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Music / The 13th Floor Elevators

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The 1967 lineup. Top row, left to right: Dan Galindo, Stacy Sutherland, Danny Thomas. Bottom row, left to right: Tommy Hall, Roky Erickson.

"In this dark we call creation
We can be and feel and know
From an effort, comfort station
That's surviving on the go
There's infinite survival in
The high baptismal glow
Slip inside this house as you pass by"
—"Slip Inside This House"

The 13th Floor Elevators were a band from Austin, Texas, who served as one of the Trope Codifiers and the Trope Namer for the genre of Psychedelic Rock back in The '60s.

They formed in 1965, when members of two popular local Garage Rock bands (The Spades and The Lingsmen) united under the leadership of Tommy Hall, a flamboyant figure in the city's counterculture. While they became something of a Revolving Door Band, the core was centered on guitarist/vocalist Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson (of The Spades), guitarist Stacy Sutherland (of The Lingsmen) and Hall on "electric jug" (Sutherland and Hall also performed backing vocals). A variety of drummers and bassists came and went for the duration of their short career.

Led by Hall, a self-styled "philosopher" who'd begun experimenting with peyote and LSD while he was a student at the University of Texas, the band were fervently dedicated to the idea of psychedelia and expanding the boundaries of the mind, religiously advocating use of hallucinogenics in their lyrics and sleeve notes, and becoming one of the first bands to release an album with "psychedelic" in the title.note  According to legend, Hall's jug was tuned by the amount of marijuana stored in it.

They released two albums in close succession, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators and Easter Everywhere. The first one yielded their only successful single and arguable Signature Song, "You're Gonna Miss Me". However, the band disintegrated after they got busted by the Texas authorities for possession of drugs - Stacy went to prison, while Roky misguidedly pleaded insanity and landed in a state hospital for the criminally insane until 1973, and struggled with mental issues for the rest of his life. Stacy was killed by his wife in 1978 during a domestic dispute, while Tommy became a devout follower of Scientology in the same decade (Hall currently lives in a cramped, seedy, book-filled San Francisco hotel room and claims to have given up music to focus on "research").

They've been really influential on the Psychedelic Rock and Alternative Rock movements.

Erickson maintains a strong cult following, often mentioned in the same breath as Syd Barrett in discussions of brilliant musicians who became casualties of the dark side of psychedelia, and is considered an Austin icon on par with Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan despite not coming near either man's level of success. His solo career is highly influential in the Horror Rock genre, and counts members of bands like ZZ Top and R.E.M. as fans. Erickson died on May 31st, 2019.


  • The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)
  • Easter Everywhere (1967)
  • Live (1968) - actually an album of studio outtakes with overdubbed applause and crowd noise, put out by their record label for some quick cash
  • Bull of the Woods (1969) - released after the band's breakup

The Psychedelic Tropes of the 13th Floor Elevators:

  • Bedlam House: The hospital Roky landed in and got treated with electroshock therapy.
  • Break-Up Song: "You're Gonna Miss Me".
  • Careful with That Axe + Metal Scream: Roky gained fame largely because of his distinctive wild screaming. One of the vocalists he influenced was Janis Joplin.
  • Cover Version:
    • "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" by Bob Dylan, "Before You Accuse Me" by Bo Diddley, "I'm Gonna Love You Too" by Buddy Holly, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" by Solomon Burke, and several songs by Singer-Songwriter Powell St. John, a friend of the band.
    • On the other hand, there've been quite a few covers of their songs by Alternative Rock bands influenced by them. For example: "Reverberation (Doubt)" was covered by The Jesus and Mary Chain, "Slip Inside This House" was covered (or Covered Up?) by Primal Scream on their album Screamadelica, "Rollercoaster" got a Spacemen 3 version, Television used to play "Fire Engine" live, and so on.
    • Though billed as a Roky Erickson tribute album, the compilation Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye includes covers of both the 13th Floor Elevators and Roky's solo work - the album is bookended by ZZ Top's and Jesus and Mary Chain's versions of "Reverberation (Doubt)", and also features R.E.M., Butthole Surfers, and others doing versions of Elevators or Roky songs.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The colorful covers of Psychedelic Sounds and Easter Everywhere.
  • Drugs Are Good: The liner notes for The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators feature a text promoting the use of LSD and other psychedelics for mind expansion.
    “Recently, it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state and thus alter his point of view. He then can restructure his thinking..."
  • Epic Rocking: The eight-minute "Slip Inside This House".
  • Non-Appearing Title: "I Had to Tell You".
  • Psychedelic Rock: Overlapping with Garage Rock.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: For a band who made their reputation for riff-driven freakouts like "You're Gonna Miss Me", lovely ballads like "Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)", "I Had to Tell You" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (among others) can come as a surprise.
  • The Svengali: Tommy Hall quickly appointed himself as the band's Team Dad and acted this way toward his bandmates to an unsettling degree, practically bullying them into using unhealthy amounts of LSD (making them dose before each show and urging them to "play the acid" in their performances), even after it obviously started taking a toll on everyone's mental health. Hall had ambitions toward becoming a Timothy Leary-esque psychedelic guru (he penned the infamous Drugs Are Good liner notes on their debut album), and saw the band as his main vehicle to achieve them.
  • The Team Wannabe: By his own admission, Tommy Hall, who had zero music background when they formed, came up with the "electric jug" instrument concept so he could have a musical role in the band. However, he zig-zagged this since he was, by all accounts, the band's leader.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "You're Gonna Miss Me", "Reverberation (Doubt)", "(I've Got) Levitation".
  • Watch It Stoned: Their entire philosophy.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Slip Inside This House" in particular.