As much a scrapbook as a photo album, more of an oral history than a narrative, British writer Paul Drummond has assembled an impressive three hundred pages of Elevator arcana. Stevie Ray Vaughan might have sold more records, but it was Roky Erickson and Tommy Hall’s group that remains Austin’s most influential rock act. Formed in 1965, these psychedelic pioneers set the course for the hundreds of bands that formed in their wake. Hall’s LSD evangelism, electric jug and lyrics were like Chakras for the mind –“I Have Always Been Here Before.” Up front, the guitar and paint-peeling scream of Roky Erickson led the way. The photos of a youthful Roky included here burn with charisma. There’s page after page of family photos, fan polaroids, posters, shots of old Austin haunts like the New Orleans Club, and clips from the Statesman column ‘Jim Langdon’s Nightbeat.’ Langdon, in his mustache and checked sport coat, cigarette dangling, covers the Elevators rise and also reviews Lightnin’ Hopkins and Janis Joplin shows, providing a time capsule of this extraordinary period. The stories, told chronologically by band members, friends, and family are often long and rambling, recounting the four brief years of this legendary act – the over the top excesses, light shows, the acid, the enlightened hippie philosophy, their demise and torture at the hands of the less-than-enlightened police. It all came to a tragic end, but for a while, nothing burned brighter than this group that lived in a time of its own.
Review by Jeff McCord