An influence on Patti Smith and the White Stripes — just for starters — Roky Erickson is one of the lost legends of rock. He was inventing his own strain of psychedelic rockabilly, when he was arrested in 1969 for possession of a joint in Texas. An ill-advised insanity plea landed him in the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where his mental problems escalated out of control. After his release he mostly spent his days sitting alone, listening to the wall of white noise generated by his four radios, three televisions, two amps, his radio scanner, and a Casio keyboard. Now, he’s on the comeback trail. A documentary about his long road back, You’re Gonna Miss Me, opens Friday, June 8, at Cinema Village. After the jump, Roky overcomes his usual shyness to describe the odd origins of some of his signature songs:
"You Don't Love Me Yet"
(One of Roky’s almost embarrassingly direct love songs)
“I just wrote it in California, about lightning not striking anymore. A love song … for no one in particular. Wrote it pretty fast … in about an hour.”
"Nothing in Return"
(A power-pop, falsetto ode to unrequited love)
“I was just thinking about paying for something and getting nothing in return. I guess like a convenience store…”
"I Have Always Been Here Before"
(Psychedelic pop with impenetrable wordplay)
“I wrote it about Stonehenge while I was in San Francisco before I visited there (Stonehenge). It’s about déjà vu.”
"Creature With the Atom Brain"
(A hard, garage-rock shout-out to the 1955 monster movie)
“One of my favorite movies since I was a kid. I saw it at the Capitol Theatre on West 6th Street. [The song was] another pretty fast write … probably 30 minutes.”
(A shimmering pop tune)
“I just wrote it about the stars in the eyes of a girl. Inspired by Buddy Holly. One of my favorites of all time.”
"Don't Slander Me"
(A power chord anthem that sounds like an MC5 outtake)
“I wrote it when I was living in West Austin … I’m telling myself to look upon myself favorably … with love and goodness, not slander.”
I Have Always Been Here Before: The Rocky Erickson Anthology CD with audio clips [Amazon.com]
Roky Erickson [Rokyerickson.net]
Trailer for You're Gonna Miss Me [Palm Pictures]