Roky Erickson & The Aliens – Roky Erickson & The Aliens (Cherry Red Records)


This is the first release in what I hope will be an ongoing series of “Buried Treasure” albums selected by Mojo Magazine. As far as opening shots go, Roky Erickson’s 1980 full-length solo debut (usually listed as self-titled, but sometimes known as Five Symbols) was a brilliant choice. It’s an under-rated album and perhaps Roky’s best music since leaving The 13th Floor Elevators. If you expect it to sound akin to the psychedelic garage rock Erickson all but invented in the mid-1960’s, you’re in for disappointment, but also a treat. Erickson and his backing band The Aliens go in more of a hard-rock/new wave direction, but in a way that feels genre-less. In fact, the only influences I hear are the influences of Roky Erickson himself, whose unique lyrics detail a strange and frightening world inhabited by zombies, vampires, Lucifer, creatures with atom brains, fire demons, and so on. If Erickson was, say, Alice Cooper, the horror talk might come off like cheap theatrics (as much as I like Alice Cooper). However, given Erickson’s history of mental illness and electroshock therapy, songs like “I Walked With A Zombie” and “Creature With The Atom Brain” take on a very different meaning. While any discussion of Roky Erickson’s music always mentions his troubled mental state (detailed in the film You’re Gonna Miss Me) his voice is still completely intact and he howls with the best of ’em on blistering songs “Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” and “Bloody Hammer”. Kudos to producer, and former Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist, Stu Cook who took a chance on Erickson at a time when he wasn’t exactly a marketable commodity, and produced with a sympathetic ear that gave the songs a clarity and power they might not have had otherwise. This is definitely worth seeking out.

Tracklisting:

1. Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)
2. I Think Of Demons
3. I Walked With A Zombie
4. Don’t Shake Me Lucifer
5. Night Of The Vampire
6. White Faces
7. Cold Night For Alligators
8. Creature With The Atom Brain
9. Mine Mine Mind
10. Stand For The Fire Demon
11. The Wind And More
12. Bloody Hammer
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Roky Erickson – You’re Gonna Miss Me: DVD and Soundtrack (Palm)


You’re Gonna Miss Me chronicles the troubled life of singer Roky Erickson. Erickson is best known for bringing psychedelic rock to the masses in the mid-1960s with his group The 13th Floor Elevators, but his life took a strange left turn after he was arrested for drug possession in 1969 and pleaded insanity to avoid a ten year jail sentence. The plea was accepted, and Roky was sent to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for a three-year stay, where he was subjected to intense electroshock therapy that left him worse off than he was before entering the facility. The bulk of the movie covers his ups and downs in the years following his release, which included bouts with schizophrenia, drug addiction, his strange relationship with his mother (who seems somewhat disturbed herself), and his sporadic musical output which was strong despite his other problems. The story is interesting enough that you don’t need any prior knowledge of Roky’s music to enjoy it, but for those who are familiar with his work, the film gives insight into the man behind it all. If you saw You’re Gonna Miss Me in the theater, the DVD is still recommended for the wealth of bonus materials, including a segment covering the five years after the completion of the movie, during which time Roky was placed into his brother’s custody, allowing him to get mentally and physically healthier than he’d been for decades, enabling him to go back out on the road and perform for a new generation of adoring fans. It gives his harrowing story a happy ending that it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

The film’s soundtrack is somewhat puzzling, with twelve tracks culled from the past 40 years, including two exclusives. The material is great, but with enough leftover space for another five-to-ten tracks, you have to wonder why the compilation’s producers stopped at twelve. What’s worse, it only has two songs from Erickson’s time with The 13th Floor Elevators, arguably his artistic peak. A better purchase would be 2005’s I Have Always Been Here Before: A Roky Erickson Anthology, which includes a more robust forty-three songs.

Tracklisting:

1. You’re Gonna Miss Me
2. Fire Engine
3. Starry Eyes
4. Bloody Hammer
5. Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)
6. For You (previously unreleased)
7. Mine Mine Mind
8. Unforced Peace
9. You Don’t Love Me
10. The Wind and More
11. Cold Night for Alligators
12. Goodbye Sweet Dreams(previously unreleased)