I Walk with Demons: Roky Erickson depicts selling his soul to the devil on public TV, Halloween ‘84
Does it get any more Halloween than Roky Erickson? The ex-13th Floor Elevators frontman has been at the center of our Hallows’ Eve playlists since his “Bleib Alien” years. With songs depicting themes of old sci-fi and horror films, plus an unsettling personal struggle with mental illness, Roky makes Ozzy look like the Easter Bunny!
In 1984, Erickson appeared on Austin Community Television for a music documentary titled Demon Angel: A Day and Night with Roky Erickson. The hour-long special features a rotating interjection of interview and performance segments, with an ever-so cheery and quick-witted Erickson on the devil’s holiday, Halloween.
The interview portion, which may have taken place on a different day than Halloween, is conducted by Swedish writer Georg Cederskog. The two can be found hanging out and blazing cigs in a sunny backyard somewhere in Austin, Texas. They discuss a variety of topics, including Roky’s belief that he is the only “horror rock artist” and that Bob Dylan is some sort of a demon from another planet. The type of demon that won’t hurt you, however. He then proceeds to play a cover of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
When asked if he likes cops, Roky responds “Sure, I like to wait awhile and then watch their program. They’ve got a show on at night called COPS.” The two talk about serious subjects too, like whether or not Erickson thinks we will ever have to worry about atomic warfare (“I’ve always believed in America”) and if he likes Ronald Reagan (“I’ve liked all the presidents”). They even touch upon Roky’s stint in the state hospital, as part of an insanity plea for possession of a single marijuana joint in 1969. It was during this time, in between electro-shock treatments, that Erickson wrote his poetry book Openers under the name “Roky writing as the Reverend Roger Roky Kynard Erickson.”
Around the thirteen-minute mark, Roky and George discuss a subject that Erickson has sung about many times before: the devil. Roky claims that he sold his soul to the devil, “about 4-5 years ago.” He then goes on the describe the process – he was alone and “all these pieces of paper appeared” for him to sign his life away. Ironically, this would have been when Roky entered into a record deal with CBS Records Europe (Columbia) for his first solo record, Roky Erickson and the Aliens (1980). He claims that the reason he signed was so the devil would always have possession over him, and therefore he “can never make a mistake.” Don’t shake me, Lucifer!
Perhaps even more interesting is the location of the live performance, which liner notes indicate was filmed somewhere at an eerie “underground creek.” Most of the songs are played solo acoustic and electric, with some featuring guitar accompaniment by local producer, Mike Alvarez (the man behind the “Woodshock” festival). They play a dozen-or-so Roky Erickson classics, including “Two Headed Dog,” “Night of the Vampire,” “Starry Eyes,” “Cold Night for Alligators,” and two Elevators’ favorites, “Splash 1” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” The entire thing is truly haunting.
Spend your Halloween with Roky Erickson in 1984, below:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Dancing with a two-headed dog: Historic videos of Roky Erickson
Roky Erickson’s isolated vocals for ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ are crazier than a bag full of snakes
‘Woodshock ‘85’: Richard Linklater’s first short film featuring a young Daniel Johnston
Posted by Bennett Kogon