A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

From the Cutout Bins: 13th Floor Elevators

Finding the Cheap Music

         After the Big K discount store opened on Hall Road in Alcoa, Tennessee, I became a frequent visitor.   Usually I was looking for cheap record albums.  In my mind I can still find my way down the main middle aisle of the store to the record racks on my left.  They were almost dead center in the middle of the store and when I arrived to that point it became the center of my universe for the next half hour or more.

         The stories I could tell about the music that I found in that store.  The cut-out bins featured older albums that were no longer as popular as they had once been, poor selling albums by artists who were well-known, and albums by artists that seemed very obscure--at least to someone like me in this small town.  I knew the hits that I heard on the radio and some of the counter-culture stuff they played on the college radio coming from Knoxville, but since I didn't keep up with the music magazines I didn't know about a lot of artists in the industry.

        Maybe some of these artists in the cut-outs were even obscure to most music fans in the know.  All I know is that some of these recordings piqued my curiosity and I coveted owning more than I could afford.  It's funny to think back on this because the albums were mostly less than a dollar apiece to my recollection.   But I was in college and money was tight.  Every quarter counted.

       Besides the cheap vinyl LP's which were displayed neatly in racks that could be flipped through easily, there were a lesser amount of 8-track cartridges which featured artists that were perhaps even more obscure than those on the record albums.  LP's were my format of preference, but some of the artists on 8-track were only on that format so sometimes I would have to break down to accept the lesser quality of the cartridges.  The biggest advantage to having music on 8-track was that they could be played in the car, but since at the time I didn't own a car that wasn't a big deciding factor for me.

An Intriguing Find

      During one of my visits to the Big K cut-out record department a peculiar sounding 8-track tape caught my eye.  The Easter Everywhere album by the oddly named 13th Floor Elevators was one album that I was not going to let go.  I'd never heard of the group before and there was no information about the group on the generic cardboard sleeve containing a crude looking cartridge that looked as though it could have been manufactured in someone's garage.  The packaging didn't matter as much as the group's name.   With a name like 13th Floor Elevators they had to be interesting.

      As it turned out I wasn't disappointed.  The sound quality was almost as crude as the appearance of the packaging, but the songs were extraordinary.  I was mesmerized by the unique sound of the group from my first listening.  Primitive and raw sounding, the music seemed so alien to me that it might have been dropped to Earth by a passing UFO.

       Actually it was good old rock and roll with a heavy dose of psychedelia.  In some songs the lyrics were fairly standard fare while other songs such as "Slip Inside This House" were mystical and spiritual.  I played the heck out of this tape until every song was seared into my brain.   Eventually I saw some other albums by the group in the record department of the University of Tennessee Bookstore in Knoxville, but my finances made purchasing any of them prohibited and then eventually the few albums they had by the group were gone.  Then after a while my cheap tape cartridge wore out and that was gone as well.  That was in 1972.

A Quest Begins

          I went for over a decade wondering about this mysterious group with the odd name and songs that stayed with me.   Now that I could afford the album I wanted to find a copy, but alas none was to be found anywhere.  That is until some time around 1986 or so when I read a story about a singer/songwriter by the name of Roky Erickson who had been a founding member of the band of my elusive quest--The 13th Floor Elevators.

        Needless to say I was excited by this discovery and now had a name and a hope to go by.   Erickson had released some solo albums and the Elevators' albums were available as imports.  On the road with my touring show at the time, I would typically visit record stores looking for new cassettes to buy.  There was some standard fare that I always looked for:  Anything that I didn't have yet by Bruce Cockburn, Van Morrison, The Good Rats, and now Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators.   I knew now to also check out the vinyl in addition to the cassettes.  Even though I didn't have any way to play records on the road, I figured that if I had the albums I could transfer them to cassette when I was home on tour breaks.

         It still seemed like a futile quest for the Erickson and Elevators albums.  That is until I got to Texas.  Since Texas was Roky Erickson's home state I started finding the albums for which I had been searching so diligently.  They weren't always cheap either.  Nevertheless I accumulated them and stored them in a safe place in my van, hoping that they wouldn't get warped being closed up in the hot vehicle.  They made it home safely and I now had the music on cassette for me to listen to when I returned to the road.

       In 1990 a resurgence of interest in the songs of Roky Erickson came about with the release of a tribute album dedicated to songs from his solo albums as well as some of the best from the 13th Floor Elevator days.  What a great album!  Artists like ZZ Top, R.E.M., Judybats, Doug Sahm, and many others were showing their love for an artist and a group that had influenced their own music.   For a while I couldn't get enough of this tribute album, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, playing it in my van when I was traveling and listening to the CD while at home.

       CD's of the music of the 13th Floor Elevators and Roky Erikson became fairly easy to find so I built up my collection of everything I could find in that format as well as the vinyl and cassettes I already owned.  My thirst for the music was slaked and now I could listen to it anytime I wanted.  For me a quest was ended as a justice of recognition was bestowed on the great Roky Erickson and the group he began in 1965.

