Roky Erickson

Remembering Roky Erickson

Roky Erickson, leader of the 13th Floor Elevators, is one of the most influential and tragic figures in rock music. This week on the show Jim and Greg will dissect the life and career of the psychedelic music legend and talk with Keven McAlester, the director of the Roky Erickson film "You're Gonna Miss Me."

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Music News

After the RIAA started to crackdown on the selling of mixtapes a few months ago, Universal Music has decided to sell legal, corporate sanctioned versions of the tradionally grassroots compilation. These "Lethal Squad Mixtapes," will sell for $5 to $6, but it's unclear whether there is a market for a series like this. Part of the appeal of mixtapes is that they are underground, and, as Greg notes, Universal is about as“street”as the next company they discuss in the news. Fellow corporate giant Walmart announced that it will sell DRM-free downloads at a lower price than competitor iTunes. Jim and Greg are surprised that the music industry would agree to sell their digital songs for lower prices, but Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Also, this fits into the big box store's M.O.: give consumers what they want at lower prices, even at the expense of other retailers.

Auto manufacturers such as Toyota's Scion brand, are planning on getting into the Internet radio business to provide special content to their drivers. Jim and Greg think this is an interesting move considering the recent hikes in webcasting royalty rates and their effect on small webcasters. And, this follows suit with Scion's attempt to establish a“cool”identity for itself. The Toyota brand was one of the few corporate sponsors of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now they've tapped Vice Records and Ninja Tune Records to program their channel. But, despite this indie pedigree, Greg points out the reality: "You can't buy cool."

This summer's biggest blockbuster movie, Spiderman 3, racked up well over $300 million in the U.S. In fact, there were a number successful films that eclipsed the $300 million mark. The music industry, however, cannot boast such impressive figures. They were banking on big name releases from the likes of 50 Cent and Kelly Clarkson, but of those two, one got bumped, and the other tanked. The number one selling album of the year so far is from an American Idol rejectee Chris Daughtry, but that was actually a 2006 release. So, in light of these industry discrepancies, Jim and Greg wanted to invite New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds on to the show to discuss the summer season. Jeff explains that movie studios have many sources of revenue from a film like Spiderman (DVDs, toys, etc), but record labels depend on a single revenue stream. Their only saving grace is concert sales; a live music experience, like a live movie screening, can't be replicated with a download. These three critics are curious to see what big fall releases have to offer.

Famed jazz percussionist Max Roach died last week at the age of 83. Roach was the last link to the Bebop era of jazz, but Jim and Greg explain that his love of music and his style of playing continually evolved. Greg explains that it's impossible to talk about rock drumming and hip hop without mentioning Roach. Unlike some jazz purists, the musician saw those contemporary forms as natural extensions of African music, like jazz. You can hear his unique style in the composition "Freedom Day," which also features vocals from his wife Abbey Lincoln.

interview

Keven McAlester

One of rock's most influential and interesting figures is former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. After performing with the psychedelic band in the '60s and as a solo artist in the '80s, the singer's mental and physical health took a severe decline. But in the past couple of years, Roky's sights have improved, and Jim and Greg took this opportunity to celebrate his legacy. During this you'll hear their discussion with Keven McAlester, the director of the film biography You're Gonna Miss Me. McAlester spoke to Jim and Greg after a special screening of the film at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.

Jim and Greg highlight two of their favorite Roky Erickson tracks from different points in his career. The first is a 13th Floor Elevators song called "Reverberation Doubt," which Jim explains is an example of how psychedelic the band was. The song was not only influenced by psychedelic drugs, but it conveys the experience of using them. Jim discusses the term“synesthesia,”which refers the drugs' ability to allow you to actually see musical notes, and“Reverberation Doubt”has a similar effect. As he states, it gives you the "sense that the entire world is vibrating."

