A wizard from 1990
April 2, 2009
The only time I wished I had a fake arm is when this customer at my job for some reason asked for “five” today. Instantly, I was struck with the desire for a prosthetic “claw arm”. It would have been an uncomfortable moment for him if I had lifted my arm to give him “five” and revealed my replacement plastic “claw” to give him his desired “five.” I’d have said “careful, I lost one of the screws recently.” After such a moment I would be sure to never see his ugly face again!
Lately I’ve been listening to this record called “1990” by Daniel Johnston. I’ve been listening to his albums for a couple of years now and recently came across this album at my local record shop with my dear, sweet Robin. When I first put it on, I was completely knocked out by it! Every song is emotionally powerful with seemingly little effort in the way of production. Which is this singer’s expertise (famous for being a lo-fi artist). “1990” is an emotional glimpse into Daniel’s manically depressed state at the time of it’s recording. As the story goes, he was fighting an inner war against evil. Struggling with his own demons that had spawned from a bad L.S.D. trip (that only magnified his mental illness) apparently, taken at one of the Butthole Surfers’ shows. Young Daniel Johnston’s own fear of god that most people are brought up with, created a lighthouse inside of him, that searched for something to focus it’s beaming guilt ray on. This Hell tower of light stopped on his desire for fame. And his guilt was born and multiplied quickly. In the songs featured on “1990”, a good portion are about the devil. such as the lonely favorite “Devil town” and of course the ultra scary “Don’t play cards with satan”. A live recording in which Johnston warns that satan will “deal you an awful hand” before delivering his spine stiffening yell of “SATAN”. A sure shocker for anyone listening to the album for the first time. The 3rd track is the heartbreaking tune “Held the hand” which makes up for what it lacks in length by it’s complete and utter beauty. When Daniel sings to his long lost love Laura and asks “what has happened to you?” nobody is safe from the chills that will stay with them and nearly become permanent as he sings the line “I was on MTV-everybody was looking at me…” recalling his appearance on MTV’s Austin music showcase that featured Daniel singing one of his songs in the late 1980’s. A highlight for the singer at the time. With some songs recorded in a studio assisted by members of Sonic Youth and Jad Fair of Half Japanese and the other half taken from live recordings (due to his being unable to complete more studio recordings) “1990” is as solid an album as any that are held up by the mainstream, and contains something real that no mainstream band could capture so purely even with all the money in the world to put into production. This is the kind of record that you sing to yourself at work all day and become discouraged that nobody you work with can sing along with you.
Today Wizard magazine came out and features a small article on Ethan and I. I’m very, very proud of it. No matter where you are when you read this, you must find this magazine with us in it. It will be a historic artifact.
Yesterday, I was talking to my good friend Luke and he pointed out this illustration by Kenny Be that has a little shout out to me!
That’s all for now!