Crate Skimmers #32 The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators

Owned since: 2019

Genre: The most classic of psychedelic garage rock

Where I bought it: A trade with a friend

Year: 2001/original release 1966

Label/pressing: Get back

Boy, that is 30(well 33 now through moving around) of these. As I’m writing this in 2021, yeah we pre-load these like mad, we’re still stuck at home and in the 2 months since we started this I’ve managed to churn out 30 of whatever this is. Absolutely lovely, great fun doing so, even if it showcases how god-awful my taste is a lot of the time. It’s like standing in front of a closet where you pick something at random and you know there are some things in there that are extremely hard to explain, or even explain why you like them. The opposite of today’s entry, one of the most likable records ever made.

What to say about The 13th Floor Elevators’s debut record. I can’t honestly think of something, beside the usual classic rock lineup of records, that scream to me the 60’s more than this one. The bunch of weird drug addled rockers from Texas delivered such a mammoth record, it’s pretty much classic rock these days. Also it’s the only album besides their second effort I will ever cover that has an electric jug on it.

Yes, an electric jug. The Elevators had an electric jug player in Tommy Hall who is also an early Scientology person and a Republican, because being an electric jug player isn’t weird enough yet. It perfectly fits with the Elevators’ psyched out reverb. heavy take on garage rock that just sounds like endless drug usage. Lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland would later go to jail for it and later was accidentally shot by his wife, which is honestly the kind of stories you expect when you hear this record. 

Maybe the saddest case was Roky Erickson, who pleaded insane after being found with one marijuana joint and had a treatment that only caused various existing mental troubles to become worse. Later in the 80’s, he would return to fame with some solid solo records after a really good tribute album by the likes of R.E.M., Thin White Rope and fellow Texans Z.Z. Top. This lead to him finally getting paid for his music. Something that he honestly never had before. It’s an extremely sad story with a happy end worth reading up on.

For the record itself- well, it’s a rock music classic these days. Fairly unique, thanks to that jug, psychedelic rock with a heavy garage rock feel and kind of murky overwhelming production. Mostly built around the great guitar work of Sutherland and Erickson’s great vocals, it is for sure also a band’s first record. There is a bit of a demo like quality to it, like these songs were just recorded in one take in someone’s garage. The follow up Easter Everywhere shows a band way more outgoing in experimentation that they seemed they wanted to do, but they just kind of stick to normal rock stuff here. Still, there is loads of out there stuff on there.

Even if it just runs for 5 minutes, Roller Coaster with its jaunty surf rock like riff, manic electric jug playing and nonstop rhythm changes feels like it escaped from Roger Corman’s The Trip. It also has a guitar in it which sounds a bit like a car alarm going off which is, well, a thing I guess. Pretty much the groundwork for the whole revival of this kind of stuff in the 80’s; there are several riffs on here that Spaceman 3 just outright stole to the point they just straight covered them. 

Absolute highlight here is Reverberation (Doubt) which is so packed in its weird cramped sound, it literally sounds like a bad trip. Which honestly is a good way to describe this album; a trip which goes a lot of different ways. I think one thing that really makes this a record I don’t put on a lot is the production. It’s loudly weird  and one note, it feels like it is blasting from a slightly broken FM radio in someone’s garage. 

It just makes it a bit of a hard sit through. The B-side really suffers from the fact all the songs are starting to sound the same through its production and for sure holds the weaker tracks. There is no day where I really urge for a song like Through the Rhythm when You’re Gonna Miss me is on the A-side. It’s not bad at all, just kind of forgettable outside Fire Engine and Kingdom of Heaven. 

The impact of this record is still giant, you hear its influences still all over the place in rock music. Mostly through Lenny Kaye’s (original) Nuggets compilation, the band won over a new generation of fans in the 70’s/80’s through inclusion of You’re Gonna Miss Me their most catchy song on this record. This record was also a pretty big success, it sold 40,000 copies on its original release and the band never really hit that height again. They released 3 albums afterwards and split up in 1969 after 4 years of being a band because of Erikson’s institutionalization. They reunited with the surviving members in 2015 for the Texas Psych festival and their records have remained in print since the 1980’s pretty much, which is rare for bands of this era. Erikson passed away in 2019.

A great debut that is weaker than it’s follow up, but well worth a check still. 

Slootchedlia: This is great, but yeah agreed on the production. It just adds a layer of haze onto this that makes a whole album listen through tiresome.