Why I Love: Jason Simon on 13th Floor Elevators

Earlier this year, we welcomed Elephant Tree to At The Barrier as they shared their love of Dead Meadow for our Why I Love column (you can read it here). Now, we welcome Jason Simon, guitarist and vocalist from the Washington D.C psych-rockers.

Jason Simon released his new album, A Venerable Wreck, on 22nd May. We were very impressed with the record and we’re very lucky to have him write for us about one of his biggest influences; 13th Floor Elevators.

13th Floor Elevators | Discography | Discogs
13th Floor Elevators

It was within the first year or two of starting Dead Meadow, Steve Kille (Dead Meadow’s bass player), Cory Shane (who later joined us for the “Feathers” LP), and I all lived together in the Mt. Pleasant area of Washington DC.  Late one Psilocybin fuelled evening, Cory played me a recently acquired Bull of the Woods; the third and final Elevators record.  It was a revelation to me and we listened again and again, especially the first three songs of side 2, “Scarlet and Gold, “Street Song”, and “Dr. Doom”.  That was when I first fell in love with the Elevators.  It was as if I had been waiting to hear this for so long. Every element of the band is perfect. 

I don’t think there is much I need to say about Roky.  So much has already been written and as so many know, Roky Erickson is the best rock and roll singer of all time.  I was in school at the time studying religion and absolutely loved Tommy Hall’s drug-fueled esoteric lyricism containing elements of the Upanishads, Christian and Islamic mysticism, and Aristotelian philosophy all strung together and seen through a bizarre prism of LSD proselytizing. 

The unsung hero of the band, though, is Stacey Sutherland.  He was the real musical core.  Not only was he the principal arranger but since that night, long ago, he’s been a favourite guitarist of mine.  

I’ve always been a fan of seeing or hearing traditional forms stretched and changed in new ways. It’s the tension of hearing the old pulled in a new direction while not breaking the link or the chain.  I hear the Texas blues at the heart of Sutherland’s playing but it is stretched and morphed into something new with layers of echo and more interesting note choices in every song than Eric Clapton played in his whole career.  I even went to pay homage at his grave awhile ago on a trip to across Texas.

Bull of the Woods - Wikipedia

To many the third record,  “Bull of the Woods” is written off and not seen as a real Thirteenth Floor Elevators record in that Roky and Tommy are only on half of it.   The story is that Stacey was allowed to avoid jail time due do his contractual obligations to the record label.  Roky and Tommy split for California in the middle of it, leaving Stacey to finish a half written record or go to jail. 

I’m not sure why that record grabbed me first, possibly I just heard it first but from the very first lines of Scarlet and Gold to the cascading beautiful mess of guitars in “Street Song” I was hooked.  I still get chills when Roky sings in ‘Dr.Doom; ”We won’t join in sameness, we are each one different, We won’t join in oneness when we’re each one whole.”

“Easter Everywhere” the second LP is the masterpiece and never ceases to amaze and inspire.  I don’t necessarily feel that any Dead Meadow or solo work I’ve done sounds sonically like the Elevators but this record puts the fire in me to create and push forward with it’s perfect combination of energy, amazing lyrics and songs, and incredible guitar work.  This band was around for less than three years in the mid 60’s yet somehow created a sound effortlessly unique and timeless.

Our thanks goes to Jason for writing for us.

Jason Simon / Dead MeadowWebsite / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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