Easter Everywhere – 13th Floor Elevators
From Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Screw You We’re From Texas": “But when it comes to music my friend, I believe these words are as true as St. John the Revelator’s – Our Mr. Vaughan was the best there ever was and no band was cooler than the 13th Floor Elevators.”
They appeared in Austin in 1965, and they had mostly run their course by 1969, but the 13th Floor Elevators have been inspiring bands right up until today. If they didn’t invent psychedelic rock, they were its most important early impulse. Easter Everywhere was their second album. The first was The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators – the first known use of “psychedelic” in reference to rock & roll.
13th Floor Elevators were fronted by the formidable Roky Erickson, who sang and played lead guitar. He did both at a level far above many of the lo-fi garage acts on this list. He may have been the equal of many other great blues guitarists had personal problems not derailed his career.
But what gave the Elevators a sound unlike any other band for many decades was the electric jug playing of primary songwriter Tommy Hall. Hall was not a trained musician – in fact, he ran as far away from music as you can get in later years. But he creates sounds on that jug that are indescribable. There is a tremulous throbbing that you might think is a synthesizer. Only there were no workable synths back in the mid-‘60s. That’s Hall’s jug.
Hall also wrote trippy, exploratory lyrics that far surpassed typical mid-‘60s rock. They could be pretentious, but with such cool music backing them up, they never became overwhelming. Songs like “Slip Inside This House” and “Slide Machine” land at the nexus of King Crimson and the Grateful Dead. Then there is their unique take on Dylan – the weirdly cacophonous version of “(It’s All Over Now) Baby Blue.”
Erikson would struggle with mental health issues for most of his life, most likely exacerbated by his heavy drug use. Hall quit music and took a deep dive into Scientology. But when they were together in the mid-‘60s, they produced one of the greatest psychedelic rock albums of all time. For a few years there, no band was cooler.