The Invaders Salute Captain America - Adrian Crowley and James Yorkston sing The Songs of Daniel Johnston

by James Yorkston

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about

The Invaders Salute Captain America

Adrian Crowley and James Yorkston sing the songs of Daniel Johnston

JY - Adrian and I recorded this album in Cellardyke and Dublin in 2008/9, sending each other musical scribblings via the internet, adding to and layering up arrangements. 99 copies of