First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
This morning, Friday the 13th, seemed like an appropriate day to play some music for Jim Carruthers.
Being the music addict, flaming liberal and loner that I am, I felt a certain kinship to the guy. But hell, as much as I think of myself as a music and culture vulture, the mad Canadian was able to run circles around me without one strained synapse. Plainly, he had lotsa fact ‘n thoughts stuffed into that head of his. Maybe too many.
A few years ago, I picked up a book called Songs In The Key Of Z. Each chapter introduces us to a new ‘outsider’ musician. A musicial freak show. I ate it up. I’d heard of some of the more ‘famous’ people, like Harry Partch and Wesley Willis, but Jandek was new to me. The guy’s story, what little there was of it, really got me to thinking. Here’s this mysterious fellow, living somewhere near Houston, Texas, who’s been putting out full-length records since the late seventies. For the longest time, there was almost no information on Jandek. A perfect summation can be found at Seth Tisue’s Jandek Website:
- Everybody knows one thing about Jandek: that no one knows anything about Jandek. There is nothing but the records. At first his music may seem crude or inept, but upon exploration it reveals incredible depth, intelligence, feeling, and rewards for the listener.
Right, so after reading the book, I’m stoked as all getout to find a Jandek CD. One method would have been to contact him via the U.S. mail and send some money. That made me sorta uncomfortable (if you read the book, you’ll see why). So I just waited. A while later, I stumbled on a whole pile of Jandek CDs during a vacation to the San Diego area (thank you Lou’s Records!)
Whoa…the descriptions did not do the music justice (or maybe that’s the other way around). It’s sorta like what the Shaggs would have listened to for inspiration. The singing’s bad, the playing’s bad….but somehow, the whole thing is mesmerizing. Detuned acoustic and electric guitars, a thin, monotone voice. Dang, it’s just plain creepy.
Eric Olsen posted a short entry on Jandek a few years ago. Jim Carruthers commented that he’d read of him, but had never seen even one record at any store. Too bad. I don’t know what he would have thought of Jandek. He mighta even hated the stuff, but I bet his description would have made us laugh.
I only ‘spoke’ with Jim Caruthers a few times through email. He seemed like a very smart and genuine guy. His death has affected me more than I would have thought. It’s a rough thing to see a truly sharp person (heck, any person, really) overwhelmed by the circumstances of this life. Conservatives hated him for his supposed ‘anti-Ameican’ stance, but they generally misread him. In other ways, I misread him as well…as I was shocked to hear of the manner of his death.
In the spirit of that thought, I’d like to share one of my favorite Carruthers comments. This was his (perfect) distillation of current political ‘debate’:
- “I THOUGHT I TOLDED YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP!”