Day 9

July 15th 1947
Roky Erickson’s Birthday

How moved you are by Roky Erick­son depends how far up or down you are on the evo­lu­tion­ary tree. Tears can fall in the most unlike­ly moments, and for any num­ber of rea­sons. His cat­er­waul­ing 4-octave Tex­an shriek made teen dra­mas out of the 13th Floor Ele­va­tors’ extrav­a­gant cos­mic notions. Roky was the mouth­piece of those psy­che­del­ic pio­neers, with all the impli­ca­tions of what a mouth­piece is – as in Tom­my Hall’s putting words into his mouth, being fed too much acid, bit­ing off more than you can chew. But Roky was the local teen heart­throb boy won­der, and at 18 already in pos­ses­sion of a suc­cess­ful career. He’d writ­ten ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ (“at 13 or sumthin like that”) and tak­en the vocal style of local hero Bud­dy Hol­ly, turn­ing it into an even more caf­feinat­ed heli­um mis­sion. What this son of an arty musi­cal fam­i­ly was not to know was that his poet­ry – lat­er to be shown in print as a ver­i­ta­ble cos­mic stew of near-reli­gious dec­la­ra­tions – would be, through­out the Ele­va­tors’ songs, most­ly over­writ­ten by a Gur­d­ji­ef­fi­an hyper­ven­ti­la­tor almost a decade his senior. That Roky was strug­gling, by the record­ing of the first Ele­va­tors’ album, even to score a day-pass out of Rusk men­tal insti­tu­tion is just about the most unright­eous metaphor for a most­ly right­eous career.

For some­one who was men­tal­ly frag­ile in any case, what Roky has endured makes him saint­ly. Not a mar­tyr, but pas­sion bear­er. He did not gorge him­self, he was fed – put through these things – a vic­tim of his birth­place, of his fam­i­ly, and of the lofty nature of his band leader. What a role to under­take, what a cross to bear. Who of us upon try­ing such things would not them­selves have turned into a head­case? The sto­ry of the Ele­va­tors is as on the edge as rock’n’roll sto­ries can get. Up against it in a way no one else was, they vir­tu­al­ly erase every oth­er rock’n’roll tale.

Hap­py Birth­day, Roky Erick­son – how we love you, here at the SydArthur Festival!

Let’s ring in this impor­tant lunar day by lis­ten­ing to the remark­able ‘Crea­ture with the Atom Brain’, from Roky’s one-time come­back album THE EVIL ONE. Crack open your own melt­ed plas­tic brain and mourn and swoon along to Roswell Roky in full Star­dust Cow­boy mode. “Crea­ture with the atom brain, why is he act­ing so strange?” Brought up reli­gious and watch­ing too many hor­ror movies as a child, poor Roky fell into a Jun­gian under­world soup not of his own mak­ing. Unlike our own dear Syd Bar­rett, Roky rose irreg­u­lar­ly out of the swamps to bring forth new myths, new fears, new neu­roses for this Indus­tri­al Age. But hey, when the all-per­va­sive Chris­t­ian church destroys your every last tem­ple, divin­i­ty and tra­di­tion, what’s left but to start all over again? Witchfind­er Roky got medieval on our arse…still scared of things we climbed out of long ago. But doesn’t that fear sound good?

R

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Day 1: Saturday Jul 7th
Day 2: Sunday Jul 8th
Day 3: Monday Jul 9th
Day 4: Tuesday Jul 10th
Day 5: Wednesday Jul 11th
Day 6: Thursday Jul 12th
Day 7: Friday Jul 13th
Day 8: Saturday Jul 14th
Day 9: Sunday Jul 15th
Day 10: Monday Jul 16th
Day 11: Tuesday Jul 17th
Day 12: Wednesday Jul 18th
Day 13: Thursday Jul 19th
Day 14: Friday Jul 20th
Day 15: Saturday Jul 21st
Day 16: Sunday Jul 22nd
Day 17: Monday Jul 23rd
Day 18: Tuesday Jul 24th
Day 19: Wednesday Jul 25th
Day 20: Thursday Jul 26th
Day 21: Friday Jul 27th
Day 22: Saturday Jul 28th
Day 23: Sunday Jul 29th
Day 24: Monday Jul 30th
Day 25: Tuesday Jul 31st
Day 27: Thursday Aug 2nd
Day 28: Friday Aug 3rd