i happen to love this band, but this critic give a pretty interesting review:
"you think it's a sensation, but it's just reverberation"
If you ever wanted a perfect example of a band actually being destroyed through the suffocating oppression of The System (and not because the band members themselves were just a bunch of assholes or just shot heroin through the nose or something like that), 13th Floor Elevators would be your perfect bet: a band whose creativity was cut smack dab in two, ground into dust and scattered to the four winds because they happened to go one step further than they should have, and in the wrong place, too.
A perfect anomaly, this: the Elevators formed in Texas in 1965, and instead of recording bluegrass covers or at least simply cutting one garage single and then going back to their McDonalds counters, decided to do nothing less than heralding the psychedelic revolution. Wearing long hair, smoking pot, and devouring illegal substances in the corner wasn't enough for them; the band's music was intent on fixing the changes to come, and their frontman, Roky Erickson (although the band members themselves never admitted to having one frontman), probably entered history as the first real Wildman with a capital W, way before the world heard of Jim Morrison or Iggy Pop - not that the world heard a lot about Roky Erickson, of course, but that is a shame and I egotistically hope these reviews will help correct that silly mistake.
The Elevators played music that was atmosphere-based rather than melody-based, although, since they grew out of worshipping the British Invasion as well as their rock'n'roll and blues roots, they weren't nearly as bold as, say, the Velvet Underground, in their attempts to eliminate catchiness and hooks from their tunes (even if for the most part, they did succeed at that). Their guitars were sloppy, ecstatic, and echoey; they had a weird gimmick called the "electric jug", which essentially meant band member Tommy Hall blowing into a jug with a microphone in one hand to amplify the resulting sounds; and they had Roky Erickson, who thrashed around the stage, wailed like a madman, and still had enough energy left to play professional rhythm guitar at the same time.
The Elevators took themselves seriously - very seriously; too seriously, in fact, adding isolated and controversial bits of mystical philosophy to their lyrics and even justifying their unhealthy attraction to illegal substances in witted expressions in the liner notes to the first album (which just might be some of the biggest bullshit I've ever read on a rock record - so dreadfully dated I find myself forced to use the word "dated" which I normally hate). Unfortunately, Texas Rangers aren't the biggest fans of mystical philosophy. As long as the Elevators stuck around San Francisco, they found themselves welcome, and were quite successful. For some reason, they opted to return to Texas, where, as you may know, you could serve twenty years in jail for being caught with one joint - and had the misfortune to become the "whipping boys" for the entire disease. After the recording of their second, and arguably best, album, Roky was tried for possession and got off with five years, which later were substituted for a three and a half year term at a mental institution. Needless to say, without the leader (or, if we're not speaking in 'leader' terms, at least, without the "main personality"), the band soon crumbled into dust, only releasing a third album from scraps and leftovers.
Too bad. The Elevators were indeed a force to be reckoned with, even if they never really reached universal recognition. Obviously, their San Franciscan stay made an impression on the acid rock scene - even if they didn't directly influence bands like the Airplane, they were in the same melting pot and they came earlier, so in a way they passed them the baton anyway. It's also been rumoured that Roky's singing style made a great impression on Janis Joplin (also a Texan), and I'm sure you can pick out more of these tidbits if you happen to read the right stuff. It is also obvious that the band wasn't spent; there's a lot of development and progression when you compare their first and second albums, and I'm pretty sure Roky could still have led them into further uncharted territory. Of course, there's also the case that Erickson was somewhat burnt out when he stood trial - he was drugged out in a way not unsimilar to Syd Barrett and/or Skip Spence, and his madhouse experiences probably weren't wholly undeserved, although it's been noted that stay didn't help him much anyway. So. as usual, any predictions would be ungrateful; but the fact remains, the Elevators got busted, and ceased to exist because of that.
The small amount of music that's been left to us isn't altogether consistent, for reasons I've already indicated (the band's immense ambitions coupled with the lack of care for melodicity and memorability), but nevertheless includes a handful of undoubted highs and very few real lows. Still, what is interesting to note is that the Elevators function as a sort of "bridge" between the whacked-out spaced-out acid rock of Friscan bands, on one side, and the sarcastic deconstructivist avantgarde of the early Velvet Underground, and could appeal to fans of both styles, even if usually there's little love between those who dig the Velvets and those who idolize the Airplane. Not being a "great" band in the general sense of the word (well, in the sense I use it, 'kay?), they were still a unique band, and an unjustly overlooked one. So do the world a favour and go buy one more dated unlistenable album by one more dated unlistenable band in order to impress people (but hardly make any friends). Signed: "Richie Unterberger". Well, not really.
Bedoin tribes ascending From the egg into the flower, Alpha information sending State within the heaven shower From disciples the unending Subtleties of river power They slip inside this house as they pass by
If your limbs begin dissolving In the water that you tread All surroundings are evolving In the stream that clears your head Find yourself a caravan Like Noah must have led And slip inside this house as you pass by. Slip inside this house as you pass by.
True conception, knowing why Brings even more than meets the eye Slip inside this house as you pass by.
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.
There is no season when you are grown You are always risen from the seeds you've sown There is no reason to rise alone Other stories given have sages of their own.
Live where your heart can be given And your life starts to unfold In the forms you envision In this dream that's ages old On the river layer is the only sayer You receive all you can hold Like you've been told.
Every day's another dawning Give the morning winds a chance Always catch your thunder yawning Lift your mind into the dance Sweep the shadows from your awning Shrink the fourfold circumstance That lies outside this house don't pass it by.
