13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me b/w Don Buchanan RIP

Example

The Phantom Five at CBGBs 1986

(L-R) Chris Grogan, Don Buchanan, Bill Luther, (out of frame… me)

The night Woody quit the band.

(Picture by Andy Peters)

Example

Listen – You’re Gonna Miss Me – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope everyone had a great weekend.
I’m going to start the week off with something a little serious (in all senses of the word).
A little over a month ago, my younger brother Chris turned 40, and at his party we had a reunion of the band we (along with our brother Vince, and our buddy Bill) started over 20 years ago.
The Phantom Five was together for a little under four years. Starting out of jam sessions in our parent’s garage (no more appropriate place for a garage band) we ended up recording – in that same garage – and releasing a four-song EP in 1986, and then recording (but not releasing for a variety of reasons) another EP the following year. We broke up in 1988, having had enough of the kinds of arguments and artistic clashes that can only happen in a band containing three brothers.
Over those four years – aside from the three Grogan boys – there were three other members of the band.
There was our original rhythm guitar player (and co-founder) Bill Luther, who would go on to join the Tea Club (a band that included in it’s ranks two future members of the Insomniacs), and in the later half of the bands “career” (after we played for a time as a trio) there was guitarist John ‘Bluesman’ Rahmer, who stayed with us until the bitter end, and was there with us when we reunited.
During the first year of our existence, a time when we would play our first gigs, there was for a brief time another member of the band, bassist Don Buchanan.
During an episode so shameful that thinking of it still gives me pause, we pushed my 15 year old brother (our original bassist) out of the band so that we might bring someone into the ranks “old enough” to play bars/clubs and the like (conveniently ignoring the fact that my brother Chris wasn’t old enough to do so either). Aside from the fact that this was a supremely uncool thing for one brother to do to another, in the long run the replacement we brought in didn’t work out (in either party), and Vincent came back into the fold.
That replacement, Don (known to most everyone by his nickname ‘Woody’) was a long time (since childhood) friend of Bill’s and at first glance (and second, and third) a real rock and roller. His tastes ran more to the (70s) punk side of things, but for a while we made the best of the fact that we were all –in other ways – kindred spirits, and the fact that we had a lot of fun hanging out together. As Woody’s tenure in the band didn’t last all that long, it was in that capacity – as a ‘running buddy’ of a kind – that we really got to know him (my brother Vince going on to be good friends with him).
That was in 1985.
Last week I got a message from Bill, that Woody had taken his own life a few days before.
I remember the first time I ever met Woody – months before he joined the band – when he shared a ride with us into the city to go see some band or other at the Dive on 23rd St. We were all much younger then (I was the oldest of our group at 23, Woody and Bill were both 19 and Chris was 17) and most of our free time, not spent playing, or as Bill, his pal Rudi* and myself did putting together fanzines, was devoted to piling into an available car, going to see bands and hanging out. That we did so frequently almost goes without saying.
Though I can’t say with complete certainty – it seems likely that I was at the wheel that night, piloting my 1972 Plymouth Satellite station wagon – aka the ‘Boss Hoss’ – with no fewer than five, and maybe as many as eight passengers.
My first impression of Woody, was that he was a lot of fun; as up for a party as any of us and with a smart, biting sense of humor. This first impression was borne out over the next few years.
As I mentioned before, Woody’s time in the band was fairly brief, but thanks to the web of friendship, we spent a lot of years hanging out, going to the same parties, and sometimes going to see the same bands (as well as going to see Woody play when he did a stint with one of the best bands in New Jersey, the Mad Daddys).
However, as these things go – more than 20 years having gone by since we first met – lives having undergone serious change, I hadn’t seen much of Woody recently. If memory serves the last time we saw each other was probably close to five years ago, after I was married but before either of my sons came along. Woody had met a new girl – who he eventually married – and seemed, after the same species of prolonged adolescence (aka the rock’n’roll life) that we had all lived to varying degrees, to have gotten his life onto a somewhat more stable track.
Predictably, Woody’s whereabouts was part of the conversation at the aforementioned party, and though none of us had been in close touch, the word was that he was still happily married. When I opened the message from Bill – who had remained close with Woody – and read the bad news, I was shaken. There was the initial shock in finding out that someone relatively young (in his very early 40’s) had taken his own life, in which for a brief moment I felt a pang related to my own mortality, followed immediately by the realization that I had to pass this unfortunate information on to my brother Vince, who as I said before had been closer to Don than either Chris or myself. Once that was accomplished, I spent the remaining hours of the work day with memories of the good times we had all had lo those many years ago.
I was reprocessing stories that had gone through my mind at the party/reunion, but this time with a bittersweet edge. Though I knew Don we were never really close. I certainly never knew him like Bill or Vince, but we spent enough time around each other,and around the same people that memories of him were definitely woven firmly into the fabric of my life.
Oddly enough, I had digi-ma-tized the 13th Floor Elevators 45 you’re downloading today months ago, long before any of this came to pass. I was holding it aside because I was waiting until I could approach it with the profundity I felt it deserved.
The short story is that since those days in the mid-80’s, when my friends and I were consuming the sounds of the 60’s so voraciously, the Elevators, like the Velvet Underground became the musical equivalent of those amino acids that make up the building blocks of life. They were part of a foundation on which all other sounds were reflected/connected and on which we built our larger musical tastes.
Our musical world views were composed of a series of tangents where we might bounce from garage fuzz, to soul, to psychedelia to orchestral pop, to blues and back again, moving from vibe to vibe and finding the connective tissue between these sounds with every new record.
‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ was so much more than just another 45. It was the very essence of rock music taken to the edge, filled with manic energy and delivered with the fervor of a fundamentalist preacher. It was the kind of sound that you could wrap yourselves in and really feel. I remember going to party after seeing a gig at Maxwells in Hoboken, in a basement apartment a few blocks away. There, my brothers, and Bob Strete (the bassist from Mod Fun) huddled around the refrigerator, surreptitiously filling our overcoat pockets with purloined beers, and, spurred on by someone using a half empty bottle like the Elevators jug, sang, at the top of our lungs, a capella, a ragged but right version of ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’.
Though the song was never a firm part of the Phantom Five set list, we had – on occasion – worked it into freewheeling medleys, and when we gathered last month, all 20+ years older than when we first played together we again – on the spur of the moment – surrounded by our wives and children, ripped into ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ like the maniacs we were (or aspired to be) back in the day.
It makes me sad that we never got the opportunity to have a “full” band reunion – especially now that Woody is gone – but we weren’t the Band, and my brothers 40th birthday party wasn’t the Last Waltz. I can’t imagine that there are too many people – that weren’t there in person – that had much interest in seeing the Phantom Five reunite.
After we played, I have to admit that I (very) briefly allowed fever dreams of playing the drums again to dance through my head. Then I remembered that no matter how much fun I had just had, it had been more than 15 years since I played the drums on a regular basis, and that these days, I prefer to spend my time banging on a laptop keyboard. The things I produce that way are much more satisfying to me, and at least somewhat more coherent and of lasting value to others.
That said, these two events have been a real study in stark contrast, reliving the past sweetly, and month later being forced to do so again in a sad way.
It’s no mistake that one of the greatest works of surrealism was entitled ‘The Persistence of Memory’.
Peace
Larry

Example

PS Make sure to stop by Funky16Corners for a new Funky16Corners Radio Podcast.

*Who sadly was lost in a similar way back in 1986

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22 Comments

  1. That’s a poignant tale. It always makes you think about your own mortallity when folks of your own age group die…Did you know that Doug Meech, the original drummer from The Chesterfield Kings died last year? (not that i knew the guy but I loved that band in the mid 80s)

    Things like this really suck, but the music and memories live on I suppose.

  2. Expo
    I didn’t know about Doug. Of course I saw him play with the band many times, but I’m sad to say I lost track of the Chesterfield Kings years ago. I’ll have to get those first two albums out for a listen.
    Larry

  3. As Expo67 said, what a poignant tale.

    I don’t know whether it has been released in the States but there is an excellent book on the Elevators which was published last year

  4. Roger
    The Elevators book is available here in the US. Fantastic read and well worth grabbing if you’re a fan.
    Larry

  5. Larry,

    Thanks for this. I was somewhere in between you and Bill in terms of my friendship with Don – and, like you, I hadn’t seem him in years. It’s a sad tale, and I’m sorry Don’s not here to understand how people loved and valued him.

  6. Mike
    Thanks for stopping by.
    That last line says it all.
    Larry

  7. Man cheers for sharing the story of Woody. Every rock’n’roll story seems to be intertwined with some young, tragic death or other but never always just a simple waste of life. Like you said, they help us respect our own life and of those around us and make us live the rest of it (no matter how short or long); that much wiser and that much more appreciatively.

    Glad to hear 13th Floor Elevator’s hit the blog once again, Larry, unfortunate are the circumstances but no more apt and pleasurable. You mentioned Don had a great love of punk and well I’m sure he’d have a pleasurably raspy chuckle at your wildly appropriate choice of dedication :) 13th Floor Elevators were PUNK long before the term was ever coined!

