13th Floor Elevators

GUEST REVIEW – Roky Erickson and the Aliens – The Evil One – The Meat Challenge

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  Meat was given Roky Erikson by LeBrain.

ROKY ERICKSON & THE ALIENS – The Evil One (1981)

How did we get to where we are now?  Let’s have a very quick nutshell synopsis of a pretty incredible story (a story which is captured in much more detail in a very good 2005 documentary titled You’re Gonna Miss Me.  Have you seen it? It’s a beauty.)

Roky Erickson was born in 1947 in Dallas, Texas.  He co-founded an influential psychedelic rock band called The 13th Floor Elevators, who had some chart success in the late 60s. In 1969, Roky Erickson got arrested for smoking a joint and to avoid jail, pled guilty and was sent to the nuthouse until his release in 1974.  Roky Erickson & the Aliens were born and released their debut album in 1980.

Now that we have that out of the way, I have not heard the debut album.  Nor have I heard any other Roky Erickson album going into this.  I was not sure what to expect and what I got was different and frankly more than I expected.  The Evil One was produced by ex-CCR bassist Stu Cook, and together he and Roky definitely came out with a great sounding record…that talks about Lucifer a lot…and the devil …and ghosts….  Basically, you could look at this album a collection of crazy stories.  More specifically, I now look at The Evil One as a collection of 15 short B-movies expressed through exceptional Pop-Rock songwriting.  Imagine if Hall and Oates got a bit of Rock balls and started worshipping Satan.  Here are some thoughts I had while listening to each song/movie on The Evil One.

  1. “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” –  The first track is the only song I had actually heard before on this album.  LeBrain picked this for a tribute back in the days when Sausagefest was doing them.  Hearing this again, I enjoy it like I did when I first heard it.  Great rock song with guitar licks that kinda surprised me.  Roky Erickson possesses a great voice with a naturally high register, which allows him to belt out the hearty Rock.
  1. “I Think of Demons” –  Another solid rock song bringing to mind everything from the Ramones to Thin Lizzy to “insert 70s melodic rock band here”.  A lot of poppy goodness here.  Perhaps the happiest song ever with “Demons” in the title?  You’d be right if you guessed there is more of this kinda thing to come.
  1. “Creature With The Atom Brain” –  Nicholas Cage would have been the star of this movie.  I really like the twin guitar parts in this track.  Bit of a hillbilly rock song.  Some conspiracy-minded strange banter in the middle which leads to even stranger banter at the end.
  1. “The Wind and More” –  This is probably my favorite track on the album.  I really got a Max Webster meets Wishbone Ash vibe from this song.  Erickson seems to have a great way of finding his way melodically through rock and roll riffs.  Of course Lucifer is mentioned again.   Speaking of…could this be what Pye Dubois would have sounded like if he made music? Hmmmm.
  1. “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” –  Yes, this time the one of the Prince of Darkness’ given names makes the title.  Roky really channels his inner Mick Jagger in this track.  Very Rolling Stones-esque all around really.  A bit more of an aggressive punk thing going on here.  Perhaps Teenage Head would be a better comparison.   Not one of my favorite tracks on the album to be honest.
  1. “Bloody Hammer” –  This is another stand out track on the album.  Bit of a cock-out rock song that probably just cooks live.  Some epic ranting in this too.  For some reason I was thinking about Budgie during this song.  As for lyrically?  I am really not sure if I really wanna know what the actual bloody hammer was that inspired this song.
  1. “Stand For the Fire Demon” –  I don’t know what to make of this one.  While I admire the passion poured out in this track, there is a bit of a drag to it.  Another Nicholas Cager here.  You know…the crazed, bug-eyed Cage where he makes no sense but is really adamant about it?  I think this might be a prayer to Satan.
  1. “Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play” –  Fun Thin Lizzy twin-guitar licks in this.  Other than that nothing especially stands out about this track.
  1. “If You Have Ghosts” –  …You have everything.  This is a hell of a song.  The middle musical part in this song starting with the solo is a fun piece of music.  Very good slightly-off-road rock song.
  1. “I Walked With a Zombie” –  Imagine if you were watching an episode of Happy Days, and instead of a jukebox they had a really fucking high Tom Petty playing music for the acid-tripping kids at Arnold’s.  I think Ralph Malph lost his virginity to this song.   Just another sock-hop with the devil.
  1. “Night of the Vampire” –  This song is very Alice Cooper.  This would be the Rob Zombie directed movie set in the 70s.  By the way, I’ve given up trying to analyse these lyrics.
  1. “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators” –  An average silly mid tempo rock song.  Actually it’s better than that.  I’m getting a Max Webster vibe again, and some fun twin leads once more.
  1. “Mine Mine Mind” –  Starting off with a tribal Alex Harvey rock feel, this is pretty much everything I like about 70s pop-rock.  This is basically what Trooper and Streetheart were doing around this time, but in this case, instead of singing about cars and girls, Roky Erickson chooses to sing about the Devil.  To each his/her own I guess.
  1. “Sputnik” –  The second this song started, I was thinking about Ace Frehley.  Even the lyrics seem cosmos and NASA inspired.  This is the KISS song of the album.  I really like this track, and it could right now be one of those songs everyone is sick of hearing on FM radio.  Why isn’t it?  Well… the science fiction lyrics.  Oh…and Satan.
  1. “White Faces” –  The album ends with more driving rock and roll.  The first verse of this song is:

Friends with a beast,
Because of sharp teeth,
The devil so red,
The fiery evil blieb.
 

