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July 11, 2006

Starry Eyes Forever Shall Be Mine

A family wedding two weekends ago kept me from attending, but the coup of Intonation's 2006 lineup had to be the first performance outside of Austin, TX in two decades by psychedelic rock pioneer and shock therapy survivor Roky Erickson.

My absence notwithstanding, and in belated honor of his appearance in town (while fully recognizing that such posts are usually best left to those with greater taste and erudition than myself), the following 30-some MB are devoted to the former 13th Floor Elevators frontman...

For starters, there's Roky's "You're Gonna Miss Me." This classic garage/psych artyfact kicks off the Elevators' 1966 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, but Roky first recorded it in 1965 with his band the Spades. Give that one a listen here.

It was a bit of a toss-up as to which version to share, but whatever the Spades' recording lacks in more polished musicianship and production (not to mention Tommy Hall's wobbly, hooting electrified jug), it more than makes up for in Erickson's feral growl.

Then there's "Starry Eyes" and "You Don't Love Me Yet," both taken from Roky's latter-day All That May Do My Rhyme.

The former, pairing Erickson with Lou Ann Barton, is impossibly beautiful—and you've got to just love the little Buddy Holly-ish hitch in his voice on that "true-ue-ue." The album also closes out with a nice up-tempo solo reprise of the tune (another toss-up, with Barton's contribution on the first version winning out in the end).

The latter track, though, is what brings us back to our real raison d'être around these parts, "You Don't Love Me Yet" serving as the inspiration and focal point for a roving project by Swedish artist Johanna Billing that found an American stop at Chicago's own Vedanta in Spring 2004.

In 2003, Billing brought together an ensemble of Swedish musicians to take turns at the mic in a Band Aid/We Are The World-style recording of Erickson's song at Atlantis Studios in Stockholm. (A little meta nota bene: Erickson himself recently got down with Band Aid protégés The North American Hallowe'en Prevention Initiative on their 2005 benefit track, "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?".)

In addition to the studio recording, Billing took her show on the road, exhibiting a DVD of the recording session at galleries, festivals and kunsthalles in several cities while inviting local musicians to offer their own idiosyncratic interpretations of the tune at each stop along the way.

And it is in this spirit of repetition and contrast that I close out with three cover versions of the song that, while not exactly running the interpretive gamut, offer up three distinct sensibilities...

First up is a version by '80s art-rockers Bongwater, from the Erickson tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye (which boasts a fairly diverse lineup, from Angry Samoans to ZZ Top). Also available in sample-free John Peel flavor from 1991.

Second, there's this somber take from "strange yet functional indie supergroup" Rhonda Harris—who are primarily Danish, it should be noted, suggesting that Roky is huge in Scandinavia.

Finally, of course, there's Billing's own Swedish supergroup version, as distributed free of charge on CD at stops on her world tour. Harmonica, strings, electronic bloops and a lovely group sing. It's kind of goofy and earnestly affective at once (a description that I think sort of applies to a certain brand of contemporary collectivist art projects on the whole).

Give all three a listen and I think you'll agree that, although each is interesting, haunting or beautiful in its own right, none can hold a candle to the simple directness of the original.

To recap:

"You're Gonna Miss Me" by the Spades
"Starry Eyes" by Roky Erickson f/ Lou Ann Barton
"You Don't Love Me Yet" by Roky Erickson
"You Don't Love Me Yet" by Bongwater
"You Don't Love Me Yet" by Rhonda Harris
"You Don't Love Me Yet" by Johanna Billing's all-star Swedes

Related: It appears that You're Gonna Miss Me, a documentary on Roky that's been in production since 1999 (and which premiered at SXSW '05), is in full film festival swing this summer, hopefully presaging an appearance on a silver screen near you someday soon.

"Starry Eyes Forever Shall Be Mine"
Posted by Dan at 12:44 PM

Comments

Fabulous blog! And thanks for the sound files.

Posted by: Mark Staff Brandl on July 12, 2006 at 10:56 AM



Referenced in this post:

All That May Do My Rhyme: Roky Erickson
Chicago Sun-Times: Roky Erickson on road to rediscovery—Jim Derogatis
Grammar.police: Spin This on Your Ouija
Iconoduel: Gallery Briefing—Johanna Billing, 'You Don't Love Me Yet' at Vedanta
Iconoduel: Starry Eyes—Roky Erickson (mp3)
Iconoduel: You Don't Love Me Yet—Bongwater (mp3)
Iconoduel: You Don't Love Me Yet—Johanna Billing et al (mp3)
Iconoduel: You Don't Love Me Yet—Rhonda Harris (mp3)
Iconoduel: You Don't Love Me Yet—Roky Erickson (mp3)
Iconoduel: You're Gonna Miss Me—The Spades (mp3)
Intonation Music Festival
Johanna Billing: You Don't Love Me Yet
Johanna Billing: You Don't Love Me Yet Tour 2002-2005
Kavi Gupta Gallery: Johanna Billing—'You Don't Love Me Yet'
Modern Kicks: Music
Music Austin: Lou Ann Barton
Nordlund.com
Only Solitaire: 13th Floor Elevators
Panel-house: 'You Don't Love Me Yet' Johanna Billing @ Vedanta Gallery (Internet Archive)
TeenBeat Mailing List MP3 # 12: Rhonda Harris
The Perfumed Garden: Bongwater—Peel Session 13th April 1991
The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators: The 13th Floor Elevators
Vice Records: North American Halloween Prevention Initiative
Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye—Tribute to Roky Erickson: Various Artists
Wikipedia: 13th Floor Elevators
Wikipedia: Band Aid (band)
Wikipedia: Bongwater (band)
Wikipedia: Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?
Wikipedia: Roky Erickson
Wikipedia: We Are the World
X-Tra Volume 6, Issue 2: Thoughts on Artists' Collectives—Michelle Grabner
You're Gonna Miss Me: A Documentary About Roky Erickson
ilXor.com: I Love Music: 13th Floor Elevators' 'electric jug'