Higher worlds that you uncover Light the path you want to roam You compare there and discover You won't need a shell of foam Twice born gypsies care and keep The nowhere of their former home They slip inside this house as they pass by. Slip inside this house as you pass by.
You think you can't, you wish you could I know you can, I wish you would Slip inside this house as you pass by.
Four and twenty birds of Maya Baked into an atom you Polarized into existence Magnet heart from red to blue To such extent the realm of dark Within the picture it seems true But slip inside this house and then decide.
All your lightning waits inside you Travel it along your spine Seven stars receive your visit Seven seals remain divine Seven churches filled with spirit, Treasure from the angels' mine Slip inside this house as you pass by. Slip inside this house as you pass by.
The space you make has your own laws No longer human gods are cause The center of this house will never die.
There is no season when you are grown You are always risen from the seeds you've sown There is no reason to rise alone Other stories given have sages of their own.
Draw from the well of unchanging Its union nourishes on In the right re-arranging Till the last confusion is gone Water-brothers trust in the ultimust Of the always singing song they pass along.
One-eyed men aren't really reigning They just march in place until Two-eyed men with mystery training Finally feel the power fill Three-eyed men are not complaining. They can yo-yo where they will They slip inside this house as they pass by. Don't pass it by.
Thirteenth floor is a designation of a level of a multi-level building that is often omitted in countries where the number 13 is considered unlucky. Omitting the 13th floor may take a variety of forms; the most common include denoting what would otherwise be considered the thirteenth floor as level 14, giving the thirteenth floor an alternate designation such as "12A" or "M" (the thirteenth letter of the English alphabet), or closing the 13th floor to public occupancy or access (e.g., by designating it as a mechanical floor).
Reasons for omitting a thirteenth floor include triskaidekaphobia on the part of the building's owner or builder, or a desire by the building owner or landlord to prevent problems that may arise with superstitious tenants, occupants, or customers. Based on an internal review of records, Dilip Rangnekar of Otis Elevators estimates that 85% of the buildings with elevators did not have a floor named the 13th floor. Future building designers, fearing a fire on the 13th floor, or fearing tenants' superstitions about the rumor, decided to omit having a 13th floor listed on their elevator numbering. This practice became commonplace, and eventually found its way into mainstream culture and building design.
The origin of skipping the thirteenth floor when installing elevators is not known. In a work published in 1939 however, sociologist Otto Neurath compared the use of money in an economy, which he saw as unnecessary, to the superstition of not installing the thirteenth floor: merely a social convention.
Most commonly, it is skipped altogether. The floor numbered 14 is in fact the thirteenth floor, and 13 is skipped altogether on the elevator console. Any calculations involving the height of a building based on the height of a floor will take this into account.
Sometimes the floor is simply renumbered as 12A or 12B; this does not affect the numbers of the higher floors.Special designations
Other buildings will often use names for certain floors to avoid giving a floor on the building the number 13 designation. One such example is the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the 13th floor is called the Pool floor. Another example is the Sheraton on the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where the 13th floor consists solely of a restaurant.
Because the letter M is the 13th letter in the English alphabet, some people may use a letter M as a substitute for the floor numbered 13, such as 12, M, 14, and so forth. In Richmond, Virginia, the Monroe Park Towers has a 13th floor, but it is used for mechanical equipment and is only accessible from the freight elevator or the stairs. The M designation on the elevator buttons of the freight elevator can also be construed as meaning the "Mechanical" level in this particular building, or as a "Mezzanine" level.
Similarly, new buildings in some parts of China omit the fourth, fourteenth, twenty-fourth, etc. floors, as the word "four" (Hanzi: 四) sounds like "death" (死 – pronounced "sì" and "sǐ", respectively) in Mandarin, the predominant language for the country, and most other Chinese languages. A small number of buildings also follow the American tradition of omitting the thirteenth floor, with the fifteenth floor immediately following the twelfth.
In South Korea, buildings tend to include the fourth floor in spite of similar pronunciation issues in the Korean language, though some newer buildings may substitute the letter F in the place of the number 4.Conspiracy theory
Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that the thirteenth floor in government buildings is not really missing, but actually contains top-secret governmental departments, or more generally that it is proof of something sinister or clandestine going on. This implication is often carried over, implicitly or explicitly, into popular culture; for example in:
the episode "Grey 17 Is Missing" of the TV series Babylon 5 has a similar theme of a "missing" floor number actually containing a hidden floor with dark secrets.
It is widely believed that Canary Wharf's One Canada Square houses a physical plant room on its level 13 but this is just another example of undeserved notoriety on the part of the 13th floor. One Canada Square's plant areas are in its basements (Levels B3 to M1) and above Level 50 (Level M2). The floor directly above level 12 is level 14
The eponymous jug is just that: an empty jug (usually made of glass or stoneware) played with the mouth. With an embouchure like that used for a brass instrument, the musician holds the mouth of the jug about an inch from his or her mouth and emits a blast of sound, made by a "buzzing" of the lips, directly into it. The jug does not touch the musician's mouth, but serves as a resonating chamber to amplify and enrich the sound made by the musician's lips. Changes in pitch are controlled by loosening or tightening the lips. An accomplished jugplayer might have a two octave range. Some players augment this sound with vocalizations, didgeridoo style, and even circular breathing. In performance, the jug sound is enhanced if the player stands with his back to a wall, which will reflect the sound toward the audience.
These are excerpts from an unpublished 2-hour interview with Stacy in Houston in the Spring 1977. The tapes from the interview have been preserved, but the names of the two persons conducting it are unknown. Apart from Stacy, his girlfriend Bunny and former Elevators drummer Danny Thomas were present. Following the interview Stacy performs a few traditional songs with acoustic guitar. The reunion concert referred to happened in May 1977, without Roky or Tommy showing up. The following year Stacy was shot dead by Bunny in a domestic fight.
