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Roky Erickson’s isolated vocals for ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ are crazier than a bag full of snakes
08:38 am


Roky Erickson

Along with mashups, shreds, goofy gifs, LEGO and crazy things Christians do, the isolated vocal meme has pretty much worn out its welcome at the unabashedly hip Dangerous Minds. Even the word “meme” is dead. So we’re busy moving on to the next big thing…whatever that is. Don’t worry, we’ll find it. But in the meantime, humor me.

Roky’s isolated vocal track is from the studio session of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” synced to a clip of The 13th Floor Elevators performing the song on TV’s Where The Action Is in 1966. The vocal track is such a concentration of pure unadulterated rock and roll that I had to share it.

Erickson’s vocals are as primal, soulful and manic as it gets. From the first “yeah” to a series of blood-curdling “ahhhhhs” and yowls of “not coming home,” Erickson sounds like a snake handler who has fallen into a psychedelic briar patch. If moonshine made a noise, this would be it.

In the absence of sound, the head bobs and hand jive of The Where The Action Is dancers (The Action Kids) is some seriously spooky hoodoo - the rocking dead.


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Roky Erickson will blow your mind… again: Live in 2007
10:27 am


Roky Erickson
Rock and roll

I moved to in Austin 2009 but I’ve been regular a visitor off and on since the early 90s when I was invited to participate on a SXSW panel. I love the place. But despite all the talk of Austin being one of the music capitols of the world, there’s only a handful of rock musicians to come out of Austin that deserve to be called “legendary.” Roky Erickson is one of them and his influence (both as a solo artist and member of the incredible 13th Floor Elevators) infuses the Austin music scene like a magical elixir. A modern day rock and roll Paracelsus, Erickson alchemised Austin to such a degree that even today his influence has given birth to a vibrant psychedelic/garage revival embodied by, amongst many, The Black Angels, Amplified Heat, Shapes Have Fangs and White Denim.

Roky Erickson was by no means the only lysergically-inspired musician to have emerged from Austin in the mid-sixties. The list is long and includes mindblowers like Shiva’s Headband, Bubble Puppy, the Golden Dawn and Conqueroo. Bands who, at the dawn of Texas psychedelia, energized the epically historic acid shrine the Vulcan Gas Company. But decades after that incredible wave of musical and psychotropic experimentation, Roky is the musician that has garnered the most devoted and nurturing audience. In recent years, he’s made a comeback that is one of the most emotionally resonant and wrenching of any artist in the history of rock and roll - a real Phoenix from the ashes kind of resurrection. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving and beloved human being.

This footage shot in Oslo in 2007 shows Roky and his terrific band The Explosives at a high point in Roky’s resurgence as they tear into “Cold Night For Alligators.”

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Thomas Pynchon wears a Roky Erickson shirt on ‘The John Larroquette Show’ (sort of)

An item that caught my eye in a Sunday issue of the Los Angeles Times 20 years ago remains the strangest story I’ve yet come across in the entertainment section of a newspaper. It said that the novelist Thomas Pynchon, who has never consented to be photographed or interviewed by a journalist in his adult life (unless this 2001 Japanese Playboy interview is authentic), had given script notes to John Larroquette of Night Court fame for an episode of the actor’s new TV series. Stranger still, one of these notes revealed Pynchon’s preference for the great rock’n'roll singer Roky Erickson over Willy DeVille. What a marvelous time to be alive, I thought, with what remained of my mind. Remember, this was ten years before Pynchon appeared in an episode of The Simpsons looking like the Unknown Comic, and in company so incongruous as to beggar belief.

Unlike some sitcom actors you could name, Larroquette likes to read books. (He has an impressive collection of first editions with a particular focus on the work of Samuel Beckett.) For one episode in the first season of The John Larroquette Show, in which Larroquette played John Hemingway, the alcoholic manager of a bus station in St. Louis, the actor had an idea for a story about Pynchon. He sent the script to Pynchon’s agent—who I believe must have been Melanie Jackson, to whom Pynchon has been married since 1990—and the author obligingly replied. I’ve never seen the episode, “Newcomer,” which had aired several months before the article appeared, but I hold out hope it will turn up on YouTube.

Here’s the meat of the story reported by the Times:

Pynchon has a special love for the losers lost on the wayside of the American dream. So co-executive producer Larroquette decided to feature Pynchon in a script and sent the work-in-progress to Pynchon’s agent for approval.

“We made up a novel that he hasn’t written—and he gave us permission to say that he had written ‘Pandemonium of the Sun,’ ” Larroquette says.

The mysterious, never-photographed Pynchon refused, however, to let a “Larroquette” extra, in a plaid shirt, be videotaped from the rear and represented as Pynchon.

One scene called for Hemingway’s antagonist, the lunch counter operator, Dexter (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), to reveal, quite casually, that he’s a longtime pal of the much-traveled writer.

“You must have seen him, he was sitting here last night!” Dexter insists. The script says Pynchon was wearing a T-shirt with the picture of a certain, obscure musician.*

“Pynchon, through his agent, wrote back and says, ‘Would you please make it a picture of Rocky [sic] Erickson on the T-shirt?’ ” Larroquette says.

