Store Sounds: Roky Erickson – "The Evil One"
Posted: Dec 13 2014
Welcome to the inaugural Store Sounds post, where Scott, Brittany and I will take turns sharing with you some of our favorite tunes that we listen to in our shop. Personally, I think the experience of being in a store – ours or any other – is just as much informed by what's wafting out of the speakers as by what you're actually shopping for, so we're pretty excited to have a chance to talk about the music we play and why we dig it. We hope you enjoy reading about it.
To kick things off, I'm gonna write about Texas rocker Roky Erickson's seminal 1980 solo album The Evil One.
Roky first rose to prominence singing for Austin, Texas's 13th Floor Elevators, one of the first (and best) psychedelic rock bands of the mid-to-late '60s. An inspired lyricist with an unrivaled bluesy howl, Roky was diagnosed in '68 with paranoid schizophrenia and received forced electroshock therapy – later, after his release from the hospital, he was arrested for possession of a single joint, and again was subjected to electroshock therapy, Thorazine treatment, and generally barbaric state-administered care. Not very cool. But whether it was a combination of his active imagination, his sadly damaged brain, or both, upon his release from the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, he put together a band and sound in the late 70's and early 80's that is truly unparalleled nearly 35 years later.
With his backing band, the Aliens (formed from members of fellow acid-damaged Austinites Cold Sun), Roky created a sort of garage punk-inflected hard-rock sound that perfectly complemented his eerie, obtuse, occasionally nonsensical occult-, horror- and science fiction-inspired lyrics and imagery. His first and best record, The Evil One (available as a beautifully remastered reissue from Seattle record label Light in the Attic here), is 15 tracks of absolutely crushing, eerie rock'n'roll fused with an inimitable fried-out, weed-hazed Texas-in-the-'70s vibe.
Every song on this record is essential. "Two Headed Dog"'s batshit craziness (chorus: "I've been working in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog") is only exceed by its catchiness, and "I Think of Demons" is the record's most blatant "shoulda been a hit," if the charts had been compiled by massive Cramps fans hopped up on Benzadrine and all-night horror movie marathons with a penchant for guitar shredding in the pentatonic major. From the Twilight Zone doo-wop of "I Walked With A Zombie" to "Bloody Hammer"'s scalding imagery and Roky's maniacal yowl to the heartbeat-like guitar thrum and improbable chorus of "Cold Night for Alligators," The Evil One has never been surpassed in terms of lyrical imagery, ear-wormy garage-rock hooks and bizarro, Z-grade horror movie influence.
The Evil One has been on pretty much constant rotation at the store since we opened, and while attempts to jam his later-'80s output have been less warmly received (most chalk it up to the unbelievably punchy arrangements of the Aliens, who didn't stick around past The Evil One), this album's a definite once-a-day'er here at Freeman. If you haven't heard it, come by sometime and request it. We'd love to think of demons with you.