If you look back from here chronologically, you might notice that the lion’s share of the best popular music was blues-centric. That’s not an accident. That was the zeitgeist. But look at how fast things changed! Never under-estimate the influence of drugs, psychedelia, and the Summer of Love. Psychedelic influence happened so quickly that it’s hard to understand from a modern perspective. Even purist blues artists fell under its spell for a while; the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Cream, and Eric Burden all changed their approach to music some time in 1967. Before any of this happened, though, there was the 13th Floor Elevators.
Here, in the middle of 1966, before most of America was even aware that an active drug culture was fomenting, along comes a band writing songs about the virtues of LSD. Each track plays like a paisley radio commercial expounding the joys of an expanded consciousness, in a musical style that is, by definition, ‘far out’. The band features an electric jug player, fer crissakes. Roky Erikson, the group’s leader, with jug player Tommy Hall and guitarist Stacy Sutherland, wrote songs that combined American ‘garage-punk’ with psychedelic ruminations. Most of the other garage-rock bands of the time (The Remains, The Sonics, The Standells, Count Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders, et. al.) each came up with a handful of awesome tracks, but had a hard time coming up with sufficient material to carry an entire album. Too often, garage/punk bands would flesh out their long players with sloppy cover tunes of early rock and roll or R&B classics. Essentially, Garage/Punk was a singles genre until the release of “The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.” Erikson and his bandmates concocted an album consisting completely of original songs that more or less marks the starting point for the drug counter-culture that would soon ensue.
Perhaps more so than anywhere else in rock and roll history, the chronological placement of this album is incredibly significant to recognizing its almost clairvoyant innovation. This album was released one summer before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The Grateful Dead didn’t yet exist at this point in time. LSD was still legal when this album was released!!!! The 13th Floor Elevators were complete freaks of their era, and you can hear them celebrating their sense of discovery on nearly every track of this remarkable record. The window(pane) didn’t stay open very long, and these guys jumped through before knowing what they might find on the other side. It’s mind-boggling to think how many other people soon made that very same trip.
October 1966 - Billboard Charted: Did Not Chart
Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Album #179 - September 1973
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