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The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators: Crate Digger Gold

Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators 1967

So this is a bit awkward. I sat down to write a review of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators by The 13th Floor Elevators, and I realized that 1) I’m not sure I’m qualified to properly review an album that predates my existence by well over a decade, and 2) everything has pretty much already been said about the album and the band.

There was the documentary of Roky Erickson, a handful of albums, and… frankly… a bunch of internet savvy boomers who were fond of the Elevators in their heyday. So who am I to say anything?

(A quick aside: this post in its entirety was written before I covered and published the subsequent piece on the band’s 2nd LP, Easter Everywhere.)

I think I’ll instead focus on the story of how I came to have a 1967 pressing in my collection for just $40.

You’re Gonna Miss Me: A Look Back to 1966

Psychedelic rock, in 1966, wasn’t really a thing. Well, not something widely accepted. (Though, to be honest, you could argue that even today it’s not “widely accepted” and remains counterculture.)

Psychedelic Sounds of the  13th Floor Elevators Sleeve Back

In doing some research for this post, I found a few articles talking about the “history” of psychedelic rock, and while many mentioned LSD, their focus pushed to the late 60s and early 70s when much more accessible artists dabbled in the genre.

This article on Radio UTD did it justice though:

The year is 1965. A clear youth counterculture has begun to emerge, experimenting in their usage of drugs such as weed, psilocybin, and LSD. A little over a decade has passed since the term “rock and roll” has been coined; this is when the 13th Floor Elevators emerge on the Austin music scene, inspired by folk and blues. A year later, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is released, its liner notes and album art explicitly advocating the use of LSD as a means of freeing the soul and expanding the mind.

“A Brief History of Psychedelic Rock” [Isabela Magaña, Radio UTD, 2017]

This was the true roots of the genre, steeped in LSD culture and the anti-war movement. The article is indeed brief and covers a vast timespan very quickly, but it gives a justifiable nod to Roky Erickson and the importance of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find plenty of literature and film surrounding the band and the genre’s origins. Take for example 13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History, a book by Paul Drummond, and you’ll get to dig quite a bit deeper into the early rock annals of the genre.

You’ll also find a variety of documentaries covering the topic. Most notably, You’re Gonna Miss Me, a documentary covering the life of Elevators frontman Roky Erickson.

So there’s no shortage of viable content on the influential genre, you just have to sift through a lot of junk that ignores true origins. I mean, we all have origins. For me, like many, it was more accessible records like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles.

It wasn’t until the opening scene of Hi Fidelity in which John Cusack’s character Rob listens to “You’re Gonna Miss Me” as Laura leaves him that The 13th Floor Elevators came onto my radar.

I remember it vividly, sitting in the theater in the early days of its release in 2000, thinking I need to hear this song again!

An Early Pressing of The 13th Floor Elevators

Pinpointing the specific pressing of a record can be a challenging–if not near impossible task–even if there aren’t hundreds of versions each with a different matrix or runout etched and stamped into the dead wax.

Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators Vinyl

First, you have to be able to SEE the etching AND decipher it (which in itself can be a feat). Then hunting down the particular matching release using a site like Discogs…again, it’s a challenge!

For records like The Pyschedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators–or anything predating 1990 for that matter–I vastly prefer an original or early pressing. Even if more recent ones have better quality. There’s something experiential about having these early pressings, pulling them from the sleeve and seeing their flaws and wear.

They’ve LIVED.

At the time of writing, Discogs boasts 67 versions of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Mine is the third on the list, released just one a year after it originally came out in 1965.

And here’s the kicker: the matrix and runouts match!

Let’s take a look with my unboxing video:

Kingdom of Heaven: Crate Digging Gold

I used to have the hookup. It was a small record shop in Mount Vernon, WA, and the shop owner and I were on an easy first name basis. I spent plenty of hours combing through used records here, and added quite a few oddities to my collection.

Likewise, there are items I regret not purchasing, like an original or early (within a year or two) pressing of The Zombies’ Begin Here which, like this album, was going for just $40. I’m not one to regret, but I sure do wish I would have snagged that one.

I remember walking into the shop one day–a weekly occurrence when I lived there–and Wedge was working. Wedge was an old rocker who worked the shop on occasion and did his best to keep Scott (the owner) organized. He had brought in a few records from his personal collection, and this was one of them.

At Lost in the Groove, you’d walk to the back of the shop where the main desk was. Just behind that was a wall of used CDs and DVDs, which I never looked at once the entire time I lived nearby. Look up, and you’d see a 4 to 5-inch ledge, just out of reach for someone my height at 5’5″. That ledge wrapped from the area right above Scott’s desk around the back of the store.

And that’s where Scott always put the pricy or rare items.

It’s the spot I’d always go to first when visiting the store.

On this particular day, Wedge had just placed his old copy of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators up on the ledge, and I immediately gravitated toward it. Dropping $40 didn’t seem like a big deal for a near first pressing of a classic like this.

I’d go on to find it actually goes for about 10x that given the solid condition, graded at VG+ for the sleeve and a high VG (if not low VG+) for the record itself.

A quick aside: there’s a new pressing of Easter Everywhere by the 13th Floor Elevators on “Yellow and Red Splatter” vinyl. While it says “Yellow and Red Splatter,” it’s actually yellow and white, as that’s what I got when I ordered the pressing below. You can snag your own copy below, along with a newer re-press of The Pyschedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators on colorful splattered vinyl too.

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