WHAT!?!?!?!?!??!

 Once again we have melodic and poppy mid tempo rock referring to Satan.  This man is just too happy about demons.

Overall I would call this a better than average rock record.  Perhaps with multiple listens some of the melodic hooks would sink into me deeper, but as of now better than average is pretty much what I feel about this record.  Anyone who loves 70s rock would really love this album.  The devil is in the details.  No…I’m serious…The devil is truly within the details of this album.  I think the title speaks for itself.  This is an album about The Evil One.

3.75/5 demons

 BY MEAT

R.I.P. Roky Erickson (1947-2019)

He didn’t have an easy life, so we hope he will rest in peace.  Roky Erickson was a songwriter extraordinaire, an innovator, and an influencer.   He impacted a young Dave Grohl and befriended ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.  He was a founder of the psychedelic rock movement with the 13th Floor Elevators.  He also suffered from schizophrenia and endured horrific electro-shock therapy.

Roky Erickson eventually got the right treatment and made a return to recording and touring.  Yet it’s his 60s and 70s material that remains immortal.

Recommended listening:  The Evil One on CD, which is essentially two albums combined into one.  Every single song is amazing, but here’s “Mine Mine Mind” (produced by Stu Cook of CCR).  You can tell he was haunted.  Rest in peace, Roky.

REVIEW: Roky Erickson and the Aliens – The Evil One (15 tracks)

ROKY_0002ROKY ERICKSON and the ALIENS – The Evil One (originally 1980, 2013 Light in the Attic)

I first became aware of the 13th Floor Elevators via ZZ Top, but it wasn’t until Dave Grohl’s excellent Sonic Highways (full review coming soon) that I was enlightened to the genius of Roky Erickson.  I’m not a huge fan of the psychedelic rock of which Roky was one of the founding fathers.  I do however love the pure guitar-based rock that he later played with the Aliens.  Having heard “Two Headed Dog” in Sonic Highways, I took the plunge and bought a deluxe reissue of The Evil One.

Roky’s story is a long and tragic one marked by mental illness, LSD, bad recording contracts, injustice and years of neglect.  The huge (48 page) CD booklet has liner notes with the story, and I won’t re-tell the tale for this one album review. Thankfully there is the documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me if you’re intrigued. The good news is that Roky has since gotten the help he needs and has financial and medical support today, and a whole new generation of fans (like me) discovering his genius.  “The talent behind Roky’s voice,” said ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, “is the mystery factor that no one could touch.”  His powerful rock and roll screams and moans are hooks in themselves.  Erickson cited James Brown as a major vocal influence.

This excellent CD reissue compiles all 15 tracks that were released over the course of two overlapping albums, The Evil One and Five Symbols. The albums were produced by ex-CCR bassist Stu Cook, who captured a vibrant droney guitar sound here. Roky’s voice had lost nothing, and perhaps only gained power over the years.

The incredible thing to me is how excellent every single track is!  I went into this only knowing “Two Headed Dog”.  I came out knowing and loving 15 different songs, each special in their own way.  The factors they have in common are Roky’s incredible voice, bizarre lyrics of paranoia and monsters and demons and aliens, and that unique and beautiful guitar.  It’s not psychedelic rock, it’s just rock and roll.  A song like “I Walked  With  a Zombie” emulates a slow dance from a late 1950’s highschool prom.  Meanwhile “Night of the Vampire” sounds more like Alice Cooper.

I cannot say enough good things about this CD.  I am beyond happy with this purchase.  I do truly love every song, already, but it’s not too hard to pick out my favourites.  “Mine Mine Mind” is irresistible no matter who you are.  “Sputnik”, “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators”, “I Think of Demons”, “Bloody Hammer”, “Creature With the Atom Brain”, “Two Headed Dog” and “If You Have Ghosts” round out the songs I don’t want to live without ever again.  The vocal and guitar hooks are incessant.  There are even guitar fragments that sound like classic Thin Lizzy!  Most fall within the 3-4 minute range and none overstay their welcome.

I am very happy to have started my Roky Erickson collection with this reissue from Light in the Attic records.  I understand that Roky’s royalty woes have since been fixed and he does get paid from releases such as this.  Buy with clear conscience.

5/5 stars