Monday, October 29, 2007

Roky Erickson at the El Rey


I saw Roky Erickson at the El Rey Theater last night. For those who don’t know, Roky Erickson was the leader of the 13th Floor Elevators, the world’s first psychedelic rock band. The Elevators were from Austin, Texas, of all places. In Austin, Roky and the band faced constant harassment from the authorities who didn’t like their long hair and their anti-authoritarian message. Roky was busted for possession of a single joint. For this crime he was sent for three years to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where we was subjected to electro-shock treatments. Whether it was insanity or not that led him to smoke dope, by the time he came out of Rusk he wasn’t quite right anymore.

In the late Seventies he started releasing records again. But his lyrical themes had changed from starry eyed tales of spiritual exploration to dark examinations of the hidden horrors of the mind. Songs like Two Headed Dog, I Think of Demons and Creature With the Atom Brain found an audience among punk rock kids and Roky seemed on the verge of a major comeback. His song Bermuda (about the Bermuda Triangle) was a major inspiration to this young punk guitarist at the time. But bad management deals left him broke and by the early Nineties Roky was under the care of his mother who was ill equipped to deal with his deepening mental difficulties.

In 2001, his youngest brother Sumner gained guardianship over Roky and began to see that he got the professional treatment he needed. These days Roky is back and better than he ever was.

I’d never seen Roky live before, but the show I witnesses last night blew away any of the many recorded live shows I’ve heard. He was in amazing form. The years have made his voice even more abrasive, which only makes him sound better than before. Brian Wilson, whose story is similar to Roky’s in many ways, usually has a piano in front of him when he does live shows nowadays, though he rarely plays it and even when he does the instrument is not audible to the audience. But Roky played mean rhythm guitar throughout the show and even a few solos, all very much audible to everyone in the theater.

He was backed by a band he called Evil Hook Wildlife E.T., though the members looked too young to have been the original Evil Hook Wildlife E.T. who backed him in the Eighties. In addition to a firey lead guitarist, and rockin’ drums and bass, there was also a steel guitar player who added just the right touch of country to the sound.

I met Roky the day before at a book signing held at the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Avenue in LA. He signed copies of his new biography Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, The Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound by Paul Drummond and presented the film Creature with the Atom Brain, the inspiration for his song of the same name. When I got up to the front of the line I asked him if he knew John Battles. John is a friend of mine from Chicago who kept a correspondence with Roky throughout the Eighties. Roky said he knew John, “He’s in Chicago,” he said, “He sends me lots of horror movie stuff!” I was impressed. With all he’s gone through it’s amazing he remembers his fans. “Thank you for bringing him up!” he said, smiling as he handed back my book.

Roky Erickson has always been kind of a hero of mine. Not for being crazy and taking drugs — which he hasn’t done for many years now anyway. But because of the way he sticks to what he does artistically in spite of everything. I’ve tried to approach my Zen teaching in the same way. Which is why you’re all cordially invited to bite me if you don’t like the way I do this stuff. Go find someone you do like and leave me the fuck alone, all right?

Anyway, for those that need to know, here’s the set Roky played:

1) Cold Night for Alligators 2) White Faces 3) Don’t Shake Me Lucifer 4) Mine, Mine, Mind 5) Two Headed Dog 6) Night of the Vampire 7) Bloody Hammer 8) Splash 1 9) The Beast is Coming 10) Creature With the Atom Brain 11) Starry Eyes 12) Before You Accuse Me 13) I Think of Demons 14) Bermuda 15) You’re Gonna Miss Me ENCORE: 1) The Interpreter 2) The Wind and More 3) I Walked With a Zombie

Got gigs in Ohio I should remind you about:

November 7th at 7PM I'll be at the Akron Public Library downtown.

November 7th (same day) 0DFx (the hardcore band I played bass in in the early 80s) will play the Matinee in Akron after the talk at the library.

November 9th my movie Cleveland's Screaming will be shown at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland. There'll also be live performances by 0DFx, CD Truth, Cheap Tragedies and This Moment in Black History.

