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

#72

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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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1001 Albums: Fifth Dimension

# 63

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Artist: The Byrds

Album: Fifth Dimension

Year: 1966

Length: 29:59

Genre: Folk Rock /Psychedelic Rock

“I don’t know who you think you are
I don’t know what you’re doing here

I don’t know what’s going on here
I don’t know how it’s supposed to be

I, I don’t have the vaguest notion
Whose it is or what it’s all for”

I actually listened to this album about a week ago. It’s taken myself a little time to sit and write it. It happens. Things happen. Felt like it was one thing after another just hitting me, one big thing falling on my shoulders at a time, bringing me down and beating me deeper to the ground. It’s hard to pick yourself up sometimes, but it’s doable and here I am, finally getting this post written.

Today is my Birthday. To most that sounds exciting and like a reason to celebrate. Not to me. In recent years I started detesting my Birthday. Dreading for this day to come around. I remember when I was young, when Birthday’s actually felt special. You’d wake up feeling like the king of the castle and parading around going “WOW I’M SEVEN!”. Nowadays it’s become a reminder that I’m getting older and instead of embracing it I find myself thinking “What have I done thus far in my life?” It’s a scary transition from youngling to adult and as the years slowly go by I find my Birthday slowly becoming more and more depressing. I’m not even old, I’m only 25.

25… the milestone birthday. I am now officially a quarter of a century. I still have no idea what I’m going to be doing a year from now and I feel like I don’t really have much to show for myself. But I’m guessing that’s normal. It’s also my champagne birthday. I’m 25 on the 25th. Will i celebrate in a big way for this milestone of milestones? Probably not. I’ll leave school, go home, do some stuff and then go to sleep. That’s how exciting Birthdays have become for me. I’ve quickly become disillusioned about it as I tried to keep that string of feeling special alive. But disappointing birthday after disappointing birthday just cut that string and made me realise, it’s just a day. Just a day like any other. It comes, it passes and then will be done. Nothing different. It’s just how it is I guess.

I barely got any birthday wishes either. Just parents, Sandra and some cousins. Big reason for that is because I removed it from Facebook. I’m not complaining. Part of the reason was I was fed up of receiving all these hollow, shallow birthday wishes from people I never talk to and barely know. It means nothing. It’s just people who got a ding on their facebook telling them some obscure friend they have has a birthday and in almost auto-pilot mode writes a quick message. The intentions are good and its nice… but it’s also completely meaningless. That’s what it’s become. So, I removed it and I actually feel better. The weight of the illusion of feeling special lifted from my shoulders and I can go about my day with no expectations whatsoever.

So, here I am, sitting in one of my classes, no one knows what today is and I’m writing this post. I wish I could say this album really shook my world and changed everything. I really wish I could say this album blew my mind and turned everything upside down. I only wish I could say that so I’d have way more to talk about. But it didn’t. If anything, it was just a really enjoyable album that I was able to listen to while cleaning and organising my room.

The Byrds seem to have grown quite a bit from their first album and are slowly transforming their sound from Folk Rock to Psychedelic Rock. A lot of this is due to the departure of Gene Clark, who was their main songwriter, and their lack of Bob Dylan covers, which is a surprising zero on this album. That being said, you can still hear the Dylan influence, especially on their first song, 5D, where the singer still sounds like he’s trying to do his best Dylan impression. But here they really sound like they’re falling into their own sound and even when the experimenting isn’t the greatest, there are moments of greatness on this album.

Eight Miles High was a huge hit for them, which s funny because it actually got banned from radio stations for it’s apparent references to drug use. What’s funnier is that it was actually just about aviation and flying a plane, absolutely nothing to do with drug use at all. But I guess they heard the word High and jumped to conclusions. 5D would also suffer the same fate, but where 5D was just a solid tune, Eight Miles High would become an important part of music history, being heavily influential in creating not only the sound of Psychedelic Rock and pioneering it but also opening the doors to the themes of drug use and acid trips that the genre was so famous for (even if that’s not what the song was about, future bands of the same genre would also find their songs getting banned from assumed drug references). Hiding the real theme of the song behind metaphors that evoke references of drugs would become a staple of a lot of psychedelic bands and where some were actually making direct references to it, others would just do it to fuck with the radio stations.

For the most part some of it is mostly forgettable and the rest is pretty good. The final song of the album was easily the most interesting, with it’s aviation theme and incorporating sounds of jet engines and wind to recreate the feel of being part of a jet flight (done as an ode to their good friend who made jets). It’s really a nice little lens into what bands were doing musically at the time. Experimenting with various sounds, reinventing genres (Folk Rock was used as a foundation and The Byrds were building up on it, mixing in Raga Rock and Indian influences to create the sound of Psychedelic Rock) and incorporating sound effects, which was still very new for mainstream music at the time.

Solid album, not my favourite. They were trying new thingsĀ and this album really reflects the construction of a genre and the build-up to the phenomenon. Other bands would do it better, but The Byrds made solid contributions to pioneering the genre.

 

Song of Choice: Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)

-Bosco