The 13th Floor Elevators – “Sign of the 3 Eyed Men” (2009)

June 29, 2009 at 8:45 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Newly released 10-CD (!!) box set containing just about everything The Elevators ever recorded (live and in the studio), with tons of pix, poster reproductions, bio, etc.
This review comes from the 60s-slanted magazine Shindig! Written by Lenny Helsing for the March/April issue… 


Wow. This must surely be the very last word on The 13th Floor Elevators. Sign of the 3 Eyed Men – named by the Elevators’ electric jug playing lyricist and self-proclaimed psychedelic poet/guru, Tommy Hall – is an inexhaustible package aimed mostly at those already in the know, and love the timeless music made by this seriously unhinged group of wide-eyed Texan trippers.

But for those who are just turning onto the music of the Elevators, what crazed bounty awaits. Aside from their three studio albums, The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators (1966), Easter Everywhere (’67) and Bull of the Woods (’69), you also get material that’s appeared on numerous bootlegs down the years. This means the unsurpassable Avalon ’66 set – contained here on disc five, Live in California – now has real clarity, with space to hear what’s all happening. It’s a head-swimmingly feverish mix, with the thunderous roar of ‘You Don’t Know (How Young You Are)’ and their freak-scene re-write of The Kinks’ signature tune ‘You Really Got Me’ summing it up perfectly. A true contender for the most intense and exciting live album ever.

The earliest studio recordings – dubbed Headstone: The Contact Sessions – show the pure raw silk of the group, as they power through such gloriously deranged future classics as ‘Roller Coaster’, ‘Where Am I? (Thru the Rhythm)’ and the DMT-trip inspired ‘Fire Engine’: “close your eyes and you erase / your image you no longer chase / while icy flames engulf your brain / and drown your thoughts in scarlet rain.” The countrified ease of ‘Take That Girl’, and ‘You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore’ can now be enjoyed without any of the baseball crowd cheering that mar the versions on the “official” third LP, Live, which was anything but – an assortment of old and new studio songs with studio-doctored applause tacked on. Hearing Roky’s vocal go down on tape for the perennial acid-punk stomper ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ is also one of the set’s absolute highs. It’s strange that they’ve included The Bad Seeds’ re-written version of ‘Tried to Hide’ (‘All Night Long’) yet left off the recordings Roky made with The Spades – the original ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ and ‘We Sell Soul’ (the blueprint for ‘Don’t Fall Down’) – which are surely more relevant to this aural treatise.

Psychedelic Sounds… and Easter Everywhere appear twice, in superb mono and an alternative stereo mix, the former housing beatific ballads ‘Splash 1’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, plus the best batch of “Buddy Holly on acid” rock ’n’ roll you’re ever likely to hear. The compilers have unearthed a totally different acetate version of ‘Reverberation’ that’s a real diamond find, including some different lyrics: “on your trip you start to slip caught up by your fears.” A few surprises turn up on the stereo version, including false starts, backing tracks and a change in the running order.

Easter Everywhere rang many changes, with original drummer John Ike Walton and bassist Bennie Thurman departing, replaced by the sure hands of Danny Thomas and Danny Galindo. Shifting musical styles were in evidence too; where the debut ascends on waves of white-hot intensity, they’ve now reached that next level where a sense of calm reigns; the optimistic comedown. Easter contains an amalgam of hypnotic rhythmic patterns, set against more mind-blowing, complex, sometimes quasi-religious word puzzles, not least of which is the eternal theme of ‘Slip Inside This House’. Roky duets with Clementine Hall on the wonderfully fragile ‘Dust’, a blissful rendering of Dylan’s ‘Baby Blue’, and the dark and awesome ‘Nobody to Love’, where Stacy Sutherland really comes into his own, both on liquid LSD-infused lead guitar, and his first showing as lead vocalist, are works of astonishing beauty. More hectic and scarifying trip-blasts round off this astounding venture: ‘Earthquake’, ‘(I’ve Got) Levitation’ and the blinding ‘She Lives (In a Time of Her Own).’

Elsewhere, all is not as it would appear, much like Alice found when she ate the cake and drank the drink, for A Love That’s Sound – the lost third album – is mostly demo tracks that wound up on the Elevators’ final LP, Bull of the Woods. There are still some selections that dazzle, like unheard versions of ‘Livin’ On’ and a horn-free ‘Never Another’; softer, but no less compelling than the finished takes. Two or three titles are essentially instrumental backing track ideas – fairly uninspiring if truth be told – but the hitherto unknown ‘Sweet Surprise’ is breathtaking. Stacy cutting loose, on fire like a psych-fried bluesman.

