Posted by: kubiakl | November 1, 2008

Creature With The Atom Brain

Music is full of sad tales of acid casualties.  Visionaries who start off with a slightly odd demeanor become full blown headcases after drugs come into the picture.  I’m not saying that drugs cause mental illness or anything, but they certainly don’t help if mental illness is already present.  Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett was the first example but many followed in his footsteps.  Sometimes, the story has a happy ending – like Daniel Johnston’s resurgence.  Roky Erickson is one of the fortunate ones.

Roky started one of the first psychedelic bands, the 13th Floor Elevators.  They were together for a few years before Roky was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  This led to him spending some time in mental hospitals and involuntary electroshock therapy.  When he was released he went into a serious decline, living under his mother’s care and indulging the eccentricities he was prone to.  His house was full of “white noise” – TVs tuned to static, radios jammed in between stations, and other noise makers.  He stayed this way until 2001.  His brother was granted legal custody of Roky and helped him receive the medical and psychiatric attention he needed, which allowed Roky to get back to his music eventually.

In 2005 Roky finally took the stage at the Austin City Limits music festival, his first real concert in 20 years.  He continues to play shows and has plans to release more albums.  One of my personal highlights from the recent ACL fest was seeing him play, it was beautiful.

There’s plenty of more information about Roky available and (like Daniel Johnston) there was a great documentary released detailing his story.  “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is definitely worth watching if you’re into music documentaries.

Okay, so it’s a great story, but what about his music?  I’ve only recently (last year or so) been introduced to it but it immediately grabbed me.  The first thing I heard was him performing “The Wind And More” on some PBS show (could have been Austin City Limits) and I immediately searched for more.  Here are a few good clips:

“Creature With The Atom Brain”

“You’re Gonna Miss Me”, from the ACL show I saw:

My favorite – “I Think Of Demons”

Roky Erickson Homepage

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