disappointed.

What makes this album so great is its aggressive nature that overlaps and mixes into mind-bending psychedelia. Just listen to a song like “Roller Coaster”. With the guitars twanging away angrily, the electric jug player bubbling the jug like a fucking madman and the build-up to an insane mind trip into the warped minds of a group of teenagers grasping desperately to hold on to the little they have left of reality. It’s kind of weird for me to say that especially knowing the singer, Roky Erickson, would later be convicted into a mental institution after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Knowing this adds a much darker undertone to the whole album, especially since Roky screams and wails like he’s trying to expel a demon from his very core.

believe it or not, the band was also known for doing live shows and recording their albums while under the influence of LSD, which in a lot of ways makes a lot of sense. Everything from their lyrics to their acid-drenched guitar work, where Stacy Sutherland would revolutionize the use of reverb and echo to create their unique sound. They really wanted to keep the drug-fuelled lifestyle and experience alive and they made sure the listener experienced it with them (which would become a staple of Psychedelic music).

This definitely set a lot of groundwork and would be an important album for Psychedelic Rock, often being credited as the first psychedelic band and have gone on to influence bands such as ZZ Top, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Primal Scream, the Butthole Surfers and REM. Words can’t really properly explain what this album does and it can only really be experienced as a lens into the mind of a drug addled angsty teen with a severe mental disorder. There’s really nothing else quite like it and it manages to really stand out as it’s own thing at the time it came out, leaving it’s mark in Psychedelic history.

Song of Choice: Roller Coaster

-Bosco

Note: Schizophrenia is an incredibly debilitating mental disorder that can deeply affect those who have it and their loved ones. It should never be romanticised or taken lightly. (Having personally known people affected by it).

Edit: Found out the secret to the Jug. Seems they just held a microphone up to the jug… a little anti-climactic.

 

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