23 January 2009
The 13th Floor Elevators - Psychedelic Sounds Of (FABULOUS PSYCHEDELIC GARAGE US 1966 Original Mono Edition)
Recorded during one single 8-hour session and housed in an eye-popping red/green sleeve, "The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators" is widely regarded as the first Psychedelic album, rivalled only by New York group "The Deep"'s "Psychedelic Moods" which appeared around the same time.
"The 13th Floor Elevators"' LP met with lots of interest, especially in underground circles, and went on to sell a remarkable 140.000 copies.
It remains to this day their most well-known record.
While the hit 45 was essentially a "Roky Erickson" vehicle, the LP has "Tommy Hall"'s signature all over it.
It is the first fully realized incarnation of his philosophy, as expressed in the sleeve design, liner notes, track sequencing and much of the lyrics.
It is to some extent a concept LP before there were concept LPs.
Only the two 45 tracks sound somewhat out of place.
The 13th Floor Elevators: Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall, Benny Thurman at Jade Room 1966
Opening with the observation that "Since Aristotle, man has organized his knowledge vertically", the famous liner notes differ markedly from the juvenile poetry/hype that made up the average 1966 rock LP back covers.
Written, though uncredited, by "Tommy Hall", the liner notes go on to observe that our language has been used primarily to identify - and consequently distinguish between - objects, rather than to focus on the relationship between them.
Such a way of thinking, "Tommy Hall" states, is keeping man from enjoying the perfect sanity which comes from being able to deal with life in its entirety.
The 13th Floor Elevators at La Maison, Houston, TX, circa May June 1966
This first half of "The 13th Floor Elevators" program declaration echoes familiar ideas from the history of philosophy.
The classic view in Nominalism rejects the idea of classifications and generalizations having any counterparts in reality.
However the typical Nominalist view is that language imposes classes and concepts upon a world that is disordered and random, in which every object is unique.
"Tommy Hall" points to a way out of the chaos: "The goal is to re-systematize our knowledge so that it would all be related horizontally".
In opposition to most modern philosophers who follow "Ludwig Wittgenstein"'s path and discard the idea of alternate realities behind language, "Tommy Hall"'s sentiment recalls "Martin Heidegger"'s thoughts on an 'ontological destruction' of language to reach the generic ideas or archetypes behind it.
"Science And Sanity", the major work of the Polish-born mathematician "Alfred Korzybski".
The basic ideas and most of the terminology above is derived directly from "Alfred Korzybski".
Though he is nowhere mentioned in "The 13th Floor Elevators" works, "Tommy Hall" has testified that he was "very much into Alfred Korzybski" at the time, and people who met the "The 13th Floor Elevators" at the time recall the great zeal with which "Tommy Hall" promoted the mathematician's ideas.
Originally published in 1933, "Science And Sanity" is now available in its 5th edition ("Institute Of General Semantics", New Jersey) and has become something of a cult work.
As outlined in the 800-page book "Alfred Korzybski"'s philosophy covers all aspects of the human experience - science, religion, psychology, everyday life - and insists that they must be reevaluated and re-approached through a non-Aristotelian perspective, escaping the 'unsane' condition man is currently in.
Much of the book deals with mathematic and semantic issues on an advanced technical level.
Before The 13th Floor Elevators: Benny Thurman, Stacy Sutherland, and John Ike Walton in The Lingsmen
"Tommy Hall" did not limit himself to rehashing "Alfred Korzybski".
In an intellectual quantum leap he suggested a modern and tangible way to effectuate the non-Aristotelian lifestyle that remains painfully abstract in "Alfred Korzybski" - Psychedelic drugs.
The second half of "Tommy Hall"'s liner notes point out that "Recently, it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state".
Through Psychedelics like LSD he can "restructure his thinking and change his language so that his thoughts bear more relation to his life and his problems, therefore approaching them more sanely".
The 13th Floor Elevators in early days: Tommy Hall, Benny Thurman, Roky Erickson, John Ike Walton and Stacy Sutherland
The terminology is Korzybskian, but the implementation is brand new.
The Huxleyan school of Psychedelics, as presented in "The Doors Of Perception" and "Heaven And Hell", was standard fare at a hip mid-60s college like the UT in Austin.
