When Roky Erickson’s 1981 cult classic album The Evil One was rereleased in 1987, it opened with the skronky “Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” a song loosely inspired by the believe-it-or-not head-transplant experiments conducted by a Soviet surgeon in the Fifties. Over a snaking electric guitar lead, Erickson howled about “working in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog.”
Margo Price and her band put their own spin on the song for an upcoming tribute album to Erickson. While she flip-flops the title to “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog),” the Nashville singer-songwriter’s version is faithful to the original. The guitar fuzz is fog-thick, the drums pound like a dark ritual, and Price’s voice pierces through the din. When she sings the line “sickening sweet sight,” her voice all but transforms into a sneer.
Price’s rendition appears on an upcoming tribute album to Erickson. May the Cirlce Remain Unbroken: A Tribute to Roky Erickson arrives July 17th as a Record Store Day exclusive. Released by Light in the Attic Records, the LP features covers of Erickson’s solo songs and with the 13th Floor Elevators by Jeff Tweedy, Lucinda Williams, Billy Gibbons, and Neko Case, among others.
Erickson’s The Evil One, released under Roky Erickson and the Aliens, remains a touchstone of psychedelic rock and horror-film imagery with songs like “I Walked With a Zombie,” “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators,” “I Think of Demons,” and “Creature With the Atom Brain” (“Remember Buchanan? But you’re not Buchanan!”). Erickson, who battled mental illness and was committed to a Texas mental hospital before making a dramatic comeback in the 2000s, died May 31st, 2019, at 71.
Here’s the track list for May the Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute to Roky Erickson:
1. “(I’ve Got) Levitation” – Billy Gibbons
2. “Starry Eyes” – Mosshart Sexton
3. “For You (I’d Do Anything)” – Jeff Tweedy
4. “Clear Night for Love” – Lynn Castle & Mark Lanegan
5. “Don’t Fall Down” – The Black Angels
6. “Be and Bring Me Home” – Neko Case
7. “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)” – Margo Price
8. “Roller Coaster” – Gary Clark Jr. & Eve Monsees
9. “Night of the Vampire” – Ty Segall
10. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” – Lucinda Williams
11. “If You Have Ghosts” – Chelsea Wolfe
12. “May the Circle Remain Unbroken” – Brogan Bentley