Book Review: Rock & Roll Books

Gift guide

Rock & Roll Books

Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sounds

by Paul Drummond
Process Media, 424 pp., $22.95

Until recently, the music and the history of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators existed in the same hazy dimension. The guitars were distorted; the facts even more so. Whereas Keven McAlester's emotionally unsettling 2005 documentary, You're Gonna Miss Me, focused primarily on Erickson's redemptive journey toward independence as a means to understand his troubled past, British author Paul Drummond takes the opposite approach. Nine years in the making, Eye Mind quickly dispatches the last two decades of Erickson's enigmatic career and loses itself in the origins of Elevators, dating back to the group's early years in Austin's Ghetto with Janis Joplin and their residencies at the Jade Room and New Orleans Club. Drummond chronicles the band's near-constant experimentation with drugs (and subsequent problems with the law), their trips in and to San Francisco, and the esoteric spirituality of jug-blower Tommy Hall. Most intriguing are the firsthand (and often conflicting) accounts provided by the band members and the likes of late Avalon Ballroom promoter Chet Helms and Casey Monahan of the Texas Music Office. The author's unfamiliarity with Austin's musical history prevents him from exploring the connection between the Elevators and contemporary artists like Doug Sahm (who produced Erickson's debut single), Townes Van Zandt, Daniel Johnston, and the Butthole Surfers. Despite Drummond's best efforts, some of the facts remain fuzzy, especially the smaller details, like where the Sex Pistols played in Texas, while the aura and mystique of the group's psychedelic sounds, thankfully, remain in a universe of their own.

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Roky Erickson, 13th Floor Elevators

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