Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Roger Kynard

Roky Erickson was born Roger Kynard Erickson on 15 July, 1947. Roky Erickson is an American singer, songwriter, harmonica player and guitarist from Texas. Roky Erickson was a founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators and pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre.

Roky Erickson was interested in music from his youth: he played piano from the age of 5 and took up guitar at the age of 12. Roky Erickson attended school in Austin and dropped out of Travis High School in 1965, 1 month before graduating, rather than cut his hair to conform to the school dress code. Roky Erickson’s 1st notable group was The Spades, who scored a regional hit with Roky Erickson’s song “We Sell Soul”; this song is included on the compilation album Highs in the Mid 60s, Volume 17(although the songwriter is identified as Emil Schwartze on the track listing on this album).

Roky Erickson co-founded the 13th Floor Elevators in late 1965. Roky Erickson and bandmate Tommy Hall were the main songwriters. Early in her career, singer Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators, but Family Dog’s Chet Helms persuaded her to go to San Francisco, California, USA instead, where she found major fame.

In 1966 (Roky Erickson was 19 years old) the band released their debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Psychedelic Sounds had the band’s only charting single, Roky Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” A stinging post-romantic breakup song, the single remains probably Roky Erickson’s best-known work: it was a major hit on local charts in the U.S. southwest, and appeared at lower position on national singles charts as well. Critic Mark Deming writes that “If Roky Erickson had vanished from the face of the earth after The 13th Floor Elevators released their epochal debut single, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me,’ in early 1966, in all likelihood he’d still be regarded as a legend among garage rock fanatics for his primal vocal wailing and feral harmonica work.”

In 1967, the band followed up with Easter Everywhere, perhaps the band’s most focused effort, featuring the epic track “Slip Inside This House”, and a noted cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

After the band’s 3rd album, Live, which featured audience applause dubbed over studio recordings of cover versions and older material, The 13th Floor Elevators released their 4th and final album Bull of the Woods in 1968. Due to Roky Erickson’s health and legal problems, his contribution to the album is limited, with guitarist Stacy Sutherland taking more of a leading role.

In 1968, while doing a stint at Hemisfair, Roky Erickson started speaking nonsense. Roky Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntarily received electroconvulsive therapy.

The Elevators were vocal proponents of mescaline (peyote), LSD, and marijuana use, and were subject to extra attention from police. In 1969, Roky Erickson was arrested for possession of 1 marijuana joint in Austin. Facing a 10 year prison term, Roky Erickson pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Roky Erickson was 1st sent to the Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he was sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he was subjected to more electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, ultimately remaining in custody until 1972.

When released from the state hospital, Roky Erickson’s mental outlook had changed. In 1974, he formed a new band which he called Bleib Alien, Bleib being an anagram of Bible and/or German for Stay, and “Alien” being a pun on the German word “Allein” (“alone”) – the phrase in German therefore being “Remain alone”. Roky Erickson’s new band exchanged the psychedelic sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators for a more heavy metal sound that featured lyrics on old horror film and science fiction themes. “2Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” (produced by The Sir Douglas Quintet’s Doug Sahm) was released as a single.

The new band renamed itself Roky Erickson and the Aliens. In 1979, Roky Erickson recorded 15 new songs with producer Stu Cook, former bass player of Creedence Clearwater Revival. These efforts were released in 2 “overlapping” LPs – TEO/CBS UK, and The Evil 1/415 records. Stu Cook also played bass on 2 tracks, “Sputnik” and “Bloody Hammer.” Roky Erickson also performed with The Nervebreakers as his backup band at The Palladium in Dallas in 1979. A recording was issued on the French label New Rose and was recently re-issued elsewhere. In 1982, Roky Erickson asserted that a Martian had inhabited his body. Roky Erickson later reported to friends that aliens were coming to Earth to harm him, and asked a Notary Public to witness an official declaration that he was himself an alien, hoping that this would convince the aliens to leave him alone.

