A documentary film project by George Ripley and Priscilla Lee
Length: 120 minutes
Expected date of completion: December 2015
Tommy Hall (born September 15, 1942) is an electric jug player from Texas. He was a founding member of The 13th Floor Elevators. Tommy Hall is also the band's primary lyricist and philosopher.
He was born to nurse Margaret "Perky" Perkins and Dr. James Tidwell Hall (a Colonel in charge of the hospital in Paris during WWII) in an upper middle-class family. With music in his blood, Tommy Hall spent his formative years in jug-band country with an ear to the progressive-jazz station and a record-collecting habit. He liked Little Richard and Chuck Berry, but had little to say about Elvis Presley. Tommy Hall is an aficionado of jazz to this day.
In 1961, Hall enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where, fascinated with how the mind works, he studied philosophy and psychology. At night, he continued his musical education, hitting blues bars with songwriter and future Elevators contributor Powell St. John.
There are some who consider Tommy Hall to be the finest lyricists of his generation. In his high-minded lyrics, Hall penned elegant lines about trust and spiritual bonds. This musical mysticism attracted a following in Texas.
Christine Bland of the Black Angels, an American psychedelic rock band from Austin, Texas, “whose stoned sound has ancestral ties to Hall's sonic ideology,” says on Tommy Hall’s lyrics, “He's been in a constant struggle since the days of the Elevators to figure out the meaning of existence. I hope he realizes the importance of his lyrics. They changed my life, and are one of the reasons The Black Angels exist. Hopefully he's never forgotten. He's one of the forefathers of psychedelic rock n' roll.”
Hall’s poetry is solemn, visionary and controlled. Examining the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition, it is in fact hard to pin down Hall's sources of inspiration. One has to reach far back, beyond modernism and symbolism to the Romantics and Victorians. It is here, in the final incarnations of poetical Classicism, that we find the poetry that most closely resembles "Slip Inside This House":
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree Where Alph the sacred river ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea..."
-- "Kubla Khan", a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A special aspect of The Elevators' sound came from Tommy Hall's innovative electric jug. He ushered the instrument into the electric age. The jug, a crock-jug with a microphone held up to it while it was being blown, sounded somewhat like a cross between a minimoog and cuica drum. In contrast to traditional musical jug technique, Hall did not blow into the jug to produce a tuba-like sound. Instead, he vocalized musical runs into the mouth of the jug, using the jug to create echo and distortion of his voice, the echoes of his voice producing the Elevators' ghostly je ne sais quoi.
"The first thing you notice, before anything really, is Tommy Hall's electric jug sound," notes Elevators fan Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain. "Never could quite work out how that sound was made."
Tommy Hall was a prophet and found that rock music was a way to get his cosmology and philosophy out. “Tommy is a walking talking true cultural artifact if there ever was one,” according to Bob Simmons, a well-known photographer.
This project is to showcase his life: his childhood, his days as a student at UT in the 60s, his studies in Gurdjieff, Korzybski, Herman Hesse, and the Indian Vedas, and philosophies in consciousness and cosmic human experience, the inspiration behind his art, the forming of his band, and aspects of The Design (his current work).
Photo 13th Floor Elevators 1966 by Bob Simmons
CHARACTERS AND APPROACH
Slip Inside This House will tell the life story of Tommy Hall through vintage and contemporary photographs and numerous interviews with members of The 13th Floor Elevators, and their soundman, contemporaries and audience members from the sixties as well as Tommy's former wife, his stepson, his brother, and his sister.
Hall children by their father, Dr. James Tidwell Hall, MD
Left to right: Peter Hall, Tommy Hall, and Carolyn Hall