November 10th 0DFx plays at the Spitfire Saloon in Cleveland.

November 12th I'll give a Zen talk at Lambert's Tattooing and Body Piercing (I kid you not) in manly, he-man Mansfield, Ohio at 7PM (Sponsored by the Mansfield Zen Center).

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

roky's a cool guy.. I heard henry rollins bought him his false teeth.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

The first time I heard of Roky was through the Antiseen's 1989 cd, "Noise for the Sake of Noise". They did a cover of "Two Headed Dog". It wasn't until several years later that I finally got to hear the original.
And I do mean ORIGINAL! There is no one even near Roky's ballpark.

link to the antiseen's version-
http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=5426031&BAB=E

Anonymous said...

The Antipsychiatry Coalition

Electroshock Therapy
What used to be called electroshock or electric shock treatment (EST) is now usually called "electroconvulsive therapy", often abbreviated ECT. The term is misleading, because ECT is not a form of therapy, despite the claims of its supporters. ECT causes brain damage, memory loss, and diminished intelligence.

Mysterion said...

Donovan to open TM Univ. With a lisp Thuthern Methodist Univ.

13th floor elevators

cool album covers (1), (), (2), _4_.

Excellent stuff - way ahead of their time.

Slip Inside this House:
One-eyed men aren't really reigning
They just march in place until
Two-eyed men with mystery training
Finally feel the power fill
Three-eyed men are not complaining.
They can yo-yo where they will
They slip inside this house as they pass by.
Don't pass it by.

Mysterion said...
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Mike said...

Wow thanks for posting this, I live in Austin and see Roky's photo up on the wall all the time at Hole in the Wall, for some reason I thought he was dead.. glad to know he is still kickin.. hope you come to Austin some time Brad.. it's the Live Music Capital of the World and all.. you can toss a rock over your shoulder blindfolded and hit a singer-songwriter or other musician.. tons of other well known acts have come out of here from Butthole Surfers to Willie Nelson..

babbles said...

Austin is such a phenomenal place to hang out. I am initially from DFW (Arlington) and used to try to get down to Austin as often as I could - tried to get a job at a company down there but nothing panned out . . . methinks too many other people trying to move down sucking up available jobs. Had to settle to move to central Pennsylvania, which is nearly by the very definition of it, the middle of nowhere.

This past year I meant to get down to Austin for SXSW but the tickets are now so crazy expensive it seems like the events priced themselves out of their fanbase.

Mysterion said...
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DB said...

Brad wrote, "you’re all cordially invited to bite me if you don’t like the way I do this stuff."

But what if we DO like the way you do this stuff? I was pleased by your letter posted on Nishijima's blog in which you talked about a practice centered on zazen with the ceremonial aspects and other trimmings relegated to second place. That stripped to bone approach is liberating, though I can understand why the austerity is a turnoff in some cases. And yet, I found myself nodding in agreement when I read that letter, so I'll pass on the biting thing.

Al Coleman said...

Roky rules!

Matt said...

Damn it I'm broke....anyone in the bay area wanna take me to a show????

Anonymous said...

Jesus.

My first cousin was sent to reform school for being in possession of just one joint. Those were the bad, early days.

Luckily for him, no one drugged him or inflicted ECT.

He got out and after a long stint as a shoemaker became a lawyer. He chose a law school that had an excellent project for assisting persons in prison. And he went to work for a firm that specialized in labor law and union advocacy.

Sheesh. If you locked everyone up who ever possessed a joint, the whole US would be one vast prison...

Its great that Roky got out.

I think every young person who aspires to an artistic career should be required to take basic course work on how to read contracts.

My parents were friends with one of the rare jazz musicians who did earn a good living. Its probably no accident that the guy's wife was his business manager. What was good for him was just as good for her, so she made damn sure her husband was paid a fair nights wage for a good nights' work..and made just as sure that what came in was wisely invested.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

If Brad's talking about the El Rey on Wilshire -- dude I totally used to live down the street from that joint. It was all mobbed-up at one point, and then closed for years. When they re-opened they had to get the neighbors okay. They told us the El Rey was going to be a classy dinner club with a drag show and all valet parking -- zero impact on us.

