With a collective drug intake massive enough to knock out a Clydesdale, frequent harassment and several busts by police, in-fights, mentally fractured band members, one violent death, and one classic album, the story of the 13th Floor Elevators is a music journalist’s wet dream. What’s surprising is that it’s taken so many years after the band’s disintegration to finally get a biography that looks past the myth and provides a detailed account of the band. Paul Drummond’s Eye Mind: Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators is both an exhaustive study of the band’s story and how the band fit (or didn’t fit) into the 1960s musical landscape. Fans of the band or music history won’t be disappointed.
Drummond covers every aspect of the band, including the Elevators’ rise as one of Texas’ premier live acts, the brief national notoriety gained by the single “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” their failed attempts to break out on a national scale, and their record company’s shoddy management techniques. The band’s (primarily Hall’s) psychedelic philosophy of transcendence, drug regimens, and struggle against Texas’ police force and how these influenced their albums, live performances, daily lives, and relationships with each other are also addressed.
Central to the book are in-depth details about the band’s primary members: drummer John Ike, lyricist/jug player Tommy Hall, guitarist Stacy Sutherland, and vocalist/yelper Roky Erickson. While Erickson is probably the biggest draw for fans of the band, Drummond presents all the major and minor players in the Elevators’ twisted tale. Although Drummond is obviously a fan of the band, for the most part he doesn’t let his bias interfere with providing an objective account.
Tommy Hall, depending on one’s point of view, was either a certified genius or a misguided druggie with half-cooked ideas about LSD, the path to enlightenment, the meaning of life, and other HEAVY concepts, and how the Elevators’ music could be used as a conduit for communicating cosmic truths (what that term actually meant to the band is a convoluted mess).