Thursday, December 30, 2004

 
The last post of the week is dedicated to the band Half Japanese and singer/guitarist Jad Fair's solo output. Among many great quotes about this band are the Byron Coley quote about the original two-brother duo (Jad and David) following the same primitive urges that caused the first cavemen to bang rocks together and Howard Wuelfling's "The part of the Stooges that the Ramones threw away." David also has a great essay in the highly-recommended Greatest Hits double CD about how to play guitar.

In the course of doing research for this post I was unable to find a complete discography for the band or for Jad. There's an independent site, the Trouser Press entry, and the Drag City site, but all are missing information. So as I have to do sometimes, I will start a separate page on the Discography section of my website (joining Biota/Mnemonists, Harry Partch, and 23 Skidoo as bands without complete web discographies that I'm trying to compile). What we know about the "duo years" is that they released a 7" EP in 1977, another in 1978, a live tape (a double?) in 1979, and recorded an unreleased third 7" EP in that same year. When their earth-shattering debut triple LP box set 1/2 Gentlemen Not Beasts came out in 1980 it included (and I quote) "most" of the three EP's and possibly some of the live tape (there are two whole live sides). As any record collector knows, that "most" does not help in the least.

Fortunately, I can fill in one piece of the puzzle. I was lucky enough to get a second-generation dub of the 1st EP, Calling All Girls, and there are indeed two tracks not on the box set. Here they are:
"My Knowledge Was Wrong"
"Tracks Of My Tears"

If anyone knows the tracklistings for the 2nd and 3rd EP's or the live tape, please contact me so I can add that info.

In that same year, 1980, Jad Fair also released a solo EP, his first. The Zombies Of Mora-Tau sets a real high-water mark for the early years... Here's some great tunes:
"Frankenstein Must Die"
"The Thing With The Atomic Brain"
"Dead Men Walk"
"The Zombies Of Mora-Tau"

Lester Bangs even included this record in his essay "A Reasonable Guide To Horrible Noise" alongside such shriekers as the Teenage Jesus & The Jerks EP (which has a totally different mix than that near-worthless Atavistic reissue, BTW).

Splitting from the UK Armageddon label, the band followed the guy who had signed them in the first place to a new US imprint, Press Records. Augmented by four more musicians, this lineup recorded the mind-boggling Loud LP and the Horrible EP (my favorite), both of which have been lavishly reissued as a single CD by Drag City along with complete singles and B-sides of the era (Yay! Score one for completism!).

Also out on Press the same year as Horrible (1982) was Jad's first solo LP Everybody Knew... But Me. Showing the same kind of "progression" as the band's records of the time, it's a good one... hear for yourself:
"Amy"
"Amy You Went Away"

Moving to the Iridescence label, the band put out two of their best. Our Solar System and Sing No Evil were released in 1984, and Jad also put out the Monarchs LP, which I can find no info on whatsoever. Those first two have also been reissued by Drag City (thank you thank you). In '87 Jad also did an all-instrumental solo LP called Best Wishes for the label.

Around this time the band also put out two live cassettes. One was on the embryonic K label out of Olympia, a split tape with the Velvet Monkeys called Big Big Sun. This came out in 1986 and is listed on most discographies. But there was also an earlier tape, from 1984 on the Calypso Now label, called 50 Skidillion Watts Live. Once again I have a second-generation dub (from Mykel Board's collection, no less) and if you ignore the tape hiss it's pretty mind-blowing. These tracks need individual commentary...

"Rosemary's Baby" - ace version of this track from Horrible
"Nicole Told Me" - didn't show up on record until 1988's Charmed Life
"Lucky Star" - ditto until 1989's The Band Who Would Be King
"Fortunate" - also on Charmed Life
"No Direct Line/On The One Hand" - song off of the debut into a Sing No Evil track

Somebody should really reissue this tape, it's a great document. I also have two tracks listed that aren't actually on it - ???

The band then enjoyed a run of successful records on their own 50 Skidillion Watts label and at least one major tour that I got to see. In 1989 the German label Bad Alchemy put out a huge 104-minute double LP of Jad Fair called Great Expectations, including all of the Zombies EP, 22 of the 29 tracks on Everybody Knew..., and 47 other tracks. Some of these may be from Monarchs, I don't know. What I do know is that there was a 1993 CD called Greater Expectations that included 37 of those 47 tracks along with seven MORE tracks not on the double LP, or anywhere else. Confused yet? Me too. But the 2LP stands as one of the essential recordings by this bunch... you would think that being one of Kurt Cobain's Top Ten Albums would have made it more available somehow, but no... Again, if people out there have better tracklisting or, especially, info about the recording dates of these tracks, please contact me.

From the Great Expectations 2LP/Greater Expectations CD:
"Shoestrings"
"Cherry Pie"

Although rock-pounding purists may dismiss the somewhat more sentimental Half Japanese of today, the band (and Jad and David) are still putting out excellent material. I hope this will give some of you incentive to explore it.

Thanks to Dana for the space again... Look for me to appear a little more here in the coming year.



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