The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators & 10 Early Texas Psych Bands You Should Know

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Forty-six years ago today, rock and roll got a hell of a lot weirder in the state of Texas. On Nov. 30, 1966, Austin garage band The 13th Floor Elevators released their The Psychedelic Sounds Of album on Houston's International Artists label. Powered by the raw, fluttering classic "You're Gonna Miss Me," the record helped fuel an acid explosion in rock from Buffalo Bayou to San Francisco Bay.

This is a record that still sounds edgy and unbound today. In 1966, it must have sounded shocking.

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It's Roky Erickson! In Bobblehead Form!

Aggronautix/Paul Schumacher
Tiny, tiny bloody hammers.
The fine folks at punk toy firm Aggronautix, famous for their G.G. Allin and Keith Morris "throbbleheads," have now outdone themselves with the release this week of their Roky Erickson figure. He's depicted in his early '80s, "Evil One" form, with full beard and thousand-yard stare.

Rocks Off has long been fans of Aggronautix since we acquired one of their bloodied and half-nude Allin bobbleheads for our desk here at the office. They have also made Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams, Tesco Vee, Blag Dahlia, and Milo Aukerman into bobbles. The Erickson bobblehead seems to be their first foray into garage-rock.

You can order all of the Aggronautix bobbleheads at their site, and take it from us they are worthy investments. The sight of a mini-G.G. Allin is a for-sure icebreaker in any business setting. Except maybe a funeral-home office.

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Roy Head, Sir Douglas Quintet Help SugarHill Swing Into The Psychedelic '60s

Ed Note: All this week, to celebrate the release of Dr. Roger Wood and Andy Bradley's new book House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios and preview this weekend's related festivities at Sig's Lagoon and the Continental Club, Rocks Off and Lonesome Onry and Mean are looking at the history of the legendary Houston recording compound, decade by decade. Monday, we did the 1940s; Tuesday, the '50s; and today, the '60s

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For Gold Star Studios, the huge wave of country hits of the 1950s went out like the tides as the 1960s arrived. By mid-1961, Gene Thomas had arrived on the scene with his blue-eyed soul hit "Sometimes," which would later be covered by Doug Sahm in the '70s. Bluesman Joe Hinton, part of Don Robey's Duke-Peacock/Back Beat roster, had three hits from Oct. 1963 to Jan. 1965, including a No. 13 with his version of Willie Nelson's "Funny (How Time Slips Away)."

But with the arrival of the Beatles, the pop music industry immediately began to adjust itself to the British Invasion sound. Enter the Ragin' Cajun, Huey P. Meaux, and San Antonio rockers Sir Douglas Quintet. Climbing rapidly to No. 13 in mid-1965, "She's About A Mover" was the first effective Texas shot fired at the Limey invaders, and established the Quintet on the national pop culture scene.

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Founder of Garage Legends the Seeds Passes Away in Austin

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No one is pushing too hard on Sky Saxon anymore. The leader of '60s garage band the Seeds died overnight in Austin, where he recently relocated. He had been in critical condition in the ICU at St. David's South Austin Hospital, Saxon's publicist Jennifer Marchand said.

Saxon, born Richard Marsh, is credited with being a founder of the Flower Power movement in rock. "Pushin' Too Hard" was his only song to ever make the Top 40, but Saxon leaves behind a large body of work and an important legacy to American pop music. He's been described as one of the progenitors of garage rock and psychedelia, and like Roky Erickson and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, is frequently cited as an important proto-punk influence.

Despite largely disappearing from the pop radar screen by the end of the '60s, Saxon stayed involved in music and art the rest of his life. Perhaps the most ironic thing about his passing is that he had booked a long tour for this fall with fellow Nuggets A-listers Electric Prunes and Love.

I Walked With a Zombie: A Roky Erickson Primer

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Chris Gray
Okkervil River's Will Sheff (left) and Roky Erickson at the 2008 Austin Music Awards
Rocks Off is starting to get really excited about Roky Erickson's show at the Continental Club Wednesday night. As of around noon Tuesday, about 50 tickets were left, available at Sig's Lagoon. Sig's owner Tomas Escalante said a "handful" would be available at the door as well.

Unlike most Houstonians - according to Andrew Dansby's fine article in the Chronicle this past Sunday, Erickson last played Houston at the Consolidated Arts Warehouse in 1984 - Rocks Off has seen the man with the high baptismal glow several times in the past few years.

The best was probably last fall at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where we wrote, "Warping Buddy Holly, the Beatles and the old R&B nugget "Before You Accuse Me," Erickson and band's in-the-red performance vanquished - momentarily, anyway - whatever evil spirits gave rise to the Texas rock icon's songs."

