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Jad Fair And Jason Willett

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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Enjoyable Songs

1. Sticky Cotton Candy Dress

2. Roll Johnny Roll

3. Olive

4. Valerie

5. Tabatha

6. Damage Done

7. Enjoy The Morning

8. The Mummy

9. You Can Do It If You Try

10. Big Boots

11. Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy

12. Insatiable

13. Lemondrops And Gumdrops

14. Students Of The Take

15. The Beast With A Million Eyes

16. Sweet Honey

17. I Dig This Mess

18. Wild Andrea

19. Eat That Cake

20. Natalie

21. They Could Be Vampires

22. Stand Up

23. Bernadette

24. Invisible Ray

25. Sally

26. Ask Me About Vampires

27. Hand Me The Lotion

28. Sweet Valentine

29. Welcome To The Night

30. Lovely Linda

31. Amelia

32. You Name This Song

33. Tony To Shirley

34. Animal Orchestra

35. On The Town

x

Track List: The Mighty Hypnotic Eye

1. Mark Of The Vampire

2. The Bob Clearmountain Showcase

3. Wekkah Hookah

4. A Little Bird Told Me

5. Science Fair

6. Put On Your Headphones

7. Lift Off!

8. We're Gonna Have A Party

9. Slumber Party

10. Beverly

11. To The Moon

12. Jack Duggins

13. The Crab

14. The Square Dance

15. Pretty Umbrella Stand

16. It's All Good

17. I Am The Hypnotic Eye

18. Lon Chaney, Jr.

19. World Of The Vampire

20. Stereo Plunger Demonstration

21. The Sun In The Sea

22. Late Hours

23. The Monkey & The Baboon

25. Floor To Ceiling

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