1. The Group
Q: How did y'all get started with the name, the 13th Floor Elevators?
STACY: That was Tommy's wife, Clementine. Just a name she thought of, no real purpose about it, just an unusual name... 13th floor, there's no 13th floor on a building. Because of superstition.
Q: Were you conscious of the recordings of the albums being inferior as you were doing them?
STACY: Well, we knew that it was going to be inferior... all of them except the first one, which we did in Dallas. We recorded parts of it in different studios around Dallas. We were just hoping to get to a better studio but it never got better. They just kept us in lesser studios and owned major stock in Gold Star for a while, that's where we wound up doing the last one. One of them with Andrus. And the first hit was at Andrus Studios. Here in Houston. And Easter Everywhere was cut at his studio here in Houston.
Q: Is that still around today?
STACY: I think he moved most of his machinery to Rock Springs for a while, to build a studio there. But then he gave up on that and I think he's got most of his machinery back here in Houston now, but no studio.
Q: Do you know what happened to the master tapes of the recordings?
STACY: Well, I've heard rumors from a couple of different people. A guy in San Francisco has one supposedly, and our drummer, John Ike, has one. I ran into Noble Ginther and Dillard a while back, and Bill Dillard, one of the owners of the company, had three of them he said.
Q: The master tapes of the whole album?
STACY: The original cuts.
BUNNY: Andrus says they were burned in a bonfire, a mysterious bonfire, they were all destroyed.
STACY: Yeah... [laughter]
Q: It's really rare to find them, and they're expensive. Would you like to see them out on the public market?
STACY: Sure would. I'd be glad to see them out, probably wouldn't get a nickel out of it. [laughter]
Q: Would you want them out even if you didn't get any royalties from it?
STACY: Sure, as long as people enjoy it.
Q: I'm not sure what Tommy did on the albums, did he do the background vocals?
STACY: He wrote most of the words, and did background vocals, jug. Acoustic guitar towards the end. He wrote some of the guitar... just starting to learn it when the group finally disbanded.
Q: Did he just blow into the jug and that's what makes the sound?
STACY: He tried several different techniques, like blowing into it, getting a hollow sound. A jug is originally blown in bluegrass music. Just making different noises. Using echo chambers with it, whatever.
Q: What people influenced you around this time?
STACY: We were into the same groups as everybody during that era. Dylan influenced our music a lot... we enjoyed the Beatles and the Stones, and we listened to the underground groups that weren't really popular, mostly jazz groups. And some early jazz like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis. And a group called the Holy Modal Rounders. Just the sort of underground music from that era.
Q: Could you buy these records at every place? What do you mean by underground?
STACY: You couldn't get them everywhere, we got them at the Austin University Co-op, cause they had a really sharp record shop. They had a lot of music that wasn't really in the public eye.
Q: When y'all would be in San Francisco, did you play the Fillmore?
STACY: Yeah, we played at the Fillmore, Avalon...
Q: What impression did Bill Graham give on you? Cause a lot of people signify him as being a ripoff...
STACY: Well, Bill Graham struck me as sort of a hardcore character, but we always respected him from a business standpoint and his taste for music, y'know? But he was a sort of standoffish cat, and never did talk much more than just greetings.
Q: What was happening in California, going out there playing in the 1960s, was it quite a lot ahead of what was going on here in Texas?
STACY: Well, I think they like to believe that, but they weren't. Their culture had definitely been into drugs more so, I think at the time, and it was more advanced in senses... but it didn't have a freshness like Texas had to it, it was more washed out. One of the things I found when I first got out there was a walk I took down to Haight Street which was supposed to be where all the "beautiful people" were at the time, but I didn't see anything but derelicts and dope fiends running around in the streets freaked out... shot up and whatever, begging money off people, it wasn't anything that I was looking forward to seeing, it didn't have the freshness Texas did at the time.
Q: Did it kind of disappoint?
STACY: Yeah, it did kind of disappoint me.
Q: Did the rest of the group feel the same way about it?
STACY: Yeah I think so, I think everybody did. We were really interested in the culture and all, to see it all, naturally, and there were a lot of really groovy people and everything, but it was just different. Although they had been into drugs possibly considerably longer, they weren't more spiritually sincere, more... advanced necessarily than Texas.
Q: A lot of them were out to make money, just like everybody else?
Q: This is kind of an off the track question, but do you consider the Grateful Dead psychedelic?
STACY: Oh yeah. Sure. They were probably the most sincerely involved with acid at that time, when we were out there then any band that we met. They'd been living on the mountains and taking acid with spiritual sincerity, know what I mean?
Q: Were they really sincere?
STACY: Oh yeah. They did free concerts and benefits, and had a true concern for people and the scene itself, you know.
Q: Are they like that anymore?
STACY: I think so... I think they've gotten into business and so forth now that they've made it, and they're more separate now, they're not a nucleus like they were then, naturally, when they were struggling to make it, they're more divided and into their own personal endeavours.
Q: Do you feel the same about the Jefferson Airplane?
STACY: Well, I enjoyed the Airplane's music a lot but at the time, when we were out there, we were booked over them, some. This was right before they really started making it and they sort of struck me as... amateurs in every sense of the word. I think they became quite a sharp group over the years and they stuck it through, they stuck it out and they made it. But at the time I didn't really enjoy 'em that much.
Q: Do you think their lyrics were too concerned with violence?
STACY: Oh yeah, they were too much of a radical group, and kind of a jive-ass trip at the time. They were hitting aspects of it that were really unimportant, totally. Q: When all the other people were talking about universal love and all, they were singing about "kill the pigs"...
