A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas’s Psychedelic Music, from the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond
Published by Zero Books, June 26th 2015
A Gathering of Promises is a history of acid rock and psychedelic music in and from the state of Texas, focusing largely on its mid-1960s origins among a loosely related family of bands operating out of Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Interwoven with the fascinating tale of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators are the stories of fellow travelers the Golden Dawn, the Red Crayola, the Moving Sidewalks, Bubble Puppy, Fever Tree, the Zakary Thaks, the Children, Shiva’s Headband, the Wig, Cold Sun and more. Drawing on new interviews with Roky Erickson, George Kinney, Clementine Hall, Rod Prince, Spencer Pershkin, Billy Miller and Alex Maas among others, A Gathering of Promises follows the development of Texan Psychedelia all the way through to the present day and the popularity of the annual Austin Psych Fest (now Levitation).
Grounded in a strong social, cultural and historical context, A Gathering of Promises asks how Texas produced some of the most extreme and influential psych of any era despite a prevailing social ethos of Christian conservatism and the strictest drug laws of any American state. It looks at how this environment shaped and affected the music, alongside the Texan frontier spirit and its championing of expansion, freedom and individualism.
A Gathering of Promises was launched at Levitation 2015 in Austin, Texas, an event that saw a one-off 50th anniversary reunion show by the 13th Floor Elevators themselves. A UK launch event in Brighton featured live psychedelic music from ZOFFF, featuring members of Levitation/Cardiacs, Crayola Lectern, Clowwns and Hamilton Yarns.
“Congratulations on putting together the most accurate, comprehensive account of those times that I have ever encountered. Great job. I want to add that you have provided a very insightful review of my lyrics. Thanks for taking time to give the songs a sincere, meaningful interpretation”. George Kinney (The Golden Dawn)
“I was literally propelled through it… your manuscript is masterful, thoroughly wrought, vivid and exciting to read… There is much truth and insight about our lives which I found inspired. You are a very fine writer indeed”. Clementine Hall (13th Floor Elevators)
“Worth reading just for the Elevators’ story- more concisely told than in Paul Drummond’s biography of the band- and it is further recommended as a guide to the music being made at the same time by the Red Crayola, Bubble Puppy, Moving Sidewalks, the Golden Dawn, the Lost and Found, Cold Sun and dozens of other often mindblowing bands.” Allan Jones, Uncut
“Graham expertly charts the rise and fall of this extraordinary group while further fleshing out the saga with accounts of the Elevators’ contemporaries… in a style that mixes biography and record review.” Edwin Pouncey, The Wire
“No stoner is left unturned in a dossier that also documents the conflicting fortunes of Janis Joplin, Bubble Puppy (whose 1969 album provides the title for this book), the Moving Sidewalks, the Red Krayola, the Lost and Found, Fever Tree and scores of fellow travellers. Author Ben Graham’s feverish rationale of the posthumously released Dark Shadows by Cold Sun will have you knocking tables aside in your eagerness to hear it.” Oregano Rathbone, Record Collector (four stars)
“Graham thoughtfully explores how some unique social conditions- a prohibitively conservative culture, cops fond of brutalising young hippies- bred a tougher, punkier strain of psychedelia than flourished on the West Coast. The tale’s principals- the Elevators’ troubled visionaries Roky Erickson and Tommy Hall, a pre-success Janis Joplin- are vividly brought to life, along with an armada of lower-rung garage scamps and acid eaters, and while Graham’s analyses of the music run long, they often deliver a deeper understanding of the din contained within. This tome is an authoritative history that will make you want to search out every last obscure nugget.” Stevie Chick, Mojo
Read an excerpt on the Quietus here