       Roky Erickson is still only known by a relatively small group of fans, but his fame is worldwide. The 13th Floor Elevators are unlikely to ever rate induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame though they should be.  However their music remains. You can find them on YouTube in numerous song clips as well as in their complete albums.  Future history might remember them with a greater fondness and commemorate their contributions to rock music, perhaps more so than some artists we now think of as the real behemoths of modern culture.  Then again rock music might eventually fade away into the obscure realm of curious musicologists.  Only time will tell.

You can read my review at Amazon for Easter Everywhere.  If you do visit I'd be much obliged if you clicked on the "Yes" button where they ask if the review was helpful.

Please join me tomorrow February 15th for my Battle of the Bands post at Tossing It Out as I feature a song by the 13th Floor Elevators.  

         Have you ever become so obsessed with something musical or otherwise that you searched high and low for?    Are there any particular music artists that you feel that you need to own everything that was ever released by them?    Do you recall the Kuhn Big K stores (not the Big K Mart stores)?


  1. I searched them out and listened to a few tracks.
    It's pretty classic 60's stuff. It has the good guitar and the psychedelic swings. If I close my eyes I see colors swirling about.
    I can't relate exactly because of my age but it is still enjoyable nonetheless.
    I'm a big fan of Van Morrison, CCR and a few others of that era.

    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador


    1. Yeah, some of it might be of the "you had to be there" mode. The music takes me back to a younger day so I might be biased. Though when I see the younger musicians who are still influenced by the Elevators' sound then I know it's not just me.


  2. I'm making a note to self to come back and read the comments. I'm sure StMc will have a doozy. <>

    I have one word for you: Train.

    1. I put this in the <>: Have you ever become so obsessed with something musical or otherwise that you searched high and low for?

      How was I to know that it would delete the sentence???

    2. You have been on a Train roll of recent posts. "The Train Kept A-Rollin'"--makes me think of that old blues song.


  3. In my record buying days there were definitely lots of records I searched high and low for. I remember specifically trying to find the 45 of 'Games People Play' by the Spinners a couple of years after it had come out and wasn't as popular. All I could find was 'Games People Play' by Joe South which was a completely different song. I finally got the 45 at a record show in the 80s in Boston, along w/ lots of other 45s from the 70s I'd coveted, like my very first favourite song, 'Little Willy' by The Sweet.

    1. Collectors who frequent the record shows are often on the hardcore search for special items. I've only gone to one record show, but I was mostly trying to gauge the value of my own collection. I was surprised by some of my findings.


  4. I've had a hard time getting out and about lately, and for that I apologize. I've read all your recent posts on my phone, but for some stupid reason the 'smart phone' won't let me comment on most blogs. Anyway...I'm sorry I missed commenting on your 'Review' post. that was a good one and the comments and your replies were even better. It seems most people have no idea what a review does for a piece of art. All that stuff about hurting someone's feeling. SHEESH! Oh, well I missed my chance to go off on that, so I won't say more HERE.

    I also read your post at TIO about the 13th Floor Elevators. I had never heard of them. I read some of the comments there also and had to chuckle at DL Hammons comment. I learned that lesson in my last BOTB when I was educated about Mr. Ry Cooder. Fame certainly does not = talent or even influence of a particular artform, for that matter.

    But, I still haven't gotten to a proper comment for this post. As usual, I really enjoyed it. You probably gave us more information about the 13th FE in you TIO
    post, but I like the 'human touch' that comes through when you tell us about YOU and the 13th FE.

    I was going to scurry over to YouTube and have a listen to some of their music, but decided I'm gonna wait and see what you post for your BOTB tomorrow, then I'll browse around and have a listen. This way I wont prejudice myself before you even sound the horn for the start up of your race.

    BTW - don't even get me started on mental illness and it's treatment in this country. I've had my family quite literally torn apart and driven straight to hell my the mental illness of one member and their treatment.

    I don't think I've ever been OBSESSED by any particular artist, but I do have some favorites. Some that speak to my heart and soul more than others. And then there are certain songs that take me immediately to the side of someone special in my life or a particular time.

    1. No apologies necessary, but I do like that you gave me your thoughts about those other posts here. I guess it doesn't matter where I get the comments, it's nice to hear what others thought about what I've posted.

      To hear the Elevators you'll still have to seek them out as I won't be featuring any of their song versions in my Battle post though for the sake of reference I will include a link to their version of the song I'm using.

      Mental illness is something I'll probably not post about on my blog too much though it's also had a big impact with my family as I have a brother who has been institutionalized for over 35 years. It was a huge burden on my mother and remains a perplexing issue with me and my brothers and sisters. There are some similarities about my brother's story and Roky Erickson except the emerging back into a certain realm of integrating with functional life. I don't think we'll ever see this.

      Thanks for your part of the discussion. It's always good to hear from others about what I've and it doesn't matter where or when I hear. Thanks.



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Arlee Bird