Five Underrated Roky Erickson Songs

Categories: Commentary

One could argue that Roky Erickson's entire body of work is underrated. Nevertheless, I waded through his maddeningly inconsistent catalog and picked out five songs that may have escaped notice, either solo or with the 13th Floor Elevators. Please feel free to add to the list, and check out Erickson on Friday at the Kessler Theater.

1. "Fire Engine"
Sure, this is a fairly recognized song in the 13th Floor Elevators catalog, but there's no denying its psychotic power. Ironically, I first heard this as a cover version on a live album by ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd.

2. "I'm Gonna Free Her"
From 1995's All That May Do My Rhyme, this optimistic little ditty is worlds away from Roky's tortured past. Sounding coherent and contented, Erickson showed he was still relevant.

3. "John Lawman"
From 2010's True Love Cast Out All Evil, this song could have easily been written two decades earlier. Really, the entire album (featuring Okkervil River as the backing band) is amazing, but "John Lawman" still stands out.

4. "Creature with the Atom Brain"
Another fairly well-known number, this song always makes me giggle. I still find it remarkable how Erickson mixed The Misfits with Creedence Clearwater Revival.

5. "Save Me"
A raw, acoustic song collected on 1999's Never Say Goodbye, among other places. Several of the tracks were recorded while Erickson spent time in Rusk State Mental Hospital. While certainly lo-fi, "Save Me" features a cool retro vibe and killer vocal performance.

Roky Erickson performs with James Hall & The Futura Bold on Friday, July 13, at the Kessler Theater.

Location Info


The Kessler Theater

1230 W. Davis St., Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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Just another onionhead
Just another onionhead

You're alright boss. At least you are informed and spread the word.  I collect Roky extensively, and as far as his live recordings - one man's painful is another man's ecstacy-addled groovy Saturday evening. With the lights out! Anyone just starting out would be well advised to seek out the double CD anthology "I Have Always Been Here Before". Not only does it sample the best material from the original sources, it was one of the first releases to be sanctioned by the Erickson Trust with royalties going straight to Roky.


i intended roky no disrespect. what I mean is the guy's stuff has been recorded, rerecorded, repackaged so many times by so many crappy labels that the sheer volume of it has obscured the man's greatness. try listening to some of the live albums all the way through. it can be painful.

Just another onionhead
Just another onionhead

"maddeningly inconsistent"???? Curb thy tounge, knave! 1. The Wind And More 2. Don't Slander Me 3. Crazy Crazy Mama  4. Levitation 5. She Lives In A Time Of Her Own I'm going to stop myself at five. Also, I think Tommy Hall wrote Slip Inside This House, which is why they could never (effectively) do it live, what with 19 verses based on the works of philosophers without vowels in their last names.


Certainly one of the most underrated musicians of all time, in my eyes. Not many people have been such a huge influence to other respected artists, while many still don't know who he is.


 It should be Slip Inside This House.  Also Dust.  Anything on Easter Everywhere.  That album is underrated because of the first album being so highly regarded, but it is every bit as good, and in my opinion better.  Bull of The Woods ain't bad either, but that is less of a Roky album.

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