Rest in peace, Roky Erickson: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (1966)

13th

Word circulated late Friday night that Roky Erickson, founding member of the Austin, Texas-based psychedelic band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, passed away at the age of 71. Erickson started the band in high school in Austin in 1965. He dropped out a month before graduation in an argument over the school’s dress code regarding hair. (The folks at Rolling Stone wrote a nice obit, which you can find here.)

The 13th Floor Elevators may well be one of the reasons that psychedelic rock hit the mainstream. Their 1966 release “You’re Gonna Miss Me” crossed the seemingly huge gap from progressive FM radio to Top 40 AM playlists. Nationally, the record only hit #55 – but that’s where the charts can be deceiving. Take a look at where the song placed in various places around the country:

  • Detroit, MI – #3 (WKNR, WXYZ, and CKLW all placed it that high)
  • San Jose, CA – #3
  • New Smyrna Beach, FL – #4
  • Merced, CA and Miami, FL – #5
  • Daytona Beach, FL – #8
  • San Francisco, CA, Orlando, FL, and Columbus, OH – #10
  • Toledo, OH – #11
  • Milwaukee, WI – #13

Not bad for a “non-hit” record. There was clearly some mass appeal behind this one. (Not in all places, though – it didn’t chart in Chicago and it only played to #39 in Peoria.)

If you didn’t recognize the song from 1966, you may have recognized it from 2000. The film High Fidelity, one of my all-time favorites, chose it for the opening credits (complete with John Cusack, as Rob Gordon, asking the famous opening line “What came first – the music or the misery?”). Perhaps in part due to inclusion in a movie about obsessive record collecting, original copies of the single from the limited releases now regularly sell for several hundred dollars a copy.

Roky continued to record despite his lifelong battles with mental health issues (as documented in the RS obit above). He was a fixture on the Austin music scene, and will be missed.

You can hear “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in all its mono glory by clicking here.

 

 

 

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