Texas Psychedelic Rock!
Join the Texas Psych Google Group!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

13th Floor Elevators La Maison Account

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
An account of seeing the 13th Floor Elevators La Maison by James Wilson.

August 1965, I left a small Kansas farm town to move to Houston and finish my last year of high school. I enrolled at Bellaire and began to learn the culture. I was thrilled about being in Texas and being in a new school. It was so much different from what I had known. It was intriguing to observe the different groups and trying to learn where I could fit in. Early on, I noticed some of the kids had "La Maison" bumper stickers on their notebooks and cars. Soon, I heard the occasional radio ad for the teen nightclub, no one older than twenty was allowed. Sometime around then I saw a small piece in the paper. A fifteen year old girl was arrested outside La Maison. She had a small amount of marijuana in a match box. I was interested by all this, but not compelled to seek out the place.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
After a while, I became more comfortable and soon became friends with a guy named Chris. It seems funny, but I met him when he took the paperback I was reading and tore it in half. At the time I was pissed about it but we soon became close friends. Chris and I hung out together and he suggested going to La Maison. He told me that it was a really cool place with cool bands and, of course, girls. By the time that we went for the first time, La Maison had relocated from the old church to a former grocery store. The parking lot was on the side with the entrance at the front, just like many other grocery stores of the time. The only windows were at the front and were painted over. Going in the door was nothing special, a lot like places I had been before. A couple of guys were standing behind a counter, checking ID’s and collecting the admission fee. Inside, however, was completely different, a new world.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
When no band was playing a few incandescent lights were on, and I could make out the inside. Everything was painted black, except for colorful florescent designs and sayings painted on the walls. There were black lights everywhere, so the designs on the walls jumped out and people's clothes glowed. There were a couple of mirror balls throwing moving balls of light around the room. From time to time, strobe lights would come on so that it looked like an old, silent film. At the back of the building was a stage and dance area. The jukebox by the entrance played Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" over and over. Very seldom did it play anything else. It probably sounds pretty lame now, but in 1965, it was new, exciting, and I could tell it was the start of something big.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
Walking into that room was something so exciting that I knew that my life would change. The style of the people inside was more than anything that I was familiar with. Everyone had long hair, both guys and girls. Both sexes wore colorful mod type shirts of paisley, flowers, or, polka dots. Lots of polka dots. Everyone had bell bottoms. Not so much jeans, but slack type pants of stripes, checks, and houndstooth. The guys wore Beatle boots and both sexes wore hats, lots of hats. Not ball caps or cowboy hats, but Top hats and big, floppy hats. Incredibly, everyone was cool. I never saw an altercation, a fight, or even a harsh word. These were people who would come to be called Hippies.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
As amazing as this was, it didn't prepare me for what was to come. The bands that I was used to seeing tried to be like the early Beatles, matching suits, stylish shoes, two guitars, bass, and drums, playing faithful covers of Top 40 hits. The 13th Floor Elevators were nothing like that. True, there were two guitars, bass, and drums, but a jug?

Nobody was dressed alike, they weren’t even wearing suits. What I did notice was they all had their pant legs stuffed into the tops of Wellington work boots. Nobody did that. The music was unlike anything I had ever heard. It was loud and brash and even the songs that I recognized didn't sound like the songs I was used to hearing. Blended into the mix of distortion and frenzy was this floating, warbling sound unlike any jug ever.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
Most of all, Roky’s performances were incredible, playing chords on guitar, ripping his vocals, and just wailing on harmonica. He would shake his head and scream into the microphone. I would like to say that I loved the band and music immediately, but I can't. It was so new, and radically different, that I wasn't able to appreciate it at first. As a point of reference, the Beatles had just released “Help”, Simon and Garfunkel were doing “Sounds of Silence”, and the Byrds were doing “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Still, I was fascinated and excited. I wanted to go back for more. I wanted to be a part of that.

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
Chris and I became regulars at La Maison, and though the Elevators weren't there every weekend, they were there on a regular basis. Each time that I saw them, my appreciation and understanding of what they were doing, grew. The playing and timing was tight and precise, and improved with every show. Stacy’s lead guitar broke new sounds with every performance. I came to realize that this was an incredible band with a vision of a new style, a way of life, actually. They had absolutely no desire to sound like anyone else. They were The 13th Floor Elevators. When the Elevators played, no body danced. We watched the band perform, tapping our feet in time to the music, appreciating the gift we were being given.  

13th Floor Elevators La Maison
13th Floor Elevators La Maison
One Saturday, about the time we heard that La Maison was closing, I ran into a friend's sister at Sharpstown Mall. The record store there had a lot of hard to find records and she was going there to see if they had a 45 of "You're Gonna Miss Me". It had been released in Austin on a small label. When we got there, the owner told us that International Artists had just reissued it and he had plenty of copies. He also told us that an album would be coming out soon. That album was "Psychedelic Sounds", the first concept album where each song was related to the others. The back cover explained the meaning of each song, a new way of thinking, a new way of life. That was also the album that gave the Elevators a legacy, a legacy that is still being discovered.




Join the Google Texas Psych Group!

2 comments:

wrayb said...

Interesting for me. I went to La Maison just twice I think. Once to see the Elevators and once to see Sam The Sham (when Little Red Riding Hood was his current hit). I was in 10th grade I think. The scene at the club was all new to me. I remember mostly the music so the description of the club is interesting to compare to my memories. Thanks.

Kittncrzyterri said...

If I only could have been in your shoes, Austin sounds like a great place to have grown up in....well, except for the intolerance but what a gift! You bring back memories of my own first time going out to clubs, but you saw the Elevators!!! Your very lucky! Is time travel possible yet?