From How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life:
Isn’t it weird how somebody like a DJ who you don’t even know and have never ever seen can do some
apparently trivial thing — at least that’s what you think at the time — and it changes your entire life for the rest of your life?
Yes, Owens and another guy ruined my life.
I’ll get around to the other guy in a minute.
Owens: “Well, friends, this is a very old record and it has a lot of scratches on it and it’s
heard to hear but it’s such a good record that I’m gonna’ play it anyway. Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys doing Jimmy Rodgers’
BLUE YODEL NUMBER SEVEN.”
You’re not safe anywhere.
Not from bluegrass music.
Then I heard this horrible crazy sound. And I felt this insane mad feeling. Neither of which was I in any manner acquainted. It was the bluesiest and most obnoxious thing I had ever heard. It was an attack of revolutionary terrorism on my nervous system through aesthetics.
It was blacker than the blackest black record I had ever heard. It reached out and grabbed and it has never let go of me.
I went limp. I almost fell off the sofa. My mouth fell open. My eyes widened and expanded. I found myself
hyperventilating. When it was over I tried to get up and go and get a paper bag to restore the correct balance of power between oxygen and carbon monoxide. I screamed for help but nobody was around and nobody came. I was drenched with sweat. It was like I had woken up to a new and thrilling exciting horror movie.
Nothing has ever been the same since then.
You see, I had gone insane.
And I didn’t even know about it.
I had to hear that record again. It was madness and I knew it would get me in trouble and it did get me in trouble but I couldn’t help it I was out of control.
So I went to the record store in Silver Spring, Maryland, the name of which I forgot. It was at the intersection of Georgia Avenue, and Colesville Road.
Right around the corner from the Silver Theatre.
I asked the man behind the counter about that record. He was a “nice guy.” He looked it up in some great big yellow catalogue and actually found it.
But, it was out of print. And there wasn’t one on the shelf.
“Sorry, kid, I don’t have one and I can’t get you one.”
“But, I’ve got to hear it again. I’ve got to.”
“Listen kid” he went on. “that record is no good. In fact it is evil. It caused a lot of trouble while it was around. Women left their husbands. Husbands left their wives. Children ran away from home and were never seen again. There were sunspots on the moon. Revolutions started, massacres happened, suicides and alcoholism went sky high, wars started, monsters were seen on the Edge, it was bad kid. Maybe it would be better for you if you didn’t hear it again. I mean I just feel I gotta’ tell ya’ that kid. It’s dangerous for anybody your age to get interested in things like that.”
“I don’t care,” I said, “it must be fate.”
“Fate schmate. I gave you a warning. But if ya’ don’t take it the only thing I can do is tell ya’ this. You gotta’ find a record collector. Chances are a record collector would know about it.”
“You know any of those guys you are talking about?” I asked.
“No, I don’t hang out with weirdoes like that. But they’re around. And I’ll pray for ya’ kid. I’ll pray for ya.”
“Thanks a hell of a lot. I may need it.”
“Oh, you’re gonna need it alright.”
Decades ago, you could have stopped by the merch table at one of John Fahey’s live shows to get a painting by the legendary guitarist, record collector, label founder, and writer. If you were a friend, he might have mailed you a batch of them. A substantial sampling has, until recently, spent years packaged away under a bed in Portland. Thanks to some detective work and traveling by Justin Luke, owner of Audio Visual Arts, the East Village gallery focusing on art and sound, you can see a small batch of the paintings; and like the desperate kid at the record store, you might beg for more. Fahey makes marks by line, by brush, by wash, by spray; and the gravity-defying drips suggest an artist moving around his painting, not bowing to it.
The pile-ups of gesture seem to come directly from the Id of the artist, followed by some other part of the psyche. By the time he made those in this show, Fahey was morbidly ill from a combination of diseases and disorders, yet still facile enough to pour out washes of paranoid, blinding color, topped off by layers of maniacal masking, equally saturated, that seem to cover and contain the undiluted, incipient marks. Where would this embryonic imagery develop? How would the figures look? One painting has text that reads – I think – “Female cat person disguised as skunk cabbage.” How do we get to see more? Thurston Moore, can you help?