I owe a lot to Daniel Johnston.
My first big time writing assignment for the Oxford American was a profile of Daniel Johnston, though I couldn't reach him through the troubles he was suffering around 2007, I told the stories I knew, could verify and what I could feel, acres of words and Marc Smirnoff red-penned three pages worth and said, your story starts here. And it did. I kept the writing game up for a decade until my whims led me back to my guitar and putting voice to my own stories. The first song I covered, embodied in the way little thieves like me do was "I Save Cigarette Butts" by Daniel Johnston, because it spoke to a disjointed weirdness with the world that I felt, the curious path blood flows through our hearts to our busted bloodvessels of frustration and our ebbing tide of relief.
When I was writing my article, my young daughter was in the backseat, subject to my control of the CD player and she'd ask "Daddy, play that old man that sings like a teenager." As she grew older, I introduced her to the budget thrill of thrift store shopping and her first big score was a "Hi How Are You" shirt at the Goodwill. I thought maybe she knew this was that same old man teenager, but she just liked the frog. She came to me shocked at twelve that this was that same guy.
On her own teenage journey warped by me, one of her early concerts was a screening of The Devil and Daniel Johnston at the Joy Theater, which had us both crying at the end. Then when the curtain raised, she shouted, a little angry, O GOD, NOT ACTUAL DANIEL JOHNSTON! I CAN'T HANDLE THAT RIGHT NOW! and it was true. For her. For me. For him. He made it through three songs with the kindness of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band holding him up before skittering backstage. Clint Maedgen, an old friend and P Hall singer/saxophonist and DJ superfan coaxed him back out where he bellowed "Funeral Home" - GOT ME A COFFIN SHINY AND BLACK! GOIN TO THE FUNERAL AND NEVER COMING BACK! and he left and Frank Sinatra or Alice Cooper or KISS in their prime wish they had the sense of spectacle and love of a room that weak-voiced Daniel Johnston had at that moment.
So I'll keep trying to open my heart up enough to let any nascent real feelings inside pour out, just to pay the first installment on my debt to Daniel Johnston.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
about Alex V. Cook »»
dec 1st Steven T Hanley ⇒
dec 2nd Anthony Reynolds ⇒
dec 3rd Monde UFO ⇒
dec 4th Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard ⇒
dec 5th Alison Cotton ⇒
dec 6th Momus
dec 7th Stephen Coates
dec 8th Songe Riddle
dec 9th K Pontuti
dec 10th Ancient Champion
dec 11th Robert Wringham
dec 12th RM Francis
dec 13th Cara Tivey
dec 14th Kurt Uenala
dec 15th Jacqui
dec 16th Pauline
dec 17th Dan Scrivener
dec 18th + tba
dec 25th - jan5 Tav Falco's 12 Days of Xmas
Outsideleft exists on a precarious no budget budget. We are interested in hearing from deep and deeper pocket types willing to underwrite our cultural vulture activity. We're not so interested in plastering your product all over our stories, but something more subtle and dignified for all parties concerned. Contact us and let's talk. [HELP OUTSIDELEFT]
If Outsideleft had arms they would always be wide open and welcoming to new writers and new ideas. If you've got something to say, something a small dank corner of the world needs to know about, a poem to publish, a book review, a short story, if you love music or the arts or anything else, write something about it and send it along. Of course we don't have anything as conformist as a budget here. But we'd love to see what you can do. Write for Outsideleft, do. [SUBMISSIONS FORM HERE]