Sep 19, 2008

roky, roky, bo boky

That's right ladies and gents, my obsession for this day is none other that the first person to relate the word psychedelic to music, the Austin, Texas native that dropped out of High School in 1965, one month before graduating because he refuses to cut his hair, Mr. Roky Erickson.

Roky co-founded the band 13th Floor Elevators in late 1965, and was one of the main songwriters along side Tommy Hall (who played the amplified electric jug BTW). He has a truly amazing voice and is probably one of the wildest rock singers. Early in her career, singer Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators but she thought that the band was too far out there, and she wasn't good enough to sing beside Roky. 

Not only were the Elevators pioneers of the psychedelic sound but they envoked the spirit of the psychedelic drug experience. There is a "neurologically-based phenomenon" called Synesthesia where under the influence you can see music notes as color with texture and visuals; the Elevators create this type sensory overloads within their music.

Although psychedelic drugs opened up a huge possibility of thought and experimentation, their was a horrible downside. What seemed to be a great vision in the mid 60s turned into a horrible trip in the 1970s. In 1969 Roky was arrested in Austin and charged with possession. The law at the time stated that Roky could spend up to 20 years in prison, he instead plead insanity, and was admitted to one of Texas' most hard core mental institutions, Rusk State Hospital, where for 3 years he was exposed to a hell of drug therapies and electro shock treatments. When he was released in 1972 he was a drastically changed man, and since then has been diagnosed as a Schizophrenic.

About a year ago a documentary was released about Roky and his life called "You're gonna miss me". It's a great portrayal of humanity and illustrates how so many different situations in life can effect us as humans, and how we handle it, well in this case, how Roky handles it. 

This is not the end of the story though. Rocky went on in the 70s creating playing and writing, and was very much a part of inspiring Punk music, but his mental illness was never far behind him and it seems as if he has spent his whole life having his illness taking over and then reemerging again, knowing that it is never too much farther behind him. In the documentary it also shows the story of the battle between Roky's mother, who also battles with her own mental instability, and his brother to see who is the most fit to take care of him. 
Small side note: Not to give anything away, but Roky is now performing again. As well as many other dates, he performed at Athens Pop Fest this year (dang, I miss Athens) and I have heard from friends that it was a truly an amazing experience to see him.

This documentary is rentable on Netflix, and it is worth seeing. It's worth knowing the rest of the story, its worth thinking for yourself what defines the thin line between creativity and insanity.
(btw I highly recommend Netflix too!)

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