Few artists in the last 30 years have painted as sobering a
portrait on the correlation of mental instability and artistic creativity in
popular music quite like Daniel Johnston. For thirty years, the troubled
troubadour who suffers from bipolar disorder has delivered countless albums of
quirky lo-fi pop, many of which in the early days were recorded on blank tapes
he would fund via the weekly paycheck from his job at McDonald’s. Six of those
recordings are featured here on this extensive and stunningly packaged box set.
Long out-of-print and
previously available as cassette-only releases released on Jeff Tartakov’s
Stress Records imprint, Songs of Pain,
Don’t Be Sacred, The What of Whom, More Songs of Pain and The Lost Recordings I and II are the
earliest known releases from Daniel, recorded between 1980 and 1983 while he
was living with his parents in West Virginia.
Recorded on an old Sanyo boom box that cost him $59, these songs are
spare, hissy and at times a challenge to listen to. But beyond the crudeness of
the fidelity exists haunting, touching songs about girls, fear, anxiety and
animals from the man dubbed by Rolling
Stone as “the indie Brian Wilson”.
In addition to the remastered and repackaged CD or vinyl
editions of these lost tapes, all of which feature Johnston’s now-legendary
artwork gracing each individual sleeve, The
Story Of An Artist also contains a 64-page booklet rife with more artwork,
rare photos, interviews with various friends and family members and extensive
liner notes from renowned music journalist Everett True. Daniel Johnston might
not be for everybody. But for those who have come to appreciate the strange and
beautiful body of work he has created over the last three decades, this
eye-popping limited edition set is definitely something to invest in.
many to mention. RON HART