I don't know if they ever did that, but they quickly started renting the joint out every single night to anyone who wanted it, with no valet parking. So pretty much every 2AM (for years) we got drunken people shouting goodbye to each other, glass breaking, cars revving and peeling out, and people urinating on our lawn. The neighborhood cars got broken into weekly.

I had uncountable opportunities to practice, and I took none of them. I still have the baseball bat I kept by the door, though it's been retired recently in favor of a pimp stick I picked up at the Self-Realization Fellowship Center on Sunset.

Piece!

Rob

Anonymous said...

The current SG article is up and spectacular another 'Brad best' to add to the list.
This 3rd book you're working on must be primo, if your articles on SG are any indication.
Have a fun time in O hi O.
You are sumthin' Brad, you really are. One talented expressive writer. We are lucky indeed.
Take care of yourself man.

Anonymous said...

"...pleased by your letter posted on Nishijima's blog in which you talked about a practice centered on zazen with the ceremonial aspects and other trimmings relegated to second place."

If Brad is serious about this then why does he still wear robes? I suggest that if he does want to focus on zazen it would be better to stop wearing the robes and doing the ceremonial stuff badly (see his video). On the other hand maybe he feels he needs all this faux oriental shtick to fool the round eyes into taking him seriously?

If zazen is enough then drop the other bs and just "sit down and shut up!"

Anonymous said...

"If zazen is enough then drop the other bs and just "sit down and shut up!"

Or maybe you could just accept Brad's invitation to bite him. Either option's fine.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm sure Shinto is good fun, but there are plenty of western forms of animism i'd have a much closer cultural link too.

Anonymous said...

"Or maybe you could just accept Brad's invitation to bite him. Either option's fine."

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

that was an interesting post by Brad. I like it when he shows up here on mysterion's blog.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

my first Buddhist teacher worked part time at a nazi crematorium where he administered lethal doses of zyklon-B to adorable little gypsies and fluffy little jews who never did anything bad in their whole cute little lives. This would seem, on the surface, to be clearly Evil Livelihood, especially since it violates the first Buddhist precept; Do not take life.

But Tom's view is that these non-aryan races would have been put to death whether he did it or not. As long as he was the one doing it, he could do it in a way that is compassionate and caused as little pain as possible. Plus he went way beyond the call of duty to find slave-labor jobs for inmates who were sent to him without any compelling reason for being given a death sentence, even going so far as to take a lot of them into his own munitions factory.

muddy elephant said...

Great post Brad. Keep on keepin on.

Weasel Tracks said...

Maybe this is a good place to ask if anyone knows what that weird instrument is that's so prominent on the first (at least) 13th Floor Elevators album. I've heard that it's a saw with an electronic pickup.

Weasel Tracks said...

Maybe this is a good place to ask if anyone knows what that weird instrument is that's so prominent on the first (at least) 13th Floor Elevators album. I've heard that it's a saw with an electronic pickup.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

weasel tracks: "Maybe this is a good place to ask if anyone knows what that weird instrument is that's so prominent on the first (at least) 13th Floor Elevators album. I've heard that it's a saw with an electronic pickup."

its an Electric Jug

-AnonyMouse

Mysterion said...

Hall himself wasn’t a musician, but the band pulled him into performing, and he did so reluctantly, mic-ing up a traditional folk instrument: the jug. That otherworldly percolation was as much a definitive feature of the Elevators’ version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” as Roky’s hellfire holler on their first LP, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

The album reverberated with depth and lyrical meaning, appropriating the word “psychedelic” for a musical context; Hall’s liner notes reflected his interest in the philosophical writings of Alfred Korzybski, Peter Ouspensky, and particularly, G.I. Gurdjieff.

Yudo said...

Some anon wrote:

"If Brad is serious about this then why does he still wear robes? I suggest that if he does want to focus on zazen it would be better to stop wearing the robes and doing the ceremonial stuff badly (see his video). On the other hand maybe he feels he needs all this faux oriental shtick to fool the round eyes into taking him seriously?

