Thursday, February 7, 2013

13th Floor Elevators -- "You Don't Know (How Young You Are)" (1966)

Her eyes are filled with coral snakes
And liquid plastic castles
Her daily life revolves around 
A thousand petty hassles
Corny dogs and window panes 
Fixed with silver tassels

May I have a drum roll, please?

Our seventh city is . . . TEXAS!  

OK, OK, Texas is a state -- or a state of mind -- not a city.  So maybe it shouldn't be on the 2 or 3 lines list of the seven American cities that contributed the most to American popular music.  

But I used to live in Texas, and Texas is like no other place in the country, and Texas has produced a lot of great music, and 2 OR 3 LINES IS MY PARTY AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO!  If you don't like it, you can kiss my big black *ss (to quote Howard Stern)!

When you think of psychedelic music, you think of San Francisco first.  You should think of Texas second.  The 13th Floor Elevators were the ne plus ultra of Texas psychedelic bands, but don't sleep on Bubble Puppy, the Moving Sidewalks, Red Krayola, and all the others.

The 13th Floor Elevators were formed in Austin (that figures) about the same time that Marty Balin was putting together the Jefferson Airplane.  Their first album, which was titled The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, was released in November 1966.  The Blues Magoos released Psychedelic Lollipop and The Deep released Psychedelic Moods the same month -- those three groups were the first to use the word "psychedelic" on a record album.

I've written previously about the Elevators' lead guitarist and frontman, Roky Erickson, who went stark raving bonkers in 1968 and ended up in a Texas mental hospital getting his brain rebooted with shock treatment.  (A lot of the musicians who are featured in this year's "29 Songs in 28 Days" were serious drug and/or alcohol abusers.) 

Roky Erickson
Rolling Stone described the 1995-vintage Roky this way:  "[A] man falling apart at the seams, his teeth rotted to stumps, his hair wild and matted, and his house blaring with multiple TVs, radios and police scanners, apparently a strategy to block out the voices in his head."

I've also written about the group's regular use of an electric jug on its records.  On "You Don't Know," which was the first track on The Psychedelic Sounds album, the electric jug kicks in about 12 seconds into the song.

Powell St. John (left) with Janis Joplin in 1963
"You Don't Know" was written by Powell St. John, an Austin beatnik who was once in a folk-music trio called the Waller Creek Boys with the 19-year-old Janis Joplin.  (Janis played the autoharp, of all things.)  St. John wrote six of the songs on the first two 13th Floor Elevators albums.  In 2006, he and Roky Erickson played together at South by Southwest in Austin.

Here's "You Don't Know (How Young You Are)."  Texas was a lot crazier place in the sixties than most people realize, and the 13th Floor Elevators were the poster children of Texas craziness.

You can use this link to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. I was waiting to see a reference to Janis Joplin, and if she weren't in the story, to mention her. I've already told this in Old Curiosity Shop, but since the subject came up, here 'tis again: Back in 1967 or 68 I was visting San Francisco, since that was the only place west of El Paso that still had daily streetcar service. I was hanging around the Powell St. cable car turntable (before it became more like a Disneyland attraction) and got to talking with a young man who said he was a musician with a band called "Big Brother and the Holding Company" and they had a new girl singer named Janis Joplin. I recall commenting that we had heard of her down in LA, BUT I didn't ask where they were playing! So I missed out on the possibility of seeing Pearl live. It could have been that they didn't have any gigs lined up for the time I was in town, and I traveled on the cheap in those days, so it might have come down to see the show or eat, but not both (depending on the cover charge if any), but I'll never know.....