R.I.P Roky

And so vale Roky Erickson, who died last week.

His 13th Floor Elevators (1965-69), as y’all probably well know, was the first band to self-identify as psychedelic. His own definition of such music is ever-so-suitably cryptic and crazy-wise – ‘where the pyramid meets the eye’.

Seven years ago, Roky played a strange and wild show at Sydney’s Factory Theatre during his only Australian tour. Some kind of lid was lifted and I’m not sure what leapt out.

Looking rather Jerry Garcia-esque, Roky said nothing to his audience and needed a roadie to put on his guitar and point him in the right direction. But his playing and singing were in fine fettle. Twas all very mesmerising and powerful. Fences toppled and an unsettling edge was established. And some people, it seemed, couldn’t help going a bit mad.

I think the fighting began during Reverberation. A stage invader was thrown off by the world’s smallest bouncer. Then Roky’s son Jaeger (whose band was backing Roky) suddenly leapt into the crowd, fists swinging. The other guitarist, equally warlike, rapidly joined him in swapping punches with punters.

Lesser scuffles bubbled throughout but Roky surfed his sound over this undertow. Towards the tail-end some mad drunkard put his hand on my shoulder, making me his launchpad to vaulting onstage. He landed right in front of Roky, who took fright and fled. The ropeable Jaeger, blood well up, swooped but the drunkard narrowly escaped a damned good thrashing after swiping a setlist from the floor.

Roky resumed business, which closed with his 1966 single You’re Gonna Miss Me.

Post-gig googling revealed certain attending curmudgeons resented Roky Jnr, regarding his band as trashing Dad’s legacy, and the fights erupted when someone chucked a bottle at him. I’d never have guessed; to me the band’s quality and respect for the music appeared beyond doubt.

Roky’s life was as hard as it was creative. And his creativity was in full flower as late as his final album, True Love Cast Out All Evil (2010), which is a gem. I especially recommend the sublime opening track, Devotional Number One.

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