If zazen is enough then drop the other bs and just "sit down and shut up!"

Hoang Po was doing his prostrations. The son of the Emperor who was a student at that temple aaked "Detached from the Buddha's quest, detached from the Dharma's quest, and detached from the Sangha's quest, here you are prostrating, Venerable. Why is that?"

Huang Po answered "Detached from the Buddha's quest, detached from the Dharma's quest, and detached from the Sangha's quest, I'm prostrating just the same, as you may see."

-- "What's the use of ritual acts?"

Huang Po slapped him. The novice replied "This is much too rude!";

Huang Po replied "Where do you think you are to speak of rudeness?" while slapping him once more.

Anonymous said...

the Jug is most useful where it is not.


hehe. couldnt resist

-anonyMouse

Mysterion said...
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PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Happy Halloween!

Jinzang said...

In my opinion, becoming a Buddhist is a big deal, and it's good to celebrate it. The same with birth, marriage, and so on. Do celebrations need a reason or justificaton? If so, what a sad, prosaic world we live in!

Mysterion, like so many terms used in Buddhism perversion has a specific meanining in Buddhism, and the English term can be misleading if you just take it as face value. Perversion means to mistake a thing for which it is not, like referring to Communist dictatorships as people's democracies. Usually one refers to the three perversions: taking what is suffering as pleasant, impermanent as permanent, and what lacks reality as real.

Anonymous said...

> It's one of the many poor
> tendencies of American Buddhism
> to believe these are things that
> are meant to be judged by anyone
> but the people who are actually
> involved.

It sounds like real buddhists
are just libertarians who sit.

Ain't nobody's business if you do.

Let it be...

laissez-faire zazen

Jared said...

"my first Buddhist teacher worked part time at a nazi crematorium where he administered lethal doses of zyklon-B to adorable little gypsies and fluffy little jews who never did anything bad in their whole cute little lives. This would seem, on the surface, to be clearly Evil Livelihood, especially since it violates the first Buddhist precept; Do not take life.

But Tom's view is that these non-aryan races would have been put to death whether he did it or not. As long as he was the one doing it, he could do it in a way that is compassionate and caused as little pain as possible. Plus he went way beyond the call of duty to find slave-labor jobs for inmates who were sent to him without any compelling reason for being given a death sentence, even going so far as to take a lot of them into his own munitions factory."

You, sir, are a thief of the words from my mouth!

some guy from new jersey said...

I'm slowly..turning.. into.. you.

Anonymous said...

who but a boddhisattva would take it upon themselves to reap the karma of taking life
and at the same time perform this act with skill and compassion?

we find ourselves in a certain situation
some of us self-immolate
Short of that, is to find a way in a wayless place.
Look at Dante's Inferno. YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE.
Sure, sitting here, now, in the comfy chair you can refuse any and all of it.
Reality pulls that comfy chair right out from under the cush tush. You're on your feet or you're on your ass. What's your next move?

>>cowpie

Anonymous said...

In morally ambiguous situations,
suicide is always an option.

Something along the lines of:
"Let the idiots and assholes create
their own hell. Whatever. I refuse
to participate. I'm outta here."

Anonymous said...

hey yo.. the sex pistols are on the late late show tonight. fyi

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 9:22 "I refuse to participate"


living with ambiguity, ambidextrous, androgenous,
ambiguity.

living together with all things

finding myself in hell, in a hell realm, at the helm
why then, the best I can for everyone, everything,
there is nothing sentimental about compassion.

The world is on fire right now. The world is a stick of incense.

gassho

Anonymous said...

"Let the idiots and assholes create
their own hell. Whatever. I refuse
to participate. I'm outta here."


*nods*

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't get pissed off by Brad's attitude, or crude expressiveness. I get pissed when I follow one of Mysterions many links, and then the comments take forEVER to reload when I come back here after!

Mysterion said...
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5-Track said...

I was at the El Rey, too, up in the balcony

What a blast!