The various "Timothy Leary"/Alpert projects like IFIF and Millbrook had been well-chronicled in the mass media and their own publications, and one can assume "Tommy Hall", who had been experimenting with peyote and morning glory seeds at an early stage, read it all with great interest.
Perhaps even word of the marvellous, and on one level deeply epistemological, experiment initiated by "Ken Kesey" and The Pranksters' Bus Trip in 1964 and the subsequent Acid Tests in 1965-66 got around on the UT Campus - at a 1967 gig "The 13th Floor Elevators" tread the same suburban Houston ground the Pranksters had crossed three years earlier.
Roky Erickson and Stacy Sutherland in ACTION!!! TWIN lead guitar!!
The Psychedelic movement was underway - you didn't have to wait for a "Summer Of Love" or British Pop music to understand that.
"Tommy Hall" and "The 13th Floor Elevators" saw the Acid Revolution coming and hijacked it in its'purest infant form.
After the introduction "Tommy Hall" explains how each track on the LP corresponds to the non-Aristotelian LSD reevaluation.
A process, or "quest" is outlined, in which a protagonist passes from the 'old system' into a new state of awareness.
Each song corresponds to a certain stage or aspect of the process.
"Fire Engine" is said to deal with 'the pleasures of the quest', while "I've Seen Your Face Before" describes "a meeting with a person who radiates the essence of the quest".
The 45 track, "You're Gonna Miss Me", written by "Roky Erickson" well before "The 13th Floor Elevators" formed, is squeezed somewhat uncomfortably into the concept.
Much has been written about the music on "Psychedelic Sounds".
Though given a psychedelic twist through "Tommy Hall"'s otherworldly jug and an echo-laden production, most of it can be described as Garage or 60's Punk with influences from the British Beat and Rhythm'n'Blues scene - particularly "The Kinks" and "The Yardbirds" - as well as "Buddy Holly" and "Bob Dylan".
The 13th Floor Elevators at La Maison, Houston, TX, circa May June 1966
"Psychedelic Sounds Of" contains one of "The 13th Floor Elevators" two major masterpieces, "Roller Coaster".
Written by "Roky Erickson" and "Tommy Hall" as early as December 1965, it is a spellbinding 5-minute travelogue with adventurous tempo changes and lyrics that define Psychedelia:
After your trip life opens up
You start doing what you want to do
And you find out that the world
That you once feared
Gets what it has from you poster
This is not 'poetry' or the advanced lyricism of "Tommy Hall"'s later works.
The words do not read as well on paper as they sound on the record.
They are straightforward and instantly comprehensible, almost sermonizing.
With a few exceptions, this is true of the rest of the LP.
"Thru The Rhythm", another early song with lyrics written by "Tommy Hall" as a 'protest song against school' on request of "Stacy Sutherland", has a Dylanesque word-stacking quality - "You follow all the teachings they taught you to digest/They may be hard to swallow but they'll keep your tongue depressed" - note the brilliant wordplay on 'depressed' - with "Tommy Hall" sneaking in references to the Quest ("On my stilts I'm above the slime") as well.
Tracks like "Reverberation" and "Fire Engine" deal very explicitly with the LSD experience, while others seem like typical, though beautifully written, love songs.
One more track on "Psychedelic Sounds" deserve special mention: "Powell St. John"'s "Kingdom Of Heaven".
"Powell St. John" was a close friend of the band and a buddening songwriter himself -- he later turned up in the marginally successful San Francisco band Mother Earth.
"The 13th Floor Elevators" recorded half a dozen of "Powell St. John"'s songs through their career, of which no less than three are found on "Psychedelic Sounds".
The intelligent and independent "Powell St. John" obviously influenced the band in many ways, and some of his lyrics clearly point to the richer and more advanced poetry that "Tommy Hall" would evolve on the group's second LP.
From the aforementioned "Kingdom Of Heaven":
Through the stained glass window
Moonlight crashes on the ground
And splashes on the altar
And floats in liquid fire
It bathes you with its' glory
As you begin life anew
And the kingdom of heaven
Is within you.
see also "You're Gonna Miss Me: A Film About Roky Erickson"
and "Eye Mind:
The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound"