Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, a statement rarely applicable to the TMT news column. Yet, nowhere is the phrase more appropriate than when describing the bizarre life and times of psych patriarch Roky Erickson, whose experiences could literally and figuratively be described as mind-blowing. First coming to prominence in the early 1960s as founding member of The 13th Floor Elevators, who are often credited as the first psychedelic rock group, the group continued breaking new ground, playing, and recording throughout the decade. Eventually, his vocal support for marijuana and LSD proved to backfire on him, causing much police attention and ultimately leading to his arrest for a single joint. While on trial, he plead insanity rather than face a 10-year prison sentence, which also proved to backfire -- the plea got him sent to a mental hospital, and his several busted escape attempts from it got him sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
There, he was subjected to electroshock therapy and heavy doses of Thorazine. After being released, he spent the next few decades undertaking new musical projects, claiming to be an extraterrestrial, and living under the eye of his heavily religious mother (among other things). It was only after legal custody of Roky was awarded to his younger brother in 2001 that he began recovering, regaining control of his life to the point where he is now able to make music again, even playing several shows and festivals in the past and near future.
A documentary about Erickson's life, entitled You're Gonna Miss Me (via Palm Pictures), is due for a theater release on June 8 and a DVD release July 10. Note to movie producers: I think I can speak for all aspiring musicians dabbling in recreational drug use from Texas who have religious parents when I say the recent documentaries about Erickson and Daniel Johnson have not exactly been the most encouraging. Just one movie about someone not suffering from schizophrenia by their late 40s would be a serious breath of fresh air. It's difficult to complain though, because at least judging by the trailer on the film's website, this movie is going to be a much-needed retrospective on the important achievements and far-out events in the life of one of the most influential musicians of the 1960s.
But seriously, electroshock therapy?