PLEDGE WEEK: “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators
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This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to patreon.com/andrewhickey and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Just a note before I begin, this episode deals with mental illness and with the methods, close to torture, used to treat it in the middle of the last century, so anyone for whom that's a delicate subject may want to skip this one. There's a term that often gets used about some musicians, "outsider music", and it's a term that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with. It's a term that gets applied to anyone eccentric, whether someone like Jandek who releases his own albums through mail order and just does his own thing, or someone like Hasil Adkins who made wild rockabilly music, or an entertainer like Tiny Tim who had a bizarre but consistent view of showbusiness, or a band like the Shaggs who were just plain incompetent, or people like Wesley Willis or Wild Man Fischer who had serious mental health problems. The problem with the term is that it erases these differences, and that it assumes that the most interesting thing about the music is the person behind it. It also erases talent, especially in the case of mentally ill artists. There are several mutually incompatible assumptions about creative artists who have mental health problems. One is that their music should be treated like a freak show, and either appreciated for that reason (if you're someone who gets their entertainment from someone else's suffering) or disdained (if you don't want to do that). Other people think that the mental illness *makes* the music, that great art comes from mental health problems, while yet others will argue that someone's art has nothing at all to do with their mental health, and is not influenced by it in any way. All of these positions are, of course, wrong. Mental illness doesn't stop someone from making great art -- except when it takes away the ability to make art at all of course -- people like Brian Wilson or Vincent Van Gogh are testament to that, and their best work has nothing to do with a freak show. But nor does it grant the ability to make great art. Someone with no musical talent who develops schizophrenia just becomes a schizophrenic person with no musical talent. But to say that mental illness doesn't affect the work is also nonsense. Everything about someone's life affects their art, especially something as important as their mental health. And the real problem with these labels comes with those artists who don't manage to develop a substantial body of work before their illness sets in. Those with real musical talent, but who end up getting put in the outsider artist bucket because their work is so obviously affected by their illness. And one of those is Roky Erickson, of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Erickson started his career aged fifteen with a group based in Austin, Texas, called the Spades -- and I hope that this wasn't intended as a racial slur, as the word was sometimes used at this time. Their first single, "We Sell Soul", released in 1965, shows the clear influence of "Gloria" by Them: [Excerpt: The Spades, "We Sell Soul"] That was a regional hit, and so their second single, the first song that Erickson had ever written, was recorded in the same style: [Excerpt: The Spades, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] But by December 1965, Erickson had left the Spades, and joined Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton, the members of another band called the Lingsmen. They were joined by a fifth man
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