People have often asked, where on earth did you dig up that bloody 99th Floor Elevators name then? In truth I was having a rather drunken browse through the record collectors emporium in Croydon that was the legendary Beanos.
Alongside the pioneering Euro dance mecca, Trax Records in London’s Soho, they were the two best record shops on the planet for me at the time. Anyway, I was thumbing through the ‘Garage Punk’ vinyl section and came across “The Psychedelic Sounds Of..the 13th Floor Elevators”. The sixties acid influenced design of the sleeve interested me as did stories I’d heard of Roky Erickson.
Originally based in Austin, Texas, the 13th Floor Elevators played frequently throughout the state and in the San Francisco area at clubs such as Filmore West and the Avalon. Young musicians like Jerry Garcia and Grace Slick watched them play. Janis Joplin, another Texan, jammed with the group twice and considered joining the group but ended up fronting Big Brother & the Holding Company.
After a second album, ‘Easter Everywhere’ and a few drug busts, the band lost direction. Roky was arrested in 1969 with about six joints on Mount Bonnell in Austin. It was his second arrest for pot. Rather than serving a short term in prison, he pled insanity and was sentenced to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Austin.
While in Rusk, Roky started a band with fellow inmates (The Missing Links) wrote nearly 100 songs, befriended Jimmy Wolcott (an Elevators fan who had murdered his family while high from sniffing glue) and was subjected to electroshock and liquid thorazine treatments. Roky was finally released three years later. He now lives in a federally subsidized house in Del Valle, a tiny suburb southeast of Austin. Apparently he keeps several TVs and radios going at any given time, presumably to drown out his internal noise. He takes no medication, although he is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
I always found the whole story of Roky fascinating, though out of my circle of friends nobody had heard of the 13th Floor Elevators (or their ‘big US hit’, ‘Your Gonna Miss Me’) so I was freely able to manufacture a different story of where the 99th Floor Elevators name had originated from. The most widely spread rumour was that I’d gone on a trip to New York and had got stuck in the elevator on the 99th floor. When ‘Hooked’ was in the UK top 30 even BBC Radio 1 fell for that one.
Thanks to Paul Rydeen for the Roky background