In an unmedicated state, Roky Erickson began a years-long obsession with the mail, often spending hours poring over random junk mail, writing to solicitors and celebrities (dead or living). Roky Erickson was arrested in 1989 on charges of mail theft. Roky Erickson picked up mail from neighbours who had moved and taped it to the walls of his room. Roky Erickson insisted that he never opened any of the mail, and the charges were ultimately dropped.

Several live albums of his older material have been released since then, and in 1990 Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye produced by WB executive Bill Bentley. It featured versions of Roky Erickson’s songs performed by The Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., ZZ Top, Julian Cope, Bongwater, John Wesley Harding, Doug Sahm and Primal Scream. According to the liner notes, the title of the album came from a remark Roky Erickson made to a friend who asked him to define psychedelic music, to which Roky Erickson reportedly replied “It’s where the pyramid meets the eye, man!” (the quote is also a reference to the Eye of Providence).

In 1995, Roky Erickson released All That May Do My Rhyme on Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey’s label Trance Syndicate Records. Produced by Texas Tornado bassist Speedy Sparks, Austin recording legend Stuart Sullivan and Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan, the release coincided with the publication of Openers II, a complete collection of Roky Erickson’s lyrics. Published by Henry Rollins’s 2.13.61 Publications, it was compiled and edited by Casey Monahan with assistance from Henry Rollins and Roky Erickson’s youngest brother Sumner Erickson, a classical tuba player.

Sumner Erickson was granted legal custody of Roky in 2001, and established a legal trust to aid his brother. As a result, Roky Erickson received some of the most effective medical and legal aid of his life, the latter useful in helping sort out the complicated tangle of contracts, which had reduced royalty payments to all but nothing for his recorded works. Roky Erickson also started taking medication to control his schizophrenia.

A documentary film on the life of Roky Erickson titled You’re Gonna Miss Me was made by director Keven McAlester and screened at the 2005 SXSW film festival. In September of the same year, Roky Erickson performed his 1st full-length concert in 20years at the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival with The Explosives.

In the 30 December, 2005 issue of the Austin Chronicle, an alternative weekly newspaper in Austin, Texas, Margaret Moser brings up to date the story of Roky Erickson’s recovery with the aid of his brother Sumner. According to the article, Roky Erickson weaned himself off his medication, played at 11 gigs in Austin that year, obtained a driver’s license, owns a car (a Volvo), voted the previous year, and planned to do more concerts with The Explosives in 2006.

In 2007, Roky Erickson played his 1st ever gig in New York City, as well as California’s Coachella Festival and made a stunning debut performance in England to a capacity audience at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Roky Erickson continued to play in Europe, performing for the 1st time in Finland at Ruisrock festival. According to the article in Helsingin Sanomat 8 June 2007, the performance was widely considered the highlight of the festival day.

According to an interview on Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio with You’re Gonna Miss Me director Kevin McAlester (7/24/07), Roky Erickson is currently working on a new album with Billy Gibbons, singer and guitarist of ZZ Top, and a longtime admirer of Roky Erickson; Billy Gibbons’ earlier band The Moving Sidewalks had a hit with “99th floor”, which was a tribute of sorts to the Elevators.

On 8th September 2008, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai released the ‘The Batcat EP’. Roky Erickson is featured on 1 of the tracks, ‘Devil Rides’.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Bob Mosley

Bob Mosley was born James Robert Mosley, on 4 December, 1942, in Paradise Valley, California, USA. Bob Mosley is principally known as the bass player and one of the songwriters and vocalists for the band Moby Grape. Bob Mosley has also developed a career as a solo artist. 3 of his best known songs with Moby Grape are “Mr. Blues”, from the 1st Moby Grape album (1967), “Bitter Wind”, from Wow/Grape Jam (1968) and “Gypsy Wedding”, from 20 Granite Creek (1971). Bob Mosley has had a varied career, including a period in 1977 playing with Neil Young in a band called The Ducks, which had a brief life and lamented demise.