    Speaking of which — long overdue Monks respect due!…

    Dave Day you will be missed!

  8. I was in the Plague Dogs with Don for a brief time (brief for both of us). Though we didn’t see absolutely eye to eye on everything, Don was a good guy and a great drinking buddy (note, this is before he apparently showed signs of alcohol abuse), and very very rock and roll. There were a lot of pathetic losers in the New Brunswick/central Jersey music scene of the 80s/90s, but Don was not one of them. Then again, neither was Ethan Stein (another band mate) who did NOT take his own life, but died under mysterious circumstances that were labeled so.
    “New Jersey… a great place to leave”
    hugs & kisses
    Stonegod

  9. Bravo Larry. Thanks for paying tribute to a man who meant so much to me. Well written as always. Eric Gladstone, real classy of you to mention Don’s “sign’s of alcohol abuse” in a public forum.

  10. Wow, not only a fine way to honor Don, but a mea culpa to boot. who said our growing decrepit didn’t have it’s merits. keep up the fine writing and in the meantime, i’ll just have to wait and see how long it takes for me to stop feeling like shit about what happened to my friend. In the mean time, i’m playing X’s Come Back to Me in an endless loop and it’s hard not to start blubbering every time. much love, cenzo

  11. Bill/Cenzo
    Glad I could do something to remember Don.
    Larry

  12. Great Cut as always and a Heartfelt read
    Ive seen Roky times 2 in the last year-Pretty Perfect Live Show

  13. I am indeed sorry to hear about the loss… If there are any tapes of your performances floating around, I’d love to hear some. It would be quite interesting.

  14. A friend of mine was surfing the net trying to find some stories about my brother, Don, and his music, friends, etc., and she came across this website. Thank you so much for writing such a fine tribute to “Woody”. I’m almost 5 years younger, so when he was playing in his prime, I wasn’t old enough to go and hear him. I did hear “Cat Scratch Fever” with the Mad Daddys, but now I can hear some more. It warms my heart so much to see how well-liked he was, as he was a super-hero to me….and always will be…..flaws and all. Thank you for this tribute. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to read this. I miss him more than I can put into words, and coming across this website made me feel just a little bit closer to him. He’ll be missed more than he could have imagined and is so incredibly loved!

    • Hi Lauren: I used to DJ with Don at WRSU in the late 80s/early 90s and I think I met you once. It has been a long time since then and I had wondered what happened to him; I truly have missed him since those days and was so sad to find this website. He was my best friend while at Rutgers and I often thought of him and wanted to see him again, even after all this time.

  15. Lauren
    You’re welcome. I’m glad I could do something in memory of Don. He will be missed.
    Larry

  16. Mr. Luther:
    I am an easy person to find, if you care to make the effort to ask me to clarify myself. This is obviously not the forum to air a personal beef, and doing so reflects more on you than me. Obviously I cared enough about Don as a person to leave a note. I don’t recall him as the kind of person who relished fake sentiment, and so I worded my thoughts in his spirit. Substance abuse is generally a symptom of a disease and not something for which a person should be condemned. My point in bringing it up is to say that had I known Don had a problem I certainly wouldn’t have encouraged his drinking! I am more than sad that Don took his own life, and that he felt he had no better option for resolving his problems. Ass kickings won’t change that, unfortunately.
    EG

  17. I want to thank you all for remembering my son, Don, whom I loved with all my heart and always will. If there are any other memories anyone can share with me, I would be grateful, since memories are all I have to hold of him now.

    Linda

    • Hello Linda:
      As I replied above to Laura, I used to DJ with Don at WRSU while I was a student at Rutgers. We were good friends after meeting in a psychology class there. We used to hang out and eventually our paths took different directions. He had been on my mind lately and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had tried harder to find him before now, just to tell him how much he meant to me.

  18. [...] in peace, Don”.  A cracking began, and I searched the web more earnestly. I came to another WordPress blog by Iron Leg that told the story. I saw the photos, so I know he was talking about the Don I knew. [...]

  19. [...] courtesy of Iron Leg) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Let Go.The five stagesKentucky Reaches Acceptance [...]

  20. Surprise!! The Elevators version was NOT the original. Roky’s earlier group the Spades had a version on the local Zero label #10002. You can find it here: (Sort on primitive, not quite developed into the Elevators tour de force, but I like it!! It’s got a good beat and I can dance to it.)

    Written by an Emil Schwartz (“May the Schwartz be with you!”)

    Johnno


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