Tuesday, 29 March 2011

13th FLOOR ELEVATORS






The 13th Floor Elevators were an American rock band from Austin, Texas formed by guitarist and vocalist Roky Erickson, electric jug player Tommy Hall, and guitarist Stacy Sutherland, which existed from 1965 to 1969. During their career, the band released four LPs and seven 45s for the International Artists record label.[2]
The 13th Floor Elevators found some commercial and artistic success in 1966-67, before dissolving amid legal troubles and drug use in late 1968. As one of the first psychedelic bands, their contemporary influence has been acknowledged by 1960s musicians such as Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Peter Albin of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Chris Gerniottis of Zakary Thaks. Their debut 45 "You're Gonna Miss Me", a national Billboard #55 hit in 1966, was featured on the 1972 compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, which is considered vital in the history of garage rock and the development of punk rock. Seminal punk band Television played their song "Fire Engine" live in the mid-1970s. In the 1980s-90s, the 13th Floor Elevators influenced important bands such as Primal Scream and Spacemen 3, both of whom covered their songs, and 14 Iced Bears who use an electric jug on their single "Beautiful Child". In 2009 the International Artists released a ten CD box set entitled Sign of the 3-Eyed Men, which included the mono and new, alternate stereo mixes of the original albums together with two albums of previously unreleased material and a number of rare live recordings.


The 13th Floor Elevators emerged on the local Austin music scene in December 1965, where they were contemporary to bands such as The Wig and The Babycakes, and later followed by Shiva's Headband and The Conqueroo. The band was formed when Roky Erickson left his group The Spades, and joined up with Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton who had been playing Texas coastal towns as The Lingsmen.Tommy Hall was instrumental in bringing the band members together, and joined the group as lyricist and electric jug player.
The band's name was developed from a suggestion by drummer John Ike Walton to use the name "Elevators" and Clementine Hall added "13th Floor". In addition to an awareness that a number of tall buildings don't have a 13th floor, it has been noted that the letter "M" (for marijuana) is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.
In early January 1966, the band was brought to Houston by producer Gordon Bynum to record two songs to be released as a 45 on his newly formed Contact label. The songs were Erickson's "You're Gonna Miss Me", and Hall-Sutherland's "Tried to Hide". The 45 was a major success in Austin, and made an impression in other Texas cities. Some months later, the International Artists label picked it up and re-released it.
Throughout the Spring of 1966, the group toured extensively in Texas, playing clubs in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. They also played on live teen dance shows on TV, such as Sumpin Else, in Dallas, and The Larry Kane Show in Houston. During the Summer, the IA re-release of "You're Gonna Miss Me" became popular outside Texas, especially in Miami, Detroit, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In October 1966, it peaked on the national Billboard chart at the #55 position. Prompted by the success of the 45 the Elevators toured the west coast, made two nationally televised appearances for Dick Clark, and played several dates at the San Francisco ballrooms The Fillmore and The Avalon.
The International Artists record label in Houston, also home to contemporary Texas underground groups such as Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy, signed the Elevators to a record contract and released the album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators in November 1966, which became popular among the burgeoning counterculture.[3] Tommy Hall's sleeve-notes for the album, which advocated chemical agents (such as LSD) as a gateway to a higher, 'non-Aristotelian' state of consciousness, has also contributed to the album's legendary status.
During their California tour the band shared bills with Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Great Society with Grace Slick, and Moby Grape. Upon returning to Texas in early 1967, they released a 45 "Levitation" and continued to play live in Austin, Houston and other Texan cities. November 1967 saw the release of the band's second album, the psychedelic masterwork Easter Everywhere. Highlighted by the opening track, the transcendental epic "Slip Inside This House", the album is rated by most critics and fans as their finest work. It also featured a cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", a version Dylan is rumored to have called his favorite.[3] However, shortly before work began on Easter Everywhere, Walton and Leatherman left the band, due not only to disputes over mismanagement of the band's career by International Artists, but also due to a fundamental disagreement between Walton and Hall over the latter's overzealous advocacy of the use of LSD in the pursuit of achieving a higher state of human consciousness. As a result, they were not credited in the Easter Everywhere sleevenotes, despite having appeared on "(I've Got) Levitation" and "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)."
Singer Janis Joplin was a close associate of Clementine Hall and the band. She opened for the band at a benefit concert in Austin, and considered joining the group prior to heading to San Francisco and joining Big Brother and the Holding Company. Her style of singing has been described as having been influenced by Erickson's trademark screaming and yelping as showcased in "You're Gonna Miss Me."
Drug overuse and related legal problems left the band in a state of constant turmoil, which took its toll, both physically and mentally, on the members. In 1969, facing a felony marijuana possession charge, Roky Erickson chose to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital rather than serve a prison term, thus signaling the end of the band's career.
Bull of the Woods, released in 1969, was the 13th Floor Elevators' last released album on which they worked as a group and was largely the work of Stacy Sutherland. Erickson, due to health and legal problems, and Tommy Hall were only involved with a few tracks, including "Livin' On," "Never Another," "Dear Doctor Doom," and "May the Circle Remain Unbroken".
Music

During the initial months of their existence as a band, the electric guitars used both by Roky Erickson and Stacy Sutherland were Gibson ES-335s. Sutherland's pioneering use of reverb and echo, and bluesy, acid-drenched guitar predates such bands as The Allman Brothers Band and ZZ Top. According to Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top in an article that originally appeared in Vintage Guitar magazine, the guitars were run through "Black-Face" Twin Reverbs with both guitarists using external Fender "tank" reverb units and Gibson "Maestro" Fuzz-tones as distortion devices.[citation needed]
A special aspect of The Elevators' sound came from Tommy Hall's innovative electric jug. The jug, a crock-jug with a microphone held up to it while it was being blown, sounded somewhat like a cross between a minimoog and cuica drum. In contrast to traditional musical jug technique, Hall did not blow into the jug to produce a tuba-like sound. Instead, he vocalized musical runs into the mouth of the jug, using the jug to create echo and distortion of his voice. When playing live, he held the microphone up to the mouth of the jug, but when recording the Easter Everywhere album, the recording engineer placed a microphone inside the jug to enhance the sound.
The band was unique, even in the 1960s, in that they (at Tommy Hall's urging) played most of their live shows and recorded their albums while under the influence of LSD, and built their lifestyle and music around the psychedelic experience. Intellectual and esoteric influences helped shape their work, which shows traces of Gurdjieff, the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, the psychedelic philosophy of Timothy Leary, and Tantric meditation.

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