Bob Mosley’s career has been plagued by the challenges of schizophrenia, as was the case with Moby Grape bandmate Skip Spence. Both musicians were homeless for several years. Bob Mosley’s schizophrenia was 1st diagnosed after he left Moby Grape in
1969,following the release of Moby Grape ’69. Bob Mosley shocked the remaining band members, in leaving the band to join the Marines. It was during basic training with the Marines that Bob Mosley was 1st diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Bob Mosley was discharged from the Marines 9 months after basic training.

In 1996, 3 of Bob Mosley’s fellow band members, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Don Stevenson, in part reformed Moby Grape with the objective of helping Bob Mosley recover emotionally and financially. Bob Mosley describes the circumstances as follows: “In 1996, Peter Lewis picked me up along the side of a San Diego freeway where I was living, to tell me a ruling by San Francisco Judge Garcia gave Moby Grape their name back. I was ready to go to work again.”

Unlike bandmate Skip Spence, whose musicial output largely ceased within a few years of the onset of schizophrenia, Bob Mosley has been able to continue to write songs and record music for much of his life. Bob Mosley’s most recent solo release is True Blue, released on the Taxim label in 2005.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Meera Popkin

Meera Popkin is a star of Cats and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in London’s West End. Meera Popkin was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Meera Popkin’s life went from centre stage and limos to waiting tables at Wendy’s, but she’s now back and is doing well. “I’ve had quite a year. I thought the highlight would be getting married. I thought the highlight would be having my baby girl. Now it looks like the highlight is being completely recovered from schizophrenia. Did I ever have it? Was I misdiagnosed? Am I the one in a thousand that recovers from this illness? These are the questions my doctor is asking.”

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Alexander “Skip” Spence

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born on 18 April, 1946 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and died on 16 April, 1999 from lung cancer. Alexander “Skip” Spence was 52, just 2days shy of his 53rd birthday.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a musician and singer-songwriter best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and as a solo artist. Alexander “Skip” Spence and his family relocated to San Jose, California in the late 1950s. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s career was plauged by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and is described by a biographer as man who “neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out. Unlike the advice in the Neil Young song, he both burned out and faded away;” yet during his tenure in the public eye, he had a profound impact on the outsider music and psych-folk genres.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin recruited him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After 1 album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist. It was with Moby Grape that Alexander “Skip” Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s 1st album (1967) a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as 1 of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Alexander “Skip” Spence is acknowledged as having been instrumental in the formation of the Doobie Brothers, by way of introducing John Hartman to Tom Johnston, and encouraging their musical development.

During the recording session of Moby Grape’s 2nd album, Wow, in 1968, Alexander “Skip” Spence attempted to break down a bandmate’s hotel room door with a fire axe, while under the influence of LSD. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s deterioration in New York and the “fire axe incident” are described by bandmate Jerry Miller as follows: “Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while. Next time we saw him, he had cut off his beard, and was wearing a black leather jacket, with his chest hanging out, with some chains and just sweating like a son of a gun. I don’t know what the hell he got a hold of, man, but it just whacked him. And the next thing I know, he axed my door down in the Albert Hotel. They said at the reception area that this crazy guy had held an ax to the doorman’s head.”

As described by bandmate Peter Lewis, it appears that both Jerry Miller and bandmade Don Stevenson were targets of Alexander “Skip” Spence: “We had to do (the album) in New York because the producer (David Rubinson) wanted to be with his family. So we had to leave our families and spend months at a time in hotel rooms in New York City. Finally I just quit and went back to California. I got a phone call after a couple of days. They’d played a Fillmore East gig without me, and Skippy took off with some black witch afterward who fed him full of acid. It was like that scene in The Doors movie. He thought he was the anti-Christ. He tried to chop down the hotel room door with a fire axe to kill Don (Stevenson) to save him from himself. He went up to the 52nd floor of the CBS building where they had to wrestle him to the ground. And Rubinson pressed charges against him. They took him to the The Tombs (and then to Bellevue) and that’s where he wrote Oar. When he got out of there, he cut that album in Nashville. And that was the end of his career. They shot him full of Thorazine for 6 months. They just take you out of the game.”

During his 6 months in Bellevue, Alexander “Skip” Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle, dressed in only his pajamas, directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, with no other musicians appearing on it, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records).

Alexander “Skip” Spence continued to have minor involvement in later Moby Grape projects and reunions. Alexander “Skip” Spence contributed to 20 Granite Creek(1971) and Live Grape(1978), though his bandmates always included at least 1 of his songs on group recordings, irrespective of whether he was capable of performing with the group at the time. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been similarly remembered by Jefferson Airplane, whereby his song, “My Best Friend” was included on the group’s definitive Surrealistic Pillow album (1967), despite his departure from the group.

Due to his deteriorating state and notwithstanding that he was no longer functioning in the band, Alexander “Skip” Spence was supported by Moby Grape band members for extended periods. Voluminous consumption of heroin and cocaine resulted in a further involuntary committal for Alexander “Skip” Spence, based on “Aqualung”-like behaviours. As described by Peter Lewis, “Skippy was just hanging around. He hadn’t been all there for years, because he’d been into heroin all that time. In fact he actually ODed once and they had him in the morgue in San Jose with a tag on his toe. All of a sudden he got up and asked for a glass of water. Now he was snortin’ big clumps of coke, and nothing would happen to him. We couldn’t have him around because he’d be pacing the room, describing axe murders. So we got him a little place of his own. He had a little white rat named Oswald that would snort coke too. He’d never washed his dishes, and he’d try to get these little grammar school girls to go into the house with him. He was real bad. One of the parents finally called the cops, and they took him to the County Mental Health Hospital in Santa Cruz. Where they immediately lost him, and he turned up days later in the women’s ward.”

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism thus prevented Alexander “Skip” Spence from sustaining a career in the music industry. Much of his life was spent in third party care, as a ward of the State of California, and either homeless or in transient accommodations in his later years. Alexander “Skip” Spence remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Peter Lewis regularly visited Alexander “Skip” Spence during the latter years of his life: “The last 5 years I’d go up‚ he lived in a trailer up there‚ Capitola. I used to hang around with him; we’d spend the weekends together. But he just basically kind of hit the…he was helpless in a way in terms of being able to define anything or control his feelings.”

As 1 of his 4 children, son Omar Spence, recalls, “When I saw my dad, it broke my heart. …There were moments of clarity when he was genius smart, and then he’d wander off having a conversation with himself. Here’s a homeless guy that most people would walk past and pity, and he’d say, ‘I’ve been working on a song’, and he’d scratch out some bar chords and musical notes on a napkin.”

Spence died More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander “Skip” Spence, an album featuring contributions from Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, among others, was released a few weeks after his death. Prior to its release, the CD was played for Alexander “Skip” Spence at the hospital, in his final stages before death. As Peter Lewis recalls, “He was in a coma‚ and the last thing to go is your hearing. And they had More Oar in there and were playing it for him as they pulled the plug and we were holding his hands. I mean‚ it was like this death of Van Gogh or something. That’s the drama of it. You know…it was just so intense.”

Alexander “Skip” Spence’s “Land of the Sun”, one of the only post-Grape recordings he ever completed, was nearly placed on the X-Files soundtrack, Songs In The Key of X. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been commissioned to write the song.

In June, 2008, an Alexander “Skip” Spence Tribute Concert was held in Santa Cruz. The concert featured Alexander “Skip” Spence’s son, Omar Spence, who has sung with various configurations of Moby Grape in recent years. Omar Spence, singing his father’s songs, was backed by the Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble, with Dale Ockerman and Tiran Porter, both formerly of the Doobie Brothers, and both of whom have played with various members of Moby Grape in several bands over the past 3 decades. Keith Graves of Quicksilver Messenger Service played drums. Peter Lewis joined the group onstage for the finale. An additional Alexander “Skip” Spence tribute concert is planned for October, 2008.

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