Daniel Johnston, Songs Of Pain

Jeff Feuerzeig

By Jeff Feuerzeig

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

This is Daniel's brilliant debut, recorded on the piano in his basement in Chester, West Virginia, in 1981. Songs of Pain is an apt title — the pain is real. Daniel had fallen in love with a girl at Kent State Art School named Laurie Allen who rebuffed Daniel's advances and married the local undertaker Pete Arner. The opening track, "Grievances" — which Daniel considers to be his "song of songs," the one upon which all of his other songs are based on — chronicles the relationship in graphic detail: Daniel pays a visit to the Arner Funeral Parlor during a service and finds his dearly beloved Laurie working coat-check. Stunned and almost speechless, Daniel looks into Laurie's eyes and utters the now famous words, "Hi. How are you?" The rest is history. "Joy Without Pleasure," "I Save Cigarette Butts," "Like A Monkey In A Zoo," "Urge," "Never Relaxed" — this album is littered with bona fide Daniel Johnston gems.