STACY: Yeah, and trying to convince everybody how high they were. And everything that they saw, like they were some mystics or something. They were just flipped out like everybody else.
Q: What did you think of Fever Tree?
STACY: Well, I've never really known 'em personally that much so...
Q: ... they were acting like they were in competition with y'all?
STACY: Well they were acting like they were something big happening at the time and they really weren't that much. I mean they had that hit that sounded pretty good and everything but...
Q: San Francisco Girl.
STACY: Yeah, San Francisco Girl...and I was down at the warehouse the other day and they'd played two or three shows around town and the guy said that so far he's heard the reports that the bands they played against were better than they were. Which is understandable, they hadn't been together in a long, long time. But they don't seem to be doing that well right now.
Q: Could you please tell us the anecdote about the famous Dick Clark show?
STACY: I don't remember. What part?
Q: The one about asking who's the head of the group.
STACY: Oh, yeah, Tommy did that. We just appeared on his show and he came up and said, "Who's the head of the group?" and Tommy said, "What do you mean, man, we're all heads!" [laughter]
Q: Did y'all catch a lot of shit for that?
STACY: Well, it didn't go over very well with him but he let it slide, because it wasn't anything HE did, you know what I mean? But he didn't like the group because of it. He was a pretty sharp character, I thought, in real life. But as soon as that camera came on it was all.. .young, vibrant, healthy American, all American boy, you know.
Q: What was he like off-camera then?
STACY: A stern businessman. I mean, he had everything going, and checking on everything and was head dude of his show. He kept it moving, was quite a businessman, but not near as joyful as he seems. That smile is all show, you can believe that.
Q: You said he didn't really like you, but I've heard... didn't you play his show very often?
STACY: We did "Where The Action Is" which he had a part of, and "American Bandstand". We did 'em one time apiece. And it was as much for him as us, he didn't pay for it really. It was a real cheap gig, most of it involved promotion, group promotion, that's what we were getting out of it, and he was having an upcoming band on his show, so it was a mutual trade out. But they paid expenses, airplanes and $500 I think for the show.
Q: Did you lose your money to these people because you just weren't concerned with it at the time, or what happened?
STACY: Well, we were just victimized by youth more than anything, just didn't have any real business sense. We thought we did, like we hired a lawyer to check the contracts out. But the company got a hold of him and told him to tell us they were standard contracts and the next thing we know we're in lock, stock and barrel and he owns part of us, our own lawyer. They'd bought him out right in the middle of the negotiations. And we signed a contract that just locked us in, man. We weren't making any money; we'd signed our rights away, our royalties, and whatever.
Q: Once you realized that...
STACY: Well, we didn't ever actually want to go with the company. The funny thing about it was we'd signed a release to "You're Gonna Miss Me" to a fellow named Gordon Bynum which was an independent record promoter here in Houston. And we were already getting calls from major labels and everything and we were wanting to negotiate with some major labels but he jumped up, freaked out, and sold that record to International Artists, which was two lawyers and Lelan Rogers that had never been in the record business before, but wanted to get into it. That was their inspiration more or less, just the thought of "Well, you make this record go, you know we'll make some money". That's how the record company was started. And so when he sold our record to 'em they put it out and it was a hit, a statewide hit, right away. So naturally that gave us some degree of faith in 'em. So we agreed to go with them and sign a contract and it was a national top 40 shortly thereafter and we thought things were going to go all right. But that was the best promotional job they ever did. They never put that much promotion into it after that and we couldn't get away from 'em. It was a snap that they weren't what they claimed to be or weren't going to do what they promised...it was too late. Like, they never would come through when we had our equipment stolen. We went for nearly a year without any instruments to play on or anything. We had to rent instruments to play on and all this...
Q: In retrospect, are you bitter at all about what happened?
STACY: Well, I'm bitter about the... financial aspects, sure. I mean, I feel like I should have had some money out of it, yeah. Because we put five years of sincere effort in it, you know, work too. Because we DID work on it, man, did a lot of travelling, a lot of time invested in it was for nothing. I never made a dollar out of it, so to speak, except what we were making on the shows. Back then half of that was spent on travelling and buying our equipment. They weren't paying for it, we had to pay for all of it. So we didn't come out with any money out of it at all. I'm sort of bitter about that, but other than that, no. I'm really thankful for the experience. It meant a lot to me.
Q: It was a great experience then, wasn't it?
STACY: It really was.
Q: Wasn't there... when you found out what had happened, had they done anything illegal that you could...
STACY: No, our drummer's had them under suit going on ten years or so, I don't know how long. Since right after the group formulated, really. I mean right after we were signed to 'em he's had them under suit and has never been able to pull a thing with the lawyers he's hired. I've never seen a breakthrough yet on the case. I don't understand one thing, I don't understand why the ones that have the tapes don't make some more albums is one thing I don't understand, because they still seem to sell, you know?
Q: Was Lelan Rogers like an older kind of businessman?
STACY: He'd been in the music business for some time. He'd helped Sonny & Cher a while back, his brother was Kenny Rogers of the Fifth Edition. He'd been in the music business for I think about 10 years or so when I got a hold of him.
Q: Did he make any money off it?
STACY: I think that what Lelan did was, he saw there was going to be a hijacking all the way around and told us at the time to leave the company at the first opportunity. We didn't listen to him, we should have, he was right. I think he was getting out because he saw that there was going to be a hijacking of some sort. So he got his share and split. He's still running back and forth between here and California trying to get something going.
Q: Between y'all, the Elevators?
