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Jad Fair

There are plenty of performers who rock critics describe by using the label "primitive," but few if any can hold a candle to the greatest American rock primitive, Jad Fair. With his wildly influential band Half Japanese or as a solo performer, Fair has constructed a prolific and extremely interesting career. He writes and records songs that display an uncomplicated emotional directness, unselfconscious (almost hokey) charm and warmth, and a genial simplicity that is beyond words. Although Fair's later recordings are certainly more accessible -- in some ways resembling those of another great American primitive, Jonathan Richman -- his stock-in-trade is still the ability to compose and play music without conventional command of an instrument. Although he has "played" guitar since the mid-'70s, Fair, according to past and present members of Half Japanese, still can't name a chord, plays riffs almost by accident, never tunes his instrument, and wouldn't have it any other way.

Fair's career as a solo artist began in 1980, when his prolific output of songs was more than Half Japanese could handle. Early efforts such as Zombies of Mora-Tau and Everybody Knew...But Me were tentative and, in terms of the noise-versus-music factor, more noise than music, akin to early Half Japanese records. But by the mid- to late '80s, Fair's solo records were becoming more accessible as he began collaborating with mutual admirers such as Terry Adams of NRBQ, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Don Fleming of Gumball, Kramer of Bongwater, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Maureen Tucker of the Velvet Underground; later on, Fair would cut full albums with Yo La Tengo (1998's Strange But True), Teenage Fanclub (2002's Words of Wisdom and Hope), the Pastels (1991's This Could Be the Night), and the Danielson Famile (2014's Solid Gold Heart). If the records got a little more polished, they certainly never lost a bit of Fair's childlike view of the world, nor his explosive, giddy belief in rock's liberating potential and endless possibilities. (Fair's more spontaneous and less refined impulses continued to make themselves heard on his work with fellow primitive songwriter Daniel Johnston, who briefly worked with Fair in a band called the Lucky Sperms).

Given Fair's prolific output as a solo artist, in collaboration with other musicians, and with Half Japanese, keeping track of his discography is a challenge, though 2011's Beautiful Songs: The Best of Jad Fair, a three-CD set compiled by Fair himself, is a thorough introduction to his body of work, and a testament to his idiosyncratic passion for life, love, and music. (Though it's worth noting that within a year of the collection's release, Fair had already released four more albums, and he'll write a song on the theme of your choice for a commission of $300.) In addition to his work as a musician, Fair is also a visual artist, who works in paint, digital graphics, and most notably paper cuttings; his art graces the cover of most of Half Japanese's albums and nearly all his solo efforts, and he's created artwork for recordings by Yo La Tengo, the Residents, Dorothy Wiggin, and the National Jazz Trio of Scotland. ~ John Dougan & Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Beautiful Songs: The Best Of Jad Fair

Disc 1

1. All The Angels Said Go To Her

2. A Real Mix Up

3. Go Go Go

4. True Love Will Find You In The End

6. Do You Have A Friend?

7. School Of Love

8. Big Boots

9. I Know How It Feels... Bad

10. Smile Pretender

11. Frankenstein Meets Wolfman

12. On The Town

14. Song Of Joy

15. She Went Downtown

16. Lifted

18. Amnesia

20. Beverly

21. Sticky Cotton Candy Dress

22. Until Now

23. Girl Trouble

24. Firecracker

25. Fish

26. Don't Hang Up

27. Amy You Went Away

29. Lucky

30. This Time

32. Honey Bee

34. Diamonds And Rubies

37. Cinnamon Roll

38. I'm Gona Come Back To You

Disc 2

1. This Could Be The Night

4. Tarzan Escapes

5. A Great Big Tiger

6. I Comb My Hair With My Hand

7. Dead Men Walks

10. Sex At Your Parents' House

11. Hillbillies

12. Miracles Happen Every Day

13. Headless Horseman

14. Absolute Pure

16. Mule

17. Dreamy Eyes

18. Angela

19. If He Says He Did

20. Blue Horizon

21. The Only One Left

23. Thing With The Atomic Brain

24. XXOO

25. Pajamas

26. I Want To Live

27. Blessed By Angels

28. It Walks At Night

29. Sweet Soda Pop

30. Penny In The Fountain

31. Me And The Boys

32. The Wrong Man

33. Robot

35. A Little Bit More

37. The Invisible Ray

Disc 3

1. The Zombies Of Mora-Tau

2. Outlaw Blues

3. Eyes On The Road

4. Circus Strongman Runs For Pta President

5. Twist And Shout

6. Silver And Katherine

7. Ask Me About Vampires

8. Snake On My Head

9. Lonely Song

10. The Beast With A Million Eyes

11. Love And Comfort

12. OK

13. Loony Take Me Home

14. Everything Is Right

15. Eat That Cake

16. Goin Hog Wild

17. Ship Ahoy

18. Stationary

19. AOK

20. Starry Eyes

21. Put Some Sugar On It

22. A Certain Smile

23. Pearl Earrings

24. Patty

25. She Can't See Me

26. Star Power

27. Frankenstein Must Die

28. Checkers

29. Stand Up

30. Mothership Singapore

31. Red Dress

32. Monster Island

x

Track List: His Name Itself Is Music

1. The Best Ever

2. Paper And Pen

3. The Lion Roaring

4. I Hear The Clock Ticking

5. The Bang Of The Whistle

6. Sweet Soda Pop

7. Mixed Up Coffee

8. For You I Am A Faller

9. Happiness Explosion

10. Have A Nice Day

11. Let's Get Down To Brass Tacks

12. Soda Pop

13. I Think You're Cool

14. There Are Blue Skies

15. Bee Keeper's Daughter

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Loved the music hated the lyrics and talking it out. That was kinda stupid.

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