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The Friday Morning Listen

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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’:


Thanks Jim.

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About Mark Saleski

  • excellent mark. touchin and fitting and, as usual, sending me off in the hope of uncoverin this music you speak of.

    and i must get my hands on that book!

  • thanks duke.

    yes, the book is a fine read. some of the music moves over into novelty-land, but it’s still worth checking out (there are actually a couple of cds available too…if you can, try to find some mp3s of Shooby Tayler, one crazy scatting fool, they called him “The Human Horn”…there’s also a guy named Eilert Pilarm, a swedish Elvis impersonator. funny as hell)

    for Jandek, look for one called “Chair Beside A Window”. creepy stuff, i tell ya.

  • oh wait! i remember! i read about this fella in Mojo aggggeeess ago. one of their wee side-columns where they would yack about weird music. Yes, i recall now, and i always wanted to know who it was they had talked about, cause i’d forgotten. that Chair Beside A Window brings it back. it was this fella!

    i remember the writer saying something about pickin up one of the records in some tiny store, and the owner saying “oh, you don’t wanna be hearing that.” like as if it were some evil devil record of some kind.

    i must find this fellas music

  • as if it were some evil devil record of some kind.

    the wife would agree to that characterisation, but out of a sense of fair play i don’ expose her to it.

  • i checked out EO’s post which you linked to, and see the last comment from someone pointing to the site of a documentary flick about the fella. this must be viewed, however the hell one might find it. i think you can order the dvd from the site, which seems the only option.

    you have inspired no end of discovery here, sir saleski. a measure of your talents.

  • ha…dvd available at Jandek on Corwood.

    i’m wantin’ a copy too.

  • look at this! –

    Jandek Plays Live!

    sadly the mp3s dont work anymore

  • find the Jandek on Corwood trailer…there’s a bit of music on it that’ll surely give you an idea of what he sounds like.

  • Eric Olsen

    brilliant and touching Mark, and I love that Chusid book fervently. I communicated with him for a while after I read the book and our responses to the blessings of book authoring were quite similar: accolades are swell but give me some fucking money.

    I thought Jandek sounded as interesting as you do Duke, but, um, the companion CD to the book convinced me otherwise. The way Chusid writes about these “artists” is far more edifying than the music itself, which says a hell of a lot about his writing.

  • oh definitely, some of the music is just plain weird (Shooby Taylor being a perfect example).

    still, i like Jandek, for reasons that i just can’t put my finger on.

  • mark, i just bought the dvd via that website. worked out at 12 quid, 21 us dollars i believe. the trailer jsut looks amazing. couldn’t resist. that freaky shot where they have the pic of him blinking for a second! how can it not be a masterpiece!!!

    and the new GG Allin dvd arrived in mondo towers yesterday. ha! egads, what mania will unfold in this player!!

  • geezuz duke, that might be some frightening blog fodder!

    (i’ve gotta get me a copy)