“I looked up Rocky Erickson. He was a psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll musician in the ‘60s who was institutionalized shortly thereafter and spent most of the rest of his life in an insane asylum. Somebody that Pynchon liked, I guess.”

*Willy DeVille of Mink Deville

Dr. Timothy Leary talks about his wish to meet Thomas Pynchon

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Dancing with a two-headed dog: Historic videos of Roky Erickson
02:00 pm


Roky Erickson

Here’s something quite special from the Dangerous Mind’s archives.   Roky Erickson’s life has been an American nightmare. That he somehow managed to dig deep within himself (with the help of therapy, his brother Sumner and stabilizing meds) to emerge, more or less intact, from a past in which he literally lost control of his life, endured imprisonment in a mental institute and electro-shock therapy, is a tale of torture turned to bittersweet triumph. The fact that he survived, is alive, and making stunningly good music today is astonishing and inspiring.

Erickson’s life is well-documented in books and film. A victim of small-town justice, Erickson was given the choice of jail time or a stint in an institute for the criminally insane. His crime: being different, being a rock ‘n’ roller and possessing marijuana.

Like most kids in the Sixties, I first encountered Roky’s music with the 13th Floor Elevators. Later, my punk band covered one of his solo classics “Two-headed Dog,” which has one of the coolest choruses in the history of rock:

Two-headed dog, two-headed dog
I’ve been working in the Kremlin
With a two-headed dog

If Erickson was insane, so are most artists that go out on a limb for their art. Rimbaud, Antonin Artaud, Sylvia Plath, Syd Barret…the list is so long I could spend the entire day compiling it. Some of these geniuses probably shouldn’t have taken mind-altering drugs, but whose business is it for me or anyone to pass judgment? Without the drugs, there are those on my theoretical list who may have burned out early but whose greatest creations were the result of a “derangement of the senses,” a term Rimbaud used to describe his efforts to enter a psychedelic state. All I know, is the work lives on and ultimately that’s all that matters in the here and now.

Erickson is a visionary and visionaries see things we don’t. Words are generally inadequate to the task of communicating the specifics of these visions, so the visionary turns to art and finds a method to articulate the indescribable in metaphor, myth and symbol. In describing his contact with aliens and demons, Roky may have used the only analogies he knew in order to describe his Muse (the voices in his head). He grew up with comic books and horror movies and they became his vernacular. As the poet Jack Spicer said in attempting to define the Muse (and I’m paraphrasing): “it’s the Martian that comes down and re-arranges the furniture in your head.” In Roky’s case the furniture was comprised of EC Comics, Mario Bava movies, The Outer Limits and whatever rustled through the woods on moonless Texas nights. Add a steady diet of LSD to the mix and that extraterrestrial Muse is moving furniture on several floors at the same time. No question that acid re-arranged Erickson’s senses for awhile, but what was it that made him fall over the edge into complete helplessness? My opinion: it was the cure that did it - a shock to the system that only a machine in co-operation with electrically-charged particles can induce. Take a man whose consciousness is malleable, zap his brain full of fire, and not only do the demons get burned, the angels do to.

In 1975, Erickson signed a notarized document in order to protect himself from continued attacks from Earthlings.

Fortunately, Roky Erickson never lost his connection to the meaningful voices in his head. He continues to walk with the zombies, sing with the spirits and dance with a two-headed dog. It could be surmised that the aliens weren’t the problem. It was the human beings that fucked Roky up.

Although he still sings about them, these days Erickson doesn’t talk about the aliens. Sharing such thoughts will bring you a shitload of problems. It’s best to keep quiet about where the songs come from. Better to be happy that they keep on coming.

The following video is two hours of clips compiled from Austin cable television and footage shot for Swedish TV. It includes some mesmerizing footage of Roky and musician/producer Mike Alvarez performing by an underground creek beneath the Congress Street bridge on Halloween night.

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Roky Erickson and The Black Angels will melt your mind

Art: John Howard
Roky Erickson performing “Bo Diddley” and “Two-Headed Dog” with The Black Angels at The El Rey Theater in 2008.

The man who helped launch psychedelic music is backed-up magnificently by a band whose members were born almost two decades after he released his first single. And they’re all from Austin, Texas, where the The Akashic record of rock and roll is on replay.

This is an excerpt from the undeniably fantastic Night Of The Vampire DVD.

If you dig John Howard’s poster featured above, check out his ultra-groovy website The dude’s a fucking genius. His 3-D posters will blow your frontal lobes out.

So fucking for real.

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Roky Erickson and The Black Angels live!
04:23 am


Roky Erickson
The Black Angels

Velvety dirge kings The Black Angels perform with fellow Austinite and high priest of Texas psychedelia Roky Erickson at this Halloween show at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. A perfect union. The Angels are the heirs to Roky’s tattered day-glo throne. Their album “Phosphene Dream” and “Grinderman” were my favorites of 2010.

If you like this video, there’s more here for purchase on DVD. 

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Roky Erickson live!
04:43 am


Roky Erickson

Here’s some video I shot of Roky Erickson with Okkervil River at SXSW last March. Resurrected.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment