Daniel Johnston, his songs just bore me!

I just got this Tartan DVD box set of music documentaries out of a bargain bin. I’d seen End Of The Century at a preview for the flick back in 2004, and I was literally the only person in the cinema when I paid to see Mayor Of Sunset Strip in 2005. I wanted to see these two films again, and figured they were worth picking up cheap even when they’d been bundled with a piece of junk like The Devil And Daniel Johnston.
Why has anyone got any time for Johnston? He lacks the charm of The Shaggs and his songs are basically really bad imitations of Jonathan Richmond on his post-Velvet Underground trip. Johnston’s voice is terrible and he can’t play guitar. As for his art work, this is just badly rendered amateur comic book garbage. He also has some loony Christian beliefs to compliment his complete lack of talent. While indie-wankers like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth loved Daniel Johnston’s music, this will surprise no one since they can’t rock either! The way I figure it, anyone into the indie scene is an inadequate anorak, and since Johnston is more inadequate than most, he simply makes his fans feel a little better about themselves. I really can’t find any other way to explain Daniel Johnston’s sad fan base.
Doing a quick web search, I found a five year old Guardian piece about Daniel Johnston, where tossers from bands like The Pastels compare him to Robert Johnson, which is just ridiculous. And the headline for this piece of nonsense? ‘His work just bores into you’. And I thought, I don’t think so, his songs just bore me. And no, I wasn’t listening to Johnston or any other indie shirt while typing this, I actually had on the Shorty Long Essential Collection. However, despite Shorty’s tragic death in a freak boating accident in 1969, I don’t notice any major corporations rushing to release a documentary about him. But then I wouldn’t expect an indie wanker to recognise a tune like Here Comes Fat Albert as the complete groove sensation it so obviously is, even when the fact is pointed out to them by someone with worthwhile musical tastes. And this Shorty Long number has put That Is Why I’m Overweight by Eddie Harris into my mind, so I think I’ll put that album on next; it should go without saying the opener on that, It’s Alright Now, is one of the most famous jazz funk cuts of all time!
BTW: Tartan went out of business last summer, they got into trouble after going into the production side of the business. A lot of their product has been swishing around bargain bins since administration began, so now is a good time to pick up their releases of Bergman flicks and Asian action movies, should you have any desire to do so.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Hilda Woodward on 2009-03-20 11:04:32 +0000

I say bring back ragtime piano, we did that in the seventies and the kids loved it, “Mouldy Old Dough” was the second biggest selling single of 1972 – behind The Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards’ bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace”. And that in an era supposedly dominated by glam rock in the shape of bands like T. Rex, Slade and Alice Cooper!

Comment by Arthur Cravan on 2009-03-20 11:40:54 +0000

Oh, I couldn’t bear all that grunge/sonic youth nonsense, most of which sounded like very,very bad hard rock — I am no fan of hard rock anyway, but if you are going to listen to it, there were some very reasonable chicano hard rock garage bands in the early 70’s, fusing very early rainy,grey factory clatter black sabbath styles with acid consciousness and more than a little of tito puente’s grooves. Grunge was just bad Judas Priest in check shirts and straggly beards.

Comment by The Xaviera Hollander Klone on 2009-03-20 11:59:47 +0000

I can sex up almost anyone, but Daniel Johnston is even beyond me. Sad, sad, sad!

Comment by The Bootleg Nicholas Pileggi on 2009-03-20 12:31:15 +0000

The songs are kinda weak but his soul is still strong.

Comment by Vincent Dawn on 2009-03-20 14:33:53 +0000

They should do a Kim Fowley documentary – the Mayor of Sunset Trip?

Comment by Vance Packard on 2009-03-20 14:52:09 +0000

The devil has the best tunes but fascists have the best graphics

Comment by sam on 2009-03-20 17:34:54 +0000

i think people like to think of daniel johnston in the same way as so-called ‘outsider’ music like john fahey and all that. theres something quite uncomfortable about it all though: the knowing and deeply ironic musos inspecting and prompting the mental health-affected idiot-savant. i guess theres a parallel with the early white audiences ofblack blues music, and that condescending taste for the ‘primitive’.

Comment by Daniel Johnston on 2009-03-20 17:53:26 +0000

I might well be boring but you could at least spell my name right.

Comment by Krist Novoselic on 2009-03-20 19:42:28 +0000

You Can’t Blow Up A Social Relationship is an anarchist pamphlet first published in 1979. The point of the treatise is that meaningful work, through association, is a greater tool for change than violence, which only invites authorities to constrict civil liberties.
After reading the assertions in the pamphlet, two events came to mind: the November 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
I was on the street in Seattle in ‘99. There was a big march planned and many people came from all over to express their feelings about the WTO. A lot of people put time into creative forms of expression. There were costumes, props, and street performances. I was part of a musical performance at the Showbox.
During the first day, it was interesting and fun to see how people tried to make statements. Later, I noticed a change and the mood got darker with more graffiti and broken windows. I came across a person spray painting some forgettable slogan while standing atop a storefront awning. I couldn’t help myself but to yell, “How would you like if someone did that to your house?” He replied, “Fuck You”, as did the couple with indignant faces standing next to me. I said, “I thought this was a non-violent protest?”. I split for home because this scene was going downhill fast.
I was in a vacuum of chaos. And this leads us to another premise quoted in the pamphlet, “The total collapse of this society would provide no guarantee of what would replace it.”
No WTO Combo Live From the Battle In Seattle November 1999, Showbox Theater, Vocal – Jello Biafra, Guitar – Kim Thayil, Drums – Gina Mainwal, Bass – Krist Novoselic
The mob, as far as that moment was concerned, condoned free expression in the form of cliche statements written with aerosol paint. But a question regarding personal property could only merit a curt response of profanity. Tear gas fired from riot police cordons wasn’t the only thing wafting through the air. The protests grew polluted with a spurious revolutionary fervor. The effects of spontaneous and irrational instant gratification became the media story while non-violent, long-planned creative expression took a back seat.
The killers who hijacked the aircraft on September 11, 2001 created a ghastly spectacle replayed over and over on television. The Bush administration took advantage of people’s genuine moral outrage. Presidential speeches were dependably laden with the terms terror, terrorist, and terrorism. This sustained a climate of fear and nationalist hysteria quickly manipulated into legislation that expanded the state security apparatus.
The administration benefited so much politically that some accused them of conspiring in the attacks themselves. I don’t believe there was complicity, but the irony is not lost that the anti-American attackers only succeeded in helping a reactionary president.
Indeed, you can’t blow up a social relationship. Meaningful change takes a lot of time and patience. Where are those spray painting vandals today? I hope they’re working to build structures of cooperation that meet the needs of the local community.

Comment by Krist Novoselic on 2009-03-20 20:59:46 +0000

Woman is a ray of God. She is not just the earthly beloved; she is creative, not created.

Comment by Krist Novoselic on 2009-03-20 21:05:42 +0000

shut up sam u knob – u like morrissey anyway – wot paralel is dat? whiteboy audiences of old white racist idiots?

Comment by The Digital Stanley A. Long on 2009-03-20 22:02:23 +0000

I might be in my seventies but I still prefer banging techno to rubbish like Daniel Johnston.

Comment by Fabian Avenarius Lloyd O' Sullivan Jr on 2009-03-21 09:40:22 +0000

I’ve never heard of Daniel Johnston and just remembered I really need to get myself down to that Ray Johnson exhibition at an art institution owned by a supermarket

Comment by K Mail on 2009-03-21 09:44:33 +0000

I’d prefer to go to a gallery owned by a supermarket which displayed a complete range of Tesco’s Value products as ‘art’, or better still, a complete selection of Kwik Save’s ‘No Frills’ range as ‘art’. As for Daniel Johnston, I really must check out his work being as I have now adopted the maxim ‘Life Begins where History Ends’ and am actively inculcating a complete rejection of the opinions of Mister Trippy as an experimental technique which will establish the nature of the sheepery in Red London

Comment by Michael K on 2009-03-21 09:53:00 +0000

Yes. Feuding is the highest form of art and although ‘K Mail’ doesn’t seem to consider me as being able to step up to his ‘weight’ that’s only because a diet of Tesco’s Value Midget Gems, Tesco’s Diet Fiery Red Ginger Beer (not a ‘value’ product but only 1p more than Tesco’s Diet Dandelion and Burdock at 46p) and Tesco’s Value Salted Peanuts (like Boris Johnston, I often wash the salt off then toast them to let the flavour flood out just like Tetley’s Tea which I never buy because Tesco’s Value Tea Bags, being a ‘surplus container’ for all manner of brands, often contains Tetley tea-bags for a fraction of their branded price).
I was gonna spend a few knicker on a round of stickers proclaiming ‘Stewart Home…I mean ‘K Mail’ is Stupid’ and post them all over London but then I decided that the best way to ‘get on the scales if you have the weight’ is to….erm…can we start this again?

Comment by K Mail on 2009-03-21 10:02:05 +0000

I don’t have time for your endless succession of ideas that never get past the starting line being as I’m a highly organised ‘guerilla enterologist’ whose every move brings blisters to the cheeks of his opponents and the fear of ‘He who is like God’ to those who are dilly-dathering on whether to get behind his groovy train. As Somebody said to me in Rough Trade yesterday (and I’m talking about the record shop here not the classic homosexual preference for a bit of bully beef with a small cock), ‘Even if this doesn’t happen, the fact that you’ve come in here saying it’s going to happen will make it kind of happen anyway’
I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about as I’d come in to find out if I could get a bit of bully beef with a small cock but while in the basement I stood and listened to a Bob Dylan track and having done this spontaneously for the second time (the first was in Ocean Books on Stoke Newington Church Street a couple of weeks ago), I’m actually warming to the idea of checking out Dylan’s stuff seriously for the first time ever, havng previously only listened to him long enough to assimilate his voice enabling a derisive imitation.
Thirdly, I do like Midget Gems and although I’m aware that they’re made from the melted bones of animals, I overcome this with the thought that for every animal bone melted down to form 200g of Tesco’s Value Midget Gems at only 28p, a kitten is set free by a zoological garden in Botswana.
It’s a lot better than saving the rainforest by sending Facebook plants!

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-03-21 10:09:22 +0000

Although I’ll admit that feuding is the highest form of art in a sense, I much prefer prank phone calls using Arts Council Grants. The fact that neither K nor K nor K nor K nor K nor K nor K nor K nor K can get an Arts Council Grant because they dont know how to write and therefore cant fill in an application form, is neither above nor below.
And here’s another call from the same series:
MISS WONDERFUL: Good afternoon. How may I help you?
HOME: Hi, is that Miss Wonderful?
HOME: You said to call back.
MISS WONDERFUL: Yes, thank you, as you were saying?
HOME:: I’d like to try and have sex at a nuclear power station.
MISS WONDERFUL: To go where?
HOME: A nuclear power station.
MISS WONDERFUL: A nuclear power station, where’s that?
HOME: There’s one on the coast at Kent, there’s one just outside Leiston in Suffolk called Sizewell. They have free trips in for the public. I’ve done things like planes and trains and I wanted to try something more unusual but I can’t find anyone to do it with me.
MISS WONDERFUL: But that would be very expensive for you.
HOME: Yeah, because you’d obviously want money for the time getting up there and getting back.
HOME: What sort of price would you be looking at?
MISS WONDERFUL: About five hundred pounds.
HOME: About five hundred?
HOME: How many hours would you be prepared to put in for that, if you reckon five hundred?
MISS WONDERFUL: Well, okay normally if you’re doing hotel visits, but I don’t think that would be possible. For one thing we might be arrested.
HOME: It’s possible but you have to try different things. They do have toilets and stuff in there. I’ve had sex in lots of places. I’ve had sex in stone circles, in the sea, on beaches, on planes and trains.
MISS WONDERFUL: In the beach that’s different, on the train that’s different, but in a nuclear power station, I don’t think I’d be able to do that, I’m sorry.
HOME: You don’t think so?
HOME: Okay, thank you.
MISS WONDERFUL: Thank you, bye.
HOME: Bye.
Among the many points I was making with these prank calls is that commodified sex like everything else in an alienated society lacks excitement and imagination. As the Situationists pointed out back in the sixties, while those of us privileged enough to live in the overdeveloped world are unlikely to die of hunger, we still risk dying from boredom.

