Tuesday, November 22, 2022

“They Started out Unbelievable and They Ended That Way Too”: Roky Erickson Recalls the 13th Floor Elevators’ Rise From Obscurity to Psychedelic Rock Heroes

Reportedly, it was Elevators guitarist Stacy Sutherland who coined the term psychedelic rock, leading the Austin, Texas, group to title its 1966 debut The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

Sutherland’s co-architect in the group’s intergalactic electric guitar tones was lead singer Roky Erickson.

Running their Gibson ES-330(opens in new tab)s through Fender blackface Twin Reverbs(opens in new tab), Fender Reverb(opens in new tab) units and Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tones(opens in new tab), they kicked up a gnarly echo-and-reverb-laden sound that served as a template for many other psychedelic groups to come.

As Erickson revealed in this 1980 interview clip, the Elevators assumed they had an exclusive on the style until they heard the Yardbirds’ “Shapes of Things.”

“That really bothered us, ’cause we had some stuff that we’d already recorded and hadn’t been released,” he said.

When we heard ‘Shapes of Things,’ we said, ‘My God! We’d better get our stuff out, man!’ Roky Erickson

Speaking of their pioneering days during the mid-‘60s, Erickson recalled it was, “Real strange for the Elevators to be the only ones doing this feedback and standing on your amplifier and banging your guitar and hear groups like the Who and the Yardbirds who were doing that too.

“Like when we heard ‘Shapes of Things,’ we said, ‘My God! We’d better get our stuff out, man!’ …These cats are in on it!”

Soon after, the group’s 1966 debut single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” reached 55 on the Billboard Hot 100.

They remained a cult act to the end, but in their brief tenure the 13th Floor Elevators helped launch psychedelic rock from obscurity to the record charts.

Browse the 13th Floor Elevators catalog here(opens in new tab).

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