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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

13th Floor Elevators: Live


1) Before You Accuse Me; 2) She Lives In A Time Of Her Own; 3) Tried To Hide; 4) You Gotta Take That Girl; 5) I'm Gonna Love You Too; 6) Everybody Needs Somebody To Love; 7) I've Got Levitation; 8) You Can't Hurt Me Anymore; 9) Roller Coaster; 10) You're Gonna Miss Me.

The ultimate sham: a fake live album, consisting of a bunch of studio outtakes with overdubbed crowd noises. The Elevators were certainly notorious for their wild live shows, which explains the record company's desire to put out a live album for the fans — problem is, as some actual live recordings that have since surfaced as bonus tracks or bootlegs clearly show, they either did not have the funds to buy proper recording equipment or maybe the band just couldn't be bothered to bother. So why bother, in fact, when you can simply take some studio recordings, throw on some applause, and leave the fans sorting it out with each other over whether this is really live or a fake? (Obviously, the real serious fans would figure out the real state of affairs in no time, but "real se­rious fans" do not usually constitute the majority of the buyers, even if we're talking obscure cult figures like the Elevators).

Hardliners have since disowned the record, and it's immoral to criticize their decision; softliners, however, have rightly pointed out that, if one manages to abstract oneself from the crowd noises, one is at least left with extra studio material from the band — material that was so scarce in the first place that even a sham like this can be tolerated. Maybe someday, when the business of reissuing old classic material finally falls into the hands of a new age King Solomon, someone will wash out the "audience" and simply release these outtakes as they really were; until then, it's all up to our power of imagination.

Not that there are any revelations. Alternate versions of classic tunes from the band's two albums are extremely similar to the standard versions — in fact, I am quite positive that 'You're Gonna Miss Me' is simply the standard version as is, and probably one or two others are, too. The real meat, therefore, is quite lean: two originals and three covers from some of the band's earliest ses­sions, back when they weren't so much psychedelic but more R'n'B and garage-oriented. Their takes on Bo Diddley's 'Before You Accuse Me', Buddy Holly's 'I'm Gonna Love You Too' and Solomon Burke's 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' are saved by Roky's proverbial ferocio­usness (musically, you'd be much better off with the originals or covers by Creedence, Blondie, and the Stones, to name a few); 'You Gotta Take That Girl' is an attempt to write an actual Buddy Holly-style song, and a good one; and 'You Can't Hurt Me Anymore' is arguably the only song that would reasonably fit in on The Psychedelic Sounds, but it would probably not be a highlight.

Naturally, the brain is left with no choice but to insist upon a thumbs down — a sham is a sham, and there is nothing ethical about not recognizing it. However, if you are even a semi-completist, your doom is to succumb. The most honourable way to succumb, of course, would be to come into possession of the 3-CD box The Psychedelic World Of The 13th Floor Elevators (unfor­tunately, out of print, but not undiscoverable altogether), where Live is but a small chunk of ad­denda among the three original studio albums — and a bunch of real live performances from '66 and '67, although, predictably, in far worse quality. The electric jug does come through very clear­ly, though, wherever it is present.


  1. This is indeed a sham... At least the studio outtakes from their earliest sessions are among the ones overdubbed with crowd noises. However, if I recall correctly, you had a review of a 13th Floor Elevators' live album called "Levitation" on you're old site. Why wasn't it re-reviewed?

  2. I'll tell ya sumthin the way you tune an ELictric JUG is to blow big hits of Grass smoke from the Doobie yer smoki'n into that Groovy little jug spout then yer all both copacetic. You the musician digg'in out with yer EELectric JUG penetrating all those tripped out minds with your melodious Puffen and Tooting you become one with everything, everything. Ya thats how you tune a Electric Jug Man.