Comment by Michael K on 2009-03-21 10:10:45 +0000

Recently I’ve been making quite a lot of work inspired by my mother Julia Callan-Thompson. My mum moved to London from the family home in south Wales when she was sixteen in 1960 and worked as a showgirl and hostess. At that time there was a lot of drug experimentation going on and a shift in musical and philosophical tastes reflecting the transformation from beatnik into hippie culture, and my mother’s involvement in this forms the basis of my novel Tainted Love. Moving on, in September 2004 I got artist Chris Dorley Brown to take portraits of me imitating the poses thrown by my mother in a series of 1966 modelling portfolio photographs. Morphing these two sets of images together produced extraordinary results, since facially my mother and I are very alike, and given our differences in age (when I restaged the pictures I was twenty years older than my mother had been when the original photographs were taken) and sex, it is surprising how similar our body shapes are. I had previously made a forty-one minute film The Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Oedipus Complex while I was in Australia doing an artist-in-residence at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts in May 2004. In the film avant-garde techniques and the avant-garde obsession with death interweave with reflections on the life and death of my mother. Images of my mum working as a fashion model and club hostess during the sixties are cut against an at times deliberately dissociated soundtrack that uses stories about her to explore the limits of documentary cinema. This is simultaneously an expression of love and loss and an attempt to draw out the ways in which the avant-garde Lettrist cinema of the early fifties in France was commercialised in the later work of Godard, Marker and Resnais.

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-03-21 21:02:20 +0000

Since the demise of grunge’s popularity, those plaid indie shirts can be found swishing around bargain bins and charity shops in abundance too…

Comment by Will S(h)elf on 2009-03-21 23:07:01 +0000

I am considering supraorbital ridge reduction surgery despite the warning that it may alter my prefrontal cortex activity.

Comment by Will Self on 2009-03-22 02:41:31 +0000

A mate rang me and said that someone’s impersonating me here — well, I know Home has laughed at me on and off over the years — I seem to remember getting my own back and calling him a nasty situationist skinhead in an inteview with the Evening Standard of all people.
Let me close with a riposte connected to one of the dominant motifs of Mr. Home’s board — I am off on a weekend hike….errrr…urrrmmmm….psychogeographical flaneur-like ramble around World’s End
Howling Wizard, meet for a pint later? Leave Shrieking toad in the cave — he’s a pain in the neck.

Comment by Krist Novoselic on 2009-03-22 08:49:39 +0000

shut up will – u nasty bougie bore – u no u r just a slimy nationalist toad so shut your mouth and piss of back into the hole u crawled out of

Comment by Clyfford Still on 2009-03-22 10:21:11 +0000

I love Memphis Underground, I haven’t read it

Comment by Gustave Flaubert on 2009-03-22 10:23:59 +0000

I adore Clifford Still’s paintings, I . . . erm I’ll finish this sentence tomorrow

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad. on 2009-03-22 13:01:45 +0000

Dear Mr. Self,
I do indeed accept your invitation, and shall meet you at the golden onset of even time, though, perchance if I may dear sir — without causing ofence to thy good self — ask you to desist from causing melancholic reaction to my good toad — yes, he is so dear a friend to me whilst in the depths of my cave, I would not desire to cause him upset.
Thank you. Shall we meet in that place of the Arch, near Hollow way, where one is advised to be on guard against numerous cut purses, who do travel there from Canvey Island for a day’s pickings?
Mr. Howling Wizard, The Cave.

Comment by The Real Will Self on 2009-03-22 15:48:22 +0000

Of course my self-impersonators wouldn’t trouble to recall the precise quote which, about Stuart Home was ‘a nasty little skinhead’ being as I’m far too big and tall for him to think about challenging in other than a para-literary sense

The real Will Self has asserted his right not to be the author of this blog response

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