STACY: No, he keeps in touch with different ones of us, from time to time I hear from him, but we haven't had any dealings with him since those days.
Q: We were talking last time about William Burroughs... the author of "Naked Lunch", and I was wondering what other authors influenced your thinking? What do you like to read?
STACY: Just about anything, I just like... I don't read anybody in particular, I don't have a favorite author.
BUNNY: Gordon Wasson.
STACY: Yeah, been reading some Wasson... just different books.
Q: Were you into Hermann Hesse... the Eastern spiritual things?
STACY: Well, I've read a couple of his books, but I never was into that. Tommy was more into the Eastern philosophers. He studied philosophy, was a philosophy graduate. I never did spend that much time with it.
Q: What did he mean by "Easter Everywhere"?
STACY: Well, his idea was to combine Eastern and Western religion in a way that exposed it to everybody. The similarities and what ways they coincide. Just because they might have different words, a lot of the ideas were actually the same, they were just worded different... he was trying to combine them into one idea.
Q: Could you say something about the picture on the back of Easter Everywhere?
STACY: Well, I couldn't technically explain it to you, I wish Tommy was here so he could do that, but it was just early Oriental art, and each room signifies a level of consciousness... to a higher consciousness, highest consciousness/ God consciousness which is in the egg if I remember it right. It's a symbol of rebirth. Each little room in the man symbols a level of consciousness.
Q: Did he just come across that picture?
STACY: He found it in a book of Oriental art.
Q: What does “Postures” mean, what does it signify?
STACY: Well, it's just more or less axioms that Tommy felt people should live by. Sort of to raise their consciousness.
Q: That's pretty bold words, saying "Leave your body behind"...
STACY: He believed that, actually, probably still does. Don't know that he ever did levitate, he felt like he was. He believed in astral projection and studied it quite a bit at the time. If he ever actually attained it I'm not sure, but he really put in a sincere effort into it over many years of study. That was his ambition.
Q: Like something you see in Dr Strange, the comic book?
STACY: Well no, he read philosophy by people like, if you remember Lobsang Rampa, who wrote "The third eye"... and several other books. And Gurdjieff, a philosopher who studied old Indian and Egyptian philosophers.
Q: Did it seem like a different group totally after John Ike left?
STACY: Well it was a lot harder, changes to go through because of new musicians... actually Benny Thurman, our first bass man left before that too. He had trouble with amphetamine, and we got Danny Galindo to play bass for us.
Q: What is Benny up to these days?
STACY: He's in Austin, he was running a printing company for a while. He started a few bands around Austin, one of them named Storm which was pretty popular for a while. I don't know if he's in a band right now or not.
Pre-Elevators band the Lingsmen. l-r Benny Thurman, Stacy Sutherland, John Ike Walton
Q: Is he gonna be at the reunion too?
STACY: Yeah, we're going to get him too. He was a first chair violinist for Austin symphony orchestra. He was quite a violinist, played fiddle... bluegrass and everything. He could play "Listen to the mockingbird" and stuff like that and make birds sing. When he played "Orange blossom special" he'd do the wheels that have air breaks and everything. It was cool.
Q: Could you explain about "man organizing his knowledge vertically"?
STACY: No, not really. That's where you need Tommy. That's for sure some form of expansion... [laughter] as high as you can get, and as wide as you can get, probably.
Q: Was "Tried to hide" basically about people in the 60s movements who really weren't getting into it, but acting like they were, who were really straight conservatives?
STACY: Yeah, that's what it's about. It's about a girl, sort of a mix between girls that Tommy knew at the time, I think. That's what she symbolized, sort of just going along with a fad and trend and whatever but really had no purpose in it. There was quite a crew of those kind of people in that era... still are, of course.
Q: What is a "Slide machine"?
STACY: It was political. A lot of people mistake it for rigs, or hypodermic syringes, but it wasn't. Cause nobody in the band was using syringes at the time. Only Powell St John can explain it, he's the one who wrote it.
Q: Who's he?
STACY: He was a writer and harp player, he was going to the University of Texas same time that Tommy was, and he later played with Mother Earth. He's in San Francisco right now I think, still writing.
Q: Did he ever play with the Elevators?
STACY: He played with a group called the Conqueroo at the time. He started it actually, and joined Mother Earth after that, with Tracy Nelson, and played with them for a year. They disbanded and never got back together again. He's in Berkeley now, still writing.
Q: Is Tommy up in Berkeley?
STACY: He's in San Francisco.
Q: Did you get the title "Bull Of The Woods" from the chewing tobacco?
STACY: Yeah, kind of.
Q: I’ve heard that you did "Bull Of The Woods" on speed …
STACY: Stayed up...how long was it? Four days and nights? Three engineers in one session. That's why it sounds like it does, too. We never rested or slept or ate or anything, just kept playing. Wear one engineer out and another would come in.
Q: So you're not as pleased with "Bull Of The Woods"...
STACY: Oh, no man. It would be fine with me if that one was destroyed totally. We were just trying to keep the group together more or less and hoping that Roky would get out of the hospital, you know, and get back together.
Q: He did one song on that, did he?
STACY: No, he did three on that. He did "Never Another", "Livin' On" and "May The Circle Remain Unbroken".
Q: Roky sounded like he was shouting out more in the first album.
STACY: Yeah, well something too that cramped him though about that was that Tommy's writing was kind of like trying to sing the encyclopedia, you know what I mean? It's like to be soulful, and Roky was used to rock 'n roll all his life and then stuff just from feeling and spontaneous movement with his voice. He used his voice like an instrument. But when he had to pronounce certain words and so forth like he was reading an encyclopedia or something, you know, it was hard for him to be as soulful.