With the complete Elevators quotient hardly around anymore, Stacy was the main pilot, so it’s his shadowy song sketches, brilliantly coloured by Echoplex twang, that shape the contours of the formidable Bull of the Woods. Witness the illuminating charms of ‘Scarlet and Gold’, ‘Street Song’ and ‘Rose and the Thorn’. Roky and Tommy still leave their indelible stamp, however. Just witness ‘Never Another’, ‘Dr Doom’ and Roky’s spook-filled ‘May the Circle Remain Unbroken.’

Scattered throughout the box are also the many single sides the group issued, including a wired take of Buddy Holly’s ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ and a strange, shortened edit of ‘Slip Inside This House’. The dream over, they did try again to capture what they had on stage in ’73, heard on the final disc Death in Texas.

I’ve not seen the accompanying 72-page hardback book but it promises copious mini-reproductions of rare posters and other ephemera, plus more of the Elevators story, courtesy of compiler and group biographer, Paul Drummond. If you’ve not done so yet, you owe it to yourself to read his fascinating book about the group, Eye Mind and then buy this.

Lenny Helsing

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Allen Ginsberg – “Kerouac Dreams” (1995)

June 29, 2009 at 6:30 pm (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

dreamt  and written by Allen Ginsberg

1/11/95 Wednesday

Woke 8:45 embracing Kerouac in dream — We had travelled together thru various countries and war landscapes, Chechnya, Russia, Prague, London, Lower East Side with miraculous encounters with cops & presidents, musicians & aroused youth gangs, radio broadcasts, airplane rides together, & we’re now home in his house — I said “Jesus Christ how will I remember all that happened?” He sat in his kitchen chair stolid and healthy as I prepared to leave.

“Well take it easy” I bid farewell — “you’ve already done so much you don’t have to strain to live, you should stay around on earth till old age maybe 80 or 90 years you’ve got you can go to — You don’t have to work so hard, you’re already immortal in your work, but you’re valuable to the world, just the example of persistence & patience — you don’t have to write a book every six months, every year a production, you can take your time, rest, maybe one small volume every decade from now on, just a record of a few flowers of thought over the ten year cycles — that should be easy, it would write itself. That way you can survive without strain.”

Jack sat in kitchen, calm & patient in clean white & blue horizontally striped shirt, collar unbuttoned, resting — I held him round, said I was going –“When will we see each other again?” I worried, happy he was on earth another few decades.

1/14/95 7 A.M.

A visionary dream, barely remembered, returned in full landscape as I lay in bed with churchbells pounding out metallic clang of 7am balmy winter morn–

I’d been travelling with Kerouac for decades, now I was tired & wanted to go home, & Kerouac headed alone down the valley deeper into the farm belt to continue thru America till he got home along his road — which led down into the valley floor along the fields, while I trudged upland toward my house in the city too tired to continue the public hejira.

Kerouac meanwhile was still expostulating his American Vision and his apologia for the 1990’s transformation of U.S. into a narrow minded province of Multinational Powers–

“Look we still own this vast landscape, we still dwell in the Valley of the World, the Valley of the Lord, now it’s only a Shadow of the Lord still visible but it’s our Lord Forgotten, our physical fields & space, our stars our winter sun our moons our own bodies our imperishable heaven & earth I still traverse make ye no mistake deny me no Denys–

“Poetry America was born before us & will live after us — and would’ve been visible for every eye to see but for the scientists of poetry & sociologists of Academy measuring the vast mind with monkey calipers & teaspoons of ink —

“They took the Romance of the Road & built tunnels & superhighways & set robot cars in motion & airplanes so distant in the cloud you wouldn’t know if you were crashing in Bardo Ecstasy of just flying to Chicago on a boring business trip with a roomful of yuppies with laptops measuring the hunger of the crowds below in negro cities watching detectives crash cars on television to sell you a puptent full of glass armor eyeglasses, snooze suits, hermetic closets & after dinner mints.

“Meanwhile the vast fields beckon the open skies look down & yawn full of Angels & God sits watching us traverse the crossroads by Jimmie’s little vast farm wherein Grecia & Asia sit in the backyard while the kitten plays with the fishbowl on the kitchen window —

“So these Academy Daddies did their job on my literature & now if anyone can read it’s only box tops on the videoscreen or laptop cardgames to sell you insurance while you sit home with your head in the fireplace & your feet in the basement laundry machine, washmachine & dryer to you Mr. Fuddy, I’m home in our Deathless Valley I’ll tell you top that!”

So Kerouac raved & prophesied & continued down his path thru the farm fields cursing the Academics who distorted his vision of America in the world — I trudged uphill marveling at his energy & enthusiasm and devotional madness as I resolved to get back to my home for a little more sleep before saying another word.

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