I recently read a what do people see in him' type thread aimed at Daniel Johnston. It contained plenty of attacks on not only his music, but him personally. My knee-jerk reaction was to go on the defensive, but instead I asked myself, well what exactly DO I see in his music? It certainly isn't obvious.
If a person wanted to look for faults, they'd find plenty. So when he's being compared to legends and iconic figures, it's easy to see why people think, huh, are you serious?
I decided that it isn't a question of who do you like, respect, admire, or even love. It isn't a question of who would get the highest score if music were an Olympic event. It's about who do you need. And I need the songs of people like Daniel Johnston more than I need Led Zep, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Queen, The Doors, Eric Clapton, and all the other huge icons put together.
What an absurd and ludicrous statement, but I believe I can justify it.
Putting Daniel to one side for a moment, for a long time there have been three artists that I believe are all I really need to be satisfied musically. They are Tori Amos, Tom Waits, and Frank Zappa. As long as I have these three then I'll survive. The reason being that they satisfy all my needs.
Tori delivers most of the heart, melancholy, , and very female input. I believe all guys should have at least one female singer/songwriter that they absolutely love.
Tom handles a lot of the soulful poetic stuff. A lot of the guts. A bit of the venom, aggression and manliness, as well as being more than capable of providing quite dark and sorrowful musings on the human condition too. He also tells great little stories, and has a humour that cheers me up.
Frank just makes me laugh plain and simple. Great music. Always interesting. Lots of satirical sneer. Brilliant musicianship from his band members. Also tells great stories about weird characters.
What more do you need? These three people have all the bases covered at least as far as my needs are concerned.
And here's the thing, Daniel Johnston's early homemade recordings tick almost all of the boxes on their own. Just on one album alone, he's made me happy, sad, laugh out loud, yes I'm going to admit it, cry, told me interesting stories, taught me something about humanity in a very poetic way, kept my attention wrapped, showed me that you can break every rule in the book, pleased my need for good tunes, and baffled me as to exactly why these tunes manage to cut through the awful sound quality, and patchy performance. Can I say that about Led Zep, Beatles, Stones, Who, Queen etc? No I can't.
I'm wondering if people that have a very rich social life that is filled with emotional ups and downs aren't as needy as I am, and really just want a decent upbeat tune to sing along to, or dance to or whatever. So when they listen to people like Daniel Johnston, they don't have as much need for the emotional stuff, and so just hear the poor quality. Maybe they just don't need people like him as much as I do.