Q: Like, when he just starts screaming at the beginning of "You're Gonna Miss Me", that just kills me.
STACY: Yeah, that just killed me too. He could imitate people too, man, I mean just to a "T". He could take over people's accents. Well, he did a real, real tasty Mick Jagger and a real tasty Buddy Holly, he could do Buddy Holly real well. He could do bunches of people actually, but those were two of his best. He could take their accent and everything, you know?
Q: I would say definitely that he was a superior vocalist to Jagger...
STACY: I think he was more versatile for sure.
Q: Would you say that in a way you're really better off than the people who got your money? I mean not financially, but possibly spiritually?
STACY: I would hope so. That would be consolation [laughs]. I saw 'em awhile back here in town driving down the street.... we chatted over a few beers.
Q: Who's this?
STACY: Noble Ginther and Bill Dillard, two of the lawyers that owned the company. Dillard is in Nashville right now working for Porter Waggoner. And he's involved with a studio up there and he was telling me if we got a group again to come on up, "We'd be glad to cut you”.
Q: What'd you say?
STACY: I said "I might do that" but I don't think I want a second round of it.
2. Drugs & Beliefs
Q: What were some of the most mystic visions you had on acid?
STACY: Hmm... well, it's hard to say exactly, I just remember when I started taking acid... I guess the strongest visions I ever had were kinda bad actually, but they could have been because of my background and how I was raised. The most mystic vision I ever had was concerning a show we did here in Houston, Theatre In The Round [a k a Houston Music Theatre]. And I had taken some acid, I hadn't had any in quite a while, and it was a super strong dose, about a 1,000 microgram or something. And we had to do a concert, and all of a sudden everyone started glowing. They had a foot of light, like a neon light around them in the room… real bright. And everyone started glowing away, and I freaked out that I was going to die or something. I had some bad trips before, but nothing like this. And then everybody turned into wolves, and I thought that our band was evil, because of some of the things we had advocated. We had had a controversy going on quite a while about advocating drugs and so forth, and mixing it with religion, you know. 'Cause I felt like that was pretty dangerous ground to tread. And Tommy and I were arguing about that quite a bit. I got on a bummer about it evidently. And I was tryin' to escape the room, I didn't know what I was gonna do, but I was gonna get out of there. I didn't want anything to do with it 'cause everybody was turning into animals. And all of a sudden there were angels, and I couldn't move my body anymore. I lost physical feeling all over and I was laying on the floor. And everybody turned into angels, and everybody in the room was the judge at my trial to decide whether I was worthy to enter heaven or hell. Because it was absolute that I was going to die anyway you know. And there was one good angel, and I felt like I'd been there before, many times, not just once. But, I'd been in this circumstance with these same people, and the whole time that I was there I was...
Q: You'd been playing in the band?
STACY: Yeah, but I'm talkin' with these cosmic spirits you know, as judges. I knew who they were as people, as models, but I knew that they didn't realize what role they played in my existence on this earth. And this one angel told me that two or three different events were going to take place in my life. And every one of them came true within 2 years.
On the right is the handbill for the Houston Music Theatre gig where Stacy had his psychedelic vision. The 'rainbow' effect has been added later and is not part of the original design.
Q: Major events?
STACY: Yeah, they were major. One of them was the end of an 8- year relationship with a girl I'd been going with. One of them was when I was going to the penitentiary, and I went to the penitentiary. And the third one hasn't come true yet, and I hope it doesn't [laughter]. It was really a mystical experience, at the time I knew without a doubt that it was true, there was no denying it. I tried to convince myself when I came down a week later, it took me about a week to get off that trip, that it was all just a bad experience on acid and I didn't pay any more attention to it. Until these events would take place and then I would remember it because it's always with me. Always will remember that experience. And I had three or four like that concerning the group getting together. They were on a lighter scale about the fact that the timing and everything, it seemed like it was meant to be. And then we had some musical experiences that are hard to explain with words, about timing when we were playing that was just like, there's no way I can explain it, it's just something really magic in the group when we played that I could feel, it was like a power that I've never experienced before or since. It was some kind of musical communication that was just extraordinary, as far as anything that I've ever experienced...
Q: Do you feel like acid helped you reach God?
STACY: Hmm... well I think acid helped enlighten me quite a bit. Made me more aware at the time. I don't know if you can actually say it, "see God", you know…. but yeah I think acid really started me thinking about it, for sure. In less defined terms, before that all the religion that I've had was through the church and the way I was raised. The ideas that acid gave me were much more expanded. The words took on new connotations.
Q: You had just accepted what you'd been taught before about religion, without seeing for yourself?
STACY: Right. It meant more. It was like when I was a kid in church and they told me the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. I just took that point blank to be true, I never actually thought about the Kingdom of Heaven being within you.
Q: Then you saw it for yourself...
STACY: Yeah. I saw the absolute reality of that statement.
Q: What do you think about God today, compared to back then?
STACY: It's the same a lot, just more expanded ideas. Like I don't try to categorize him as I possibly did then, because there was a more limited understanding, of what I believe God to be. It was more church-oriented, and just one definition. Hard to explain in words really, I know that now... I'm not a member of any particular faith or anything, I still believe in God, it's a personal thing.
Q: Were y'all playing on acid most of the time?
STACY: Yeah, we did all our shows and all our recordings on acid.
Q: You said all of y'all were busted?
STACY: I had 'em jump up on the stage one time when I was playing and grab me. Right in the middle of "Fire Engine"...
Q: Hit him with your guitar!
