Beck/Bowie Amazingness


Daniel Johnston



Daniel Johnston is a multi-talented, but oh-so-tortured guy.  Johnston is often described as a genius, but he also suffers from manic depression (Bipolar Disorder) and Schizophrenia (for the record, I can easily imagine those two three going together); his overwhelmingly original creations have landed him spots on MTV and college radio, on the soundtrack of Kids and Where The Wild Things Are, in gallery exhibitions and the Whitney Biennial, while his illness has placed him more often than not in mental institutions.  
Johnston was born in 1961.  He grew up in the northern panhandle of West Virginia where he spent most of his childhood drawing, until Johnston discovered his love of music.  His favorites were Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, Neil Young, the Sex Pistols, and the Beatles. As a teen, Johnston and his friends would record their own tapes and trade them amongst each other. ‘Songs of Pain’ and ‘More Songs of Pain’ were just a couple of his contributions.  They told the tale of Johnston’s anguish for Laurie – his long-time crush who eventually married an undertaker.  Bummer.  

He moved to Austin, Texas and slowly but surely began to gain notoriety within the Indie music scene.   In 1988, Johnston visited New York City and recorded 1990 with producer Kramer at his Noise New York studio.  Then, Kurt Cobain began to wear a t-shirt featuring the cover image of Johnston’s album Hi, How Are You.  By the early 90s Johnston was officially a star.  The only problem?  He was in a mental institution at the time


Mental breakdown or not, a bidding war to sign Johnston ensued. He refused a multi-album deal with Elektra Records because Metallica was on the label’s roster and Johnston was convinced that they were possessed by Satan and would hurt him.  He also dropped his manager (who brokered the deal), because Johnston believed he too was possessed by Satan.  Ultimately, he signed with Atlantic Records and released Fun, produced by Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers in 1994.


Throughout all of this, Johnston was always drawing.  He made his album covers, and just about everything else.  And his demonic obsession is evident in every one of his creations.

In 2004, he released The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, a two-disc compilation. The first featured artists such as Tom Waits, Beck, TV on the Radio, Jad Fair, Eels, Bright Eyes, Calvin Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips covering songs written by Johnston. The second disc featured all of the original recordings.  Johnston has also continued to draw and his work has been featured in art shows around the world (currently at Agnes B in NYC).  In 2005 The Devil and Daniel Johnston was released by Director Jeff Feuerzeig.  It tells the story of this amazing artist better than you could ever imagine.

Such a great story.  And Johnston’s most recent collaboration is with Supreme – way cool.



Space Ghost Coast to Coast

The world first met Space Ghost in the 1960s as a do-gooder superhero, created by the Hanna-Barbera cartoon empire.  He was flanked by sidekick teen helpers Jan, Jace, and Blip the monkey, and together they fought supervillains in throughout space. But in 1990, Space Ghost’s career was revived by Mike Lazzo when he turned the campy crime fighter into the world’s worst talk show host on the show Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

On the show, Tad Ghostal, former Hanna Barbera (Super)hero of 42 episodes in the late sixties, returns to our screens as an arrogant, irritable, disillusioned and quasi-moronic late-night talk show host. He also has two grouchy “sidekicks” that help out with the show, ex-villain Zorak and lava-in-a-suit Moltar, though they are there against their will serving out their punishment for their evil deeds.  Each night this cast is joined by a bewildered celebrity earthling guests (live-action) who is interviewed by the intergalactic team via a TV creakily winched from the ceiling.

Space Ghost’s questions, and the animated-world banter, are written after the actual interview so as to both maintain order or cooperation from the guest and to make the final product as funny, awkward and full of non sequiturs as possible.  And, just as the initial interview is cut up and reassembled, so is Space Ghost himself, who is animated using about 50 poses from his original show, re-purposed for the talk show.

Cartoon Network’s first completely original show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast became the flagship for the channel’s late night cable network Adult Swim.  It was on the air from 1994 to 2004, and in the last episode, having run out of money for the show, Space Ghost tells Moltar: “Roll an old episode I will interview it“.  So sad.  Luckily, the star has been more than willing to make a few bit appearances on the small screen for various promotional reasons – namely Avatar, esurance, and Vitamin Water.  When, oh when, will he return again?!