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R.I.P. John Byrne (Count Five)

Count Five, "Psychotic Reaction"

Here comes sad news that will bring down us dancing drunken fools who make our way up to Boondocks every third Saturday for Reverberation. John Byrne, lead singer of Nuggets mainstays the Count Five, has passed away at the age of 61.

psychotic reaction.jpgThe San Jose-based band's biggest hit, 1966's "Psychotic Reaction" is now a garage-rock staple, a real dance-ready harmonica freak-out. Anytime someone makes a definitive '60s garage compilation, you can count on this track making an appearance along with their peers like the Standells and the Seeds. Rock journalist Christ-figure Lester Bangs championed the Five extensively during his career, even titling landmark essay "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" after the band's hit, and check out Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' live cover here

The Five had a pseudo-goth feel, before bands like the Cramps could even buy cigarettes. They were known to wear Dracula-style capes on stage and drive to gigs in a converted hearse. Like many bands in the mid-'60s, the Count Five didn't last too long, undone by changing tastes, and you know, the '60s. Byrne and the rest of the band only reconvened to accept various awards and play the odd one-off nostalgia gig. - Craig Hlavaty 

Slip Inside This House: MP3s from Thirteenth Floor Elevators and The Chaparral Trio

Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Baby Blue"

Yes, I’m well aware that the Thirteenth Floor Elevators were not Houstonians. The band many claim was the first to use the descriptive term “psychedelic” for its music was based in Austin; a few members moved there from the small Hill Country town of Kerrville. But Houston holds a very fair stake in the band’s existence.

Save a few posthumous releases, the Elevators' entire output came out on Lelan Rogers’ (brother of Kenny) Houston-based International Artists label. The Elevators recorded in Houston often, including this dreamy take on Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” done at Walt Andrus’ Andrus Studios.

You can also find this cut on the Elevators' standout 1967 LP Easter Everywhere, one of the finest psychedelic albums ever recorded. If you want to learn more about the group, try reading Paul Drummond's 2007 book Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound, or rent the DVD of Kevin McAlester's 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me: A Film About Roky Erickson.

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Slip Inside This House: MP3s from S.J. and the Crossroads and the Six Pents

S.J. and the Crossroads, “Get Out of My Life Woman”

The history of white garage rockers influenced by black soul screamers and blues guitarists is as deep as the ocean: Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin all made their mountains of cash off of black music, and most of them laid down tons of cover versions of the best songs they could find. Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman,” about ending things with his devil-woman ladyfriend may be one the best examples.

Originally written and recorded by Toussaint, Lee Dorsey also had a hit with it, and garage groups like the Leaves and S.J. and the Crossroads loved to cover it. Still, Crossroads take on this tune has always stood out to me. No other version I know has the same piss and fire you might expect to hear in a song about telling your lady to hit the road.

The Crossroads were based in Beaumont, where they stayed busy playing around the Golden Triangle area and got regular local radio play. They became a mainstay at many local clubs and school dances and recorded six singles; 1968’s “Get Out of My Life” was their last. After numerous lineup shifts and draft card numbers being called, the Crossroads called it quits.

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Slip Inside This House: MP3s from the Clique, the Cicadelics and the Blox

The Clique, “Splash 1”

How massive was the influence of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators on Texas musicians back in the day? Big enough that many groups tried adding their own electric jug player, and every single one was a dud (at best).

Other groups like the Clique settled for covering some of the Elevators’ finer material like “Splash 1.”After the demise of the band Lavender Hour, the majority of its members reformatted their sound from pop/garage/punk outfit to an assortment of late-‘60s psychedelia. They went on to record a slew of singles and one album for the White Whale label in the very early ‘70s; none of which, unfortunately, were as good.

I would like to hate this group for writing the song “Superman,” of which, unbeknownst to them, R.E.M. went on to record a dreadful cover on 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant. But the fact remains that on “Splash 1,” the Clique managed to do the Elevators justice where everyone else’s attempts fell flat on their faces. The song was released on the local Cinema and then Wand labels, followed by a national release on Scepter – none of which garnered much attention.

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Slip Inside This House: MP3s from the Moving Sidewalks, the Proper Circle and Those Boys

The Moving Sidewalks, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

It would really be screwed up if I kept on writing this column on Houston psych and garage 45s and didn’t show some love to the Moving Sidewalks. So here’s everybody’s real favorite little ol’ band from Texas.

Long before those beards began to sprout and songs with a ridiculous amount of sexual innuendo were written, Billy F. Gibbons was already a Houston psychedelic deity. Formed in 1967, the Moving Sidewalks were one of the - if not the - premier psych bands in the Bayou City scene, thanks primarily to their ridiculous single titled “99th Floor” on the local Tantara label; it became a regional hit and was picked up for national distribution by the Wand label soon thereafter.

If you’ve heard one Sidewalks song, it’s probably that one. But Slip Inside This House’s goal is to highlight some of the darker corners of local psych and garage, so although “99th Floor” is a damn good 45 and one of my favorites, how about an insane psychedelic version of a Beatles classic instead?

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