The second is a solo track from a later period in Roky's career. "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)" was recorded after Roky came out of Rusk State Mental Hospital in Texas, and wasn't in very good shape. But, musically he was very productive, and became one of the American artists to really lay the groundwork for punk music. Roky's songwriting at this time was influenced greatly by horror movies, and the title of this song gives a sense of where his mental state was. Greg describes“Two-Headed Dog”as a brutal, but wonderfully hard-hitting song.

You'll also hear a montage of covers from the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye:

  • R.E.M., "I Walked with a Zombie"
  • ZZ Top, "Reverberation"
  • T-Bone Burnett, "Nothing in Return"
  • Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake"
  • Julian Cope, "I Have Always Been Here Before"
reviewUnder the BlacklightUnder the Blacklight available on iTunes

Rilo Kiley Under the Blacklight

In the final segment of the show, Jim and Greg review Under the Blacklight, the latest release from the Jenny Lewis-fronted pop band Rilo Kiley. After releasing such a successful solo debut, Greg notes that it's almost surprising that Lewis would return to her bandmates. But, she and ex-boyfriend Blake Sennett pen some lovely tracks together in a modern-day Fleetwood Mac style. Greg wishes they had dug deeper into the complications of their romantic history though, and only thinks a few tracks on Under the Blacklight are worth a Burn It. Jim thinks this album is one of the biggest turkeys of the year so far, and doesn't think Fleetwood Mac needs revisiting. He finds the album contrived and overproduced and gives it a hearty Trash It.

JimGreg

Featured Songs

  1. CRS,“US Placers,”Can't Tell Me Nothing Mixtape, 2007
  2. Gary Numan,“Cars,”The Pleasure Principle, 1979
  3. Max Roach,“Drums Unlimited,”Drums Unlimited, 1965
  4. Max Roach,“Freedom Day,”We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, 1960
  5. 13th Floor Elevators,“You're Gonna Miss Me,”The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, 1966
  6. 13th Floor Elevators,“Reverberation (Doubt),”The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, 1966
  7. Roky Erickson,“Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),”You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson, 1991
  8. Roky Erickson,“Starry Eyes,”You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson, 1991
  9. REM,“I Walked with a Zombie,”Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky, 1990
  10. ZZ Top,“Reverberation (Doubt),”Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky, 1990
  11. T-Bone Burnett, Nothing in Return, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky, 1990 Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake, " Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky, 1990
  12. Julian Cope,“I Have Always Been Here Before,”Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky, 1990
  13. Rilo Kiley,“The Moneymaker,”Under the Blacklight, 2007
  14. Rilo Kiley,“Dreamworld,”Under the Blacklight, 2007
  15. Prints, "Easy Magic", Prints, 2007
  16. Common,“The People,”Finding Forever, 2007
  17. Common,“Drivin' Me Wild,”Finding Forever, 2007
  18. The New Pornographers,“Challengers,”Challengers, 2007

Footnotes

riaa.com RIAA nytimes.com Mixtape Crackdown Sends a Mixed Message amazon.com Lethal Squad Mixtapes on Amazon drm.info What Is DRM? pbs.org Is Wal-Mart Good for America? scion.com Scion homepage pitchforkmusicfestival.com Pitchfork Music Festival vicerecords.com Vice Records ninjatune.net Ninja Tune Records nytimes.com Jeff Leeds in the New York Times ew.com Kenny Chesney vs. Kanye and Fitty nytimes.com Max Roach, Master of Modern Jazz, Dies at 83 pbs.org Bebop explained bbc.co.uk Max Roach's BBC profile npr.org NPR profile on Abbey Lincoln wikipedia.org 13th Floor Elevators on Wikipedia rokyerickson.net Roky Erickson's homepage jimdero.com Jim on Roky Erickso's road to rediscovery imdb.com You're Gonna Miss Me on IMDB musicboxtheatre.com Music Box Theatre's homepage jimdero.com Jim on 13th Floor Elevators mit.edu The Science Behind Synesthesia allmusic.com“Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)”on AllMusic amazon.com Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye on Amazon metacritic.com Under the Blacklight on Metacritic rilokiley.com Rilo Kiley's homepage chicagotribune.com Greg on Rilo Kiley