STACY: ... and I handed one of them my guitar, it was turned up full blast and it started screaming while he didn't know what to do with it... [everybody laughs] And they took me through the crowd, and like the crowd started throwing coke cups and stuff at 'em, and started rushing at 'em and stuff, and they freaked out and pulled their guns out and backed into the car. And it really upset this one cop, man, he freaked out because he thought they were gonna mob him, you know. And I was on acid and everything, my head's spinning around, and he got me in the car and told me that he was gonna kill me. He said "I'm gonna take you outside of town and I'm gonna kill you, and I'm gonna tell 'em downtown that you tried to take my gun away from me, punk". And he goes like this at me, you know [gestures] and I'd jump and see stars. And I didn't really think they were gonna do it, but I was so freaked out on acid, man, when he turned out on the freeway heading out of Houston I freaked out and I said "Now wait a minute, man, can we talk about it?".
Q: Talk about fear!
STACY: Well, yeah, I freaked on it, man. Finally though they took me downtown, turned around. They just wanted to shake me up. They knew I was on acid.
Q: Do you feel like there will be a lot of people on acid at the reunion show?
STACY: I doubt it. I don't think acid is around all that much anymore, certainly not to the degree it was then... people eat it, but not like then.
Q: Do you feel like it was the answer then?
STACY: I think it had a major purpose, for mankind and I don't fully understand why. I don't think it does anymore, I don't think people have the same reactions, it doesn't have the same effect on people now possibly because of the cultural change or whatever that has taken place, but it was definitely different then.
Q: Seems like then everything was so new, now there's so much doubt filling everybody's mind, about the drugs and people flipping out...
STACY: Yeah, there was a lot more positive attitude concerning acid and mescaline then there is now on a mass scale, anyway.
Q: When did you start doing heroin?
STACY: About the time the group started breaking up. I got on amphetamines for a while, speed, because I felt like it brought me down. We were all a little bit blown out, because after a few years of that [LSD] everybody was pretty spacey. And I started noticing that Roky was having a really bad time, an exceptionally bad time with it. I got leery of it because the bad trips started happening more frequently, like I could count on one out of every five being a really bum time. So I got to where I didn't trust it or didn't trust the advocation of it, except for select individuals that were profiting from the use of it, and I saw that it was deteriorating the group. So I started backing down then... but I still had a bad grasp on self-confidence or whatever, plus some troubles that were bothering me at that time of my life, so I used [amphetamines] unconsciously as a crutch, just like people drink, and got involved with it that way unintentionally until it really had a grip on me. And then I just switched to heroin. Because the speed had turned me into a nervous wreck and heroin calmed me. And it was just a lot about... not snapping really.
Q: Didn't heroin calm you too much?
STACY: Yeah, way too much [laughs]... it got a hold on me.
Q: Isn't heroin really expensive?
STACY: Yeah, it really is.
Q: How did you get by, was it off the money you made from gigs?
STACY: No, I knew enough people at the time because of our music, that it wasn't all that hard, it wasn't unavailable for a long time, plus I could score for somebody any time I wanted to and generally stay stoned. I didn't have to steal or anything like that for it. Worst thing about it was it made me totally nonproductive and non-creative for a long time.
Q: So you had to start playing the guitar all over again?
STACY: Yeah, it was sort of like starting all over, because I lost about three years.
Q: Was your mom aware of all this?
STACY: Not until it was over. Right at the end.
Q: Do you recall some other visions you had on LSD?
STACY: I thought of another one that was kind of far out, or two actually. One of them was kind of a deja vu experience that I had with a couple of friends fishing on acid one time, after I had taken acid I had a dream about a fishing hole. And we'd been fishing all day, and I knew when I went up over this hill and I saw this place, and I had never been there before, and we hadn't caught fish all day, that I was going to catch a fish. I told them, I called them right there 'cause I'd seen it on acid. And I threw my line out and caught a bass. Told them I was going to and I'd seen that before. And another time was in a club, one of the experiences I've had in... auditory hallucinations or whatever. I heard this choir singing in the background, all the sudden there was all these voices and we weren't actually doing them y'know, the sounds... and it caused such a power while I was playing that my guitar started floating up in the air... that sounds crazy but it's true. Really was, I was pushing on it, I could feel it raising up in the air... and there was a blue light coming on the cord up the instrument that was running all over my body, glowing.
Q: Did you have light shows when you were playing?
STACY: Oh yeah. Lot of clubs then had started that sort of thing...
Poster for one of Stacy's last gigs with the Elevators, 1968. Roky & Tommy were no longer in the band at this point.
Q: Did that freak you out?
STACY: The only time it ever freaked me, one time I thought a light show was Hades when I was walking into it. Because I was already freaked out and I thought it was a burning ball of fire and that we were entering Hades. But no, they never distracted me or anything. Some of them were pretty interesting really, if they were really good. Still like to see one, a good one. Avalon had the best one I ever saw. They showed old films, art films, and water colors all over the wall, all the way around the whole building. There'd be like five or six projectors going at once, different effects. It was really fun to watch.
Q: How often were you all dropping acid at this time?
STACY: Too much, finally. When it was readily available it got to be nearly an everyday thing for a long time. For a year there we ate it nearly every day. Other than that, at least once or twice a week. All in all for a period of nearly five years.
Q: You were saying that you were having bad trips. Even though you were having bad trips every once in a while you'd still take it?
STACY: Yep. We thought that bad trips were caused by doubt and inner fears, fears of ourselves.
Q: So you tried to get rid of those doubts?
STACY: Tried to overcome it, just bow down and keep going. But finally I noticed that even when people weren't on bad trips they still were on bad trips. They were so high they were spaced out to the point where they didn't need acid and they were still flipped.
Q: Do you still believe that somebody's mental state before they drop it determines the trip?
STACY: Oh yeah. A whole lot, I still believe that. I did at the time, really.
Q: I heard about a La Bastille concert [in Houston], around '73 or so. How did you like that one?
STACY: Well, one bad thing about it was that there was no rehearsal time whatsoever when the group got together, like I hadn't seen Roky in several years. I hadn't seen John Ike in about a year. It was all by telephone and we met that night. The memory of the tunes was pretty thin. Everybody was changing in different places, because a lot of our material...
Q: Did y'all write it down or was it just memory?
STACY: It was done by memory at the time. The words were written down, when Tommy wrote the lyrics. The music changes were all from memory, while it was fresh with us.
Q: Are y'all going to try and get it together a lot better for this next concert?
STACY: Well at least we're going to have a few days to rehearse. We ought to be able to work up enough tunes. We're not gonna play that long, only 30-40 minutes per set. It'll only be two sets, I'm sure we'll work something out. We'll probably do some of Roky's new stuff too.
STACY: Yeah. And what ones we can remember off of the old albums.
Q: Is this being very much publicized, the concert?
STACY: Well it's had about two days on the street in the Montrose area and that's about it.
Q: What kind of crowd do you think you will see?
STACY: We're hoping we'll get a sizable crowd, because of the art festival. Probably more than Cecil wants, because Ingram isn't all that big and they're gonna put it in the street out in front of his club, his club wouldn't handle but a few hundred. It'll be outside but Ingram's used to that, they generally have their community affairs out in the streets, it's old Ingram, the highway runs right through outside of it. You turn off and go through the town which is nothing, it's a grocery store and a post office. And the Old Dog saloon now, it used to be the Pastime Club.
Advertisement for the 1977 'reunion', designed by Bunny
Q: Do you expect this to go on anywhere from here hopefully?
STACY: No, not really. It's just a get-together. Just something everybody would enjoy doing. Help Cecil and his club... thought it might help pull some customers.
Q: You expect Tommy to be here?
STACY: Sure hoping so. Not positive. He's the one person I'm not sure of. That and if Roky flips out, that will be the next thing and doesn't show up but I think they'll probably go...
Q: Do you feel like you would recognize Tommy today?
STACY: Oh yeah. I feel certain I would.
Q: How did you get back in touch with Roky, and how did all of this come about?
STACY: Oh Cecil, he used to be our roadie, he's a musician himself now and he's been playing in Tennessee, on and off for the last four years now. He has a part ownership of the club in old Ingram. He called everybody up, I hadn't seen any of the group yet myself, or even talked to them.
Q: You haven't talked to Roky?
STACY: No, but it'd be great to get together y'know. John Ike and Ronnie both live there in Kerrville anyway, that's right by Kerrville, just right down the road. And so Cecil wanted to have an Elevators reunion at the Old Dog Saloon, cause he's trying to get his club going y'know, he thought that'd be an added attraction, people coming to see the art festival... there'll be quite a crowd there anyway, for the art festival. And he says that would pull some business down there. I thought the free keg and free beer was a pretty nice thing but I don't know how he's going to pull that off, if he has any crowd at all he may be out of beer by nine or ten that night. But if people get there early they can get a good buzz going anyway.
Q: Y'all gonna bring the jug?
STACY: If Tommy can make it maybe, he's the one person that's in doubt if he will be there cause he's in San Francisco.
Q: Is Danny the only one of the Elevators you've been in touch with?
STACY: Yeah, that I've seen in well, about a year... John Ike and Ronnie are in Kerrville, I saw them right before I moved to Houston, and then Roky is in Austin, Benny Thurman is in Austin, it's just 90 miles from Kerrville, so it's no hassle for everybody to get together.
Q: [refers to poster for reunion show] This sun is the sun rising like on "You're Gonna Miss Me"? You're gonna wake up one morning...
STACY: Bunny did that poster.
Q: Are you at all, um... worried about... Roky...that...he...
STACY: Turning up?
Q: Well, or turning up on acid...
STACY: Oh no, I'm sure he'll be pretty spaced, but he has been for years, he still performs and everything. We'll probably do some of his material. And knowing Cecil I think Cecil will hog-tie him. So I think he'll be there, you know what I mean, because Cecil's put quite a bit of promotion with this, buying all that beer and so forth, and promoting it, to not let it come through. The original word I had was that Roky would disappear again like he always has done. It's like he goes to a show if he feels like it, you know. That's why he has a hard time keeping a group, because they get tired of turning up and no Roky, you know. He just about has to have a baby-sitter hired with him to travel with him all the time or he won't be there. You never know if he's going to be there or not. But I think Cecil will see to it that he's there.
Q: Do you think there's any chance that if we showed up that we'll be able to meet Roky and the other members of the group?
STACY: Oh, sure, we'll just be roaming around getting drunk in the street with everybody else. It's just gonna be a big party, you know, outdoors. Yeah, he's got a wife and baby now. Dana's from Kerrville, actually.
Q: Roky does?
STACY: Yeah, he had a baby here early this year.
Q: Is it his first kid?
STACY: I think he has another kid here in Houston. I've never seen it, but it was a girl he lived with for several years. Supposedly she has one of his kids but I don't know for sure.
Q: Wouldn't you think he was one of the most talented, distinct vocalists?
STACY: I still believe that, still do, yeah you bet. He was a dynamo that had more energy than any, nearly any other white performer I've ever seen as far as just sheer energy. I mean when he'd scream it gotcha. None of that was ever captured on wax or nothing, the real dynamic quality of his voice was never captured on tape.
Transcribed from audio tape by Patrick Lundborg, 2002