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Fricke’s Picks: Robyn Hitchcock, The Sadies,13th Floor Elevators

A Box of Hitchcock
“He came bursting out of nowhere/Like a sphere into the sky/And he cast his light on everything”: Those lines from “The Man Who Invented Himself,” the first song on British singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s 1981 album, Black Snake Diamond Role, rightly open I Wanna Go Backwards (Yep Roc), a five-CD examination of the ex-Soft Boy’s first solo decade and the illuminating way he addresses human need and foibles in wily melodies, eccentric portraiture and winding metaphors that explode with sense like time-delayed grenades. The original LPs featured here and expanded with bonus tracks — Black Snake Diamond Role and the one-man trips I Often Dream of Trains (1984) and Eye (1990) — affirm Hitchcock’s avowed love of the emotional surrealism of Syd Barrett, Captain Beefheart and the mid-Sixties Bob Dylan. But there is also a long, barbed streak of John Lennon in the sly directness of these songs — the desperate escape into inner space in “I Often Dream of Trains”; Eye’s “Queen Elvis,” a soft bomb of blunt warning and determined troth. The box also has a two-CD pack of demos, While Thatcher Mauled Britain, in which Hitchcock, in his liner notes, describes his art this way: “My heroes were gone, seeding themselves in me, and those seeds gestated.” Backwards is the bloom.

Paisley Tremolo
“We’re still tripping on what we have left behind”: When guitarist-brothers Travis and Dallas Good of Canadian band the Sadies sing that line on New Seasons (Yep Roc), they mean it as remorse. It also works as invitation. The Sadies make great modernist prairie-rock records. But here they build fresh, bracing psychedelia from the paisley-tremolo guitars of the ’65 Charlatans and the fine whine and tight-curl licks of the ’68-’69 Byrds. The history is obvious; the motion is all forward.

Feed Your Head
On American Bandstand in 1966, after the 13th Floor Elevators mimed to their Texas garage-rock classic “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” host Dick Clark asked, “Who is the head man of the group here?” “We’re all heads,” jug-blower Tommy Hall said. For the band, LSD was not just a high but a bridge to heaven. In Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound (Process Media), Paul Drummond vividly recounts their brief, wild life as electric mystics, including Erickson’s descent into madness and back, with his feral voice intact.

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