Reporters are always looking for a snappy headline, so you should do your best in life not to give them one. If your last name is “Wiener”, you should probably go out of your way to avoid being caught up in a scandal that involves your wiener. It makes things too easy for TMZ — just sayin’. Chris Hansen, host of the controversial show “To Catch a Predator” in which people are busted using undercover camera footage, was recently caught cheating on his wife in an undercover camera sting. Sometimes the headlines write themselves, folks. And so, if you’re the lead guitarist and lead singer of a psychedelic rock band who loves taking acid, down the road people are liable to cringe at the irony of your hit single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”.
You’re Gonna Miss Me documents the life and trials of Roky Erickson, member of the band 13th Floor Elevators. Despite being one of the founders of psychedelic rock (one of his bandmates claims to have coined the term during a jam session), I had never heard of either Roky Erickson nor the 13th Floor Elevators. The documentary contains early American Bandstand footage of Roky jamming on the guitar and screaming wildly as his band mates tried to follow. The only thing Roky loves more than making music is doing drugs. Throughout the 1960s, Roky had a seat at the drug buffet of life helped himself to a big ol’ helping of LSD, multiple side orders of cocaine and heroin, and a heaping pile of marijuana for dessert. By the time Roky got arrested for doing all the drugs he could find in Texas his mental capacity was already questionable, and years of time served in a maximum-security mental facility combined with experimental drugs and shock therapy didn’t help the situation.
That brings us to today, and the meat of the film. Roky’s brain is so rotten he makes modern day Ozzy look like 1970’s Ozzy. He bumbles around town and his apartment with the help of his mother Evelyn who, despite not having done all the drugs in Texas, doesn’t seem to much more mentally competent than her son. Evelyn spends her days making giant cardboard collages and doing whatever it is other crazy people do in their free time.
Despite the fact that at different times Roky has believed himself to be possessed by the devil and being harassed by aliens, Evelyn — Roky’s legal guardian — refuses him medicine. Did I mention that Roky has been diagnosed as a psychotic schizophrenic? Oh yeah, there’s that. Brewing in the Erickson family is a bitter custody battle. The youngest of the five Erickson brothers, Sumner, thinks that with the proper care, medication and therapy, that eldest Erickson brother Roky can rebuild his health, his mind, and his life. To show how good his therapist is, we are treated to footage in which Sumner rolls on the floor with her embracing him from behind as he cries uncontrollably. Did I mention Sumner is a professional tuba player? Rarely is the case where the most bizarre member of a family comes down to a coin flip, but that might be the case here. Early on my money was on the family’s patriarch, until we learn that he was once caught in the bedroom fooling around with one of the five sons. Jesus Christ, Ericksons!
As with any documentary involving dysfunctional family members, it’s difficult to unequivocally say who the good and bad guys are in You’re Gonna Miss Me. Near the end of the documentary, thank God, Roky begins to get the help he so badly needed. Through medication and therapy we see Roky “functioning” once again. He’s in therapy, he appears lucid, he even spends a little time playing an old song on the guitar for his therapist and brother, something that the Roky at the beginning of the film never could have done. There’s no doubt that the years of mental and physical abuse Roky experienced took a toll against his cranium, but seeing the guy appear to realize where (or who) he is makes him seem happier than he was not so long ago.
Since the release of this documentary, Roky Erickson has made a seemingly full recovery. In 2010 he released the album “True Love,” and has been touring and performing live gigs off and on since then. Thumbs up, Roky — after seeing this film, nobody’s gonna forget you.