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.

Roky Erickson
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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.

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

Under the Blacklight 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.

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