There are few musicians that genuinely deserve the ‘legendary’ tag that is so often banded about, but Roky Erickson certainly does. Having almost single-handily created true psychedelic rock music in the mid-sixties with Texan freaks The 13th Floor Elevators, their utterly heroic embracement of psychedelic drugs saw them not only create some of the finest shifting out-of-synch rock music ever set to tape, they also blew their brains to smithereens in the process. The Texan authorities came down hard on the Elevators, who openly flaunted their drug use.
Keep in mind that being caught with one joint in the mid-sixties in Texas could land you with a ten year stretch so these psychedelic warlords were not only out of their minds, but incredibly brave. Every gig they played, they played on acid. Every recording they made, they were ripped off their tits. They wanted to ‘play’ the acid like an instrument and did just that. It was only a matter of time before the authorities would catch them.
However, rather than going to prison, Roky chose to enter a psychiatric ward instead where his genius brain was subjected to months of electro-shock therapy and mind destroying drugs that turned him into a zombie and unleashed a series of mental problems that would see him out of action for most of the 70s. Despite returning to the music scene in the 80s with some grand garage horror film influenced rock, he was obviously still in bad shape and soon disappeared to his own mental hell for most of the 90s.
So, the fact that there is a new Roky Erickson album to talk about is a feat in itself. And the fact that it’s really fucking good is testament to Roky’s over-riding natural talent and sheer triumph over adversity. ‘True Love Cast Out All Evil’ is comprised from songs, some dating back to the sixties, that Roky has crafted over the years and never finished and they sound incredible. Backed by friends Okkervil River, they provide the perfect backing to Roky’s painfully honest and heartfelt songs. Tracks like ‘Good Bye Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Please Judge’ come from dark places in Roky’s mind but are played with a joyous spirit that he is well and performing again.
A true survivor. A true legend. True love.