DO THE ROKY POKY

 

Being a DeadHead, it stands to reason that I will probably have an affinity for psychedelic music. There was a lot of unique and genre stretching music to be recorded back in the 60s. Only a few bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane achieved enduring and widespread acclaim. And while some of the music can be dated or subpar, there are plenty of gems out there.

 

 One of the more twisted characters to emerge from this era was Roky Erickson. He led a band called The 13th Floor Elevator. They made their music in 1965-1966 which predates the Summer of Love. Texas may be a conservative state but they certainly do produce some true eccentrics.  Roky Erickson is a true trip. To call him a drug addled musician would be understatement. It should be noted that most of the band's lyrics were written by Tommy Hall who also played an amplified jug. Amazingly, this is your father's psychedelic rock.

 

As one would expect this music has been relegated to relative obscurity. The original albums were out of print but thanks to the rise of the CD much obscure music has been rescued. Through the Rhythm is a recording of one of the 13th Floor Elevators live performances. The label can not even give us a definitive date for when the concert took place. They suggest that it is probably from The Avalon in San Francisco. They don't even offer a probable date.

 

Well, perhaps this is the reason M.I.L. Multimedia is not a large recording label. They even list the author of Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll as (unknown). I'm inclined to think that a few dozen people may be familiar with Zimmerman. I suppose there is not a plethora of historians ready to investigate the origins of this recording. But there is still the music regardless of the when and where of its creation. This is one of those discs for the specialists. Doing the Roky Poky is an acquired taste.

 

The live recording includes both original songs as well as numerous covers. They open up the performance with a cover of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, the Solomon Burke classic. The sound is very raw. The term garage band applies here. The 13th Floor Elevators play with raucous abandon. They have often been compared to Love. This is a comparison that I can't see. Other than both bands being psychedelic and experimental, there is not much similarity in their music. Love was a lot cleaner and tighter with their songs.

 

 It should be noted that the sound quality of this recording is not all that good. It sounds like someone taped the show from the audience. There are highs and lows and a few hisses.  This will only appeal to people who have a specialized interest in music from this era. A cover of the Bo Diddley classic Before You Accuse Me follows. They do a romp on it. There is much feedback and raunchy guitar sounds. Among other highlights of the disc also include a version of The Kinks' classic You Really Got Me. They jam it out to over six minutes long. It's the longest track on the disc. They will not make anyone forget the classic brilliance of Dave Davies original riff but it's still a fun listen.

 

They do a few of their more noted original songs like Roller Coaster and Monkey Island. What's interesting is that they don't include the song Through the Rhythm that provides the name of the CD. I like their original song You Don't Know (How Young You Are). This is one of my favorites from the disc. It's just good fun garage band rock.

 

Other interesting moments arise with their covers of the Beatles' The Word and Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven. Roky plays some twisted riffs on these renditions. It is really a shame that the sound quality is not better than it is. I don't know if it would equal the raunchy glory of Quicksilver Messenger Service's John Cippolina but the guitar playing is entertaining and interesting.

This is one that I will recommend only to those with an affinity for 60s psychedelia. The sound quality is too poor to really convert the uninitiated. It is also suggested that one quaff a few brews before playing this disc. It makes for good--er--I was going to say clean but I don't know if that would be right. It's a lot of fun anyway and you do sometimes have to get your hands dirty.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

the recently deceased Roky Erickson--a true legend among psychedelic rockers

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