The kinship of horror and rock music is one that cannot be ignored. The devil’s place in both worlds makes them natural siblings. But, that’s where facts end and where subjectivity begins. Opinions then become the place of many-a battle. Well, as far as I’m concerned, the subjectivity begins & ends with one man: Roky Erickson.
Roky is a rock and roll enigma. He’s an icon of the underground. Not unlike Hasil Adkins, Roky was an immense talent who (depending on who you believe) became a victim of his demons. As the frontman for the 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson’s distinct voice and howl set that band far apart from it’s garage rock peers. After a witch hunt-style arrest (where he was found with ONE FUCKING JOINT), Roky was locked up. Erickson was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic who was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy involuntarily. After several attempts to escape the Austin State Hospital, he was transferred to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
In 1974, Erickson was finally released from the hospital. The music that followed his released was a harder, darker rock. In place of the psychedelic quips about love, were tales of monsters and demons. The lyrics had evolved into a horror & sci-fi film influenced way of exposing (what one would assume) the horrors Roky had experienced while in the mental health facility. This phase of Erickson’s career is perhaps the most prominent and the most influential. With his band The Aliens, Erickson created some of the most immaculate rock and roll ever made.
Unfortunately, the years were not good following those records. In 1982, Roky claimed an alien had taken over his body. It seemed to go down hill from there. The next 20+ years saw Roky form an obsession with mail (receiving and corresponding to) and slip further and further into his own mania. A documentary film entitled You’re Gonna Miss Me was released in 2005 that detailed Roky’s career and frightening turn into mental illness. This very exposure,coupled with some legal issues that bettered his situation, saw 2 things: Roky Erickson not only playing music but seeing how many people who were influenced by him. From there, new music has been released, his classic albums re-released, and a few tours (one of which he’s currently on).
I have no reason to be sharing this with you other than the fact that Roky Erickson is someone I love a great deal. Roky’s music is timeless. It’s eternal. Those songs have stayed with me, they’ve been a part of my children’s lives, and will continue to echo through the halls of our home. His story is frightening and beautiful all at once. The lyrics are otherworldly. His voice is literally one of a kind. You will never find another songwriter who understands the darkness quite like Roky. Hail his beautiful soul.
(Note: I could’ve gone into great detail as to how much a part of my life his music truly is, but decided I’d rather you experience him for yourselves. Last weekend, I had to the opportunity to see him live and it’s something I feel honored to have experienced. Thank you, Roky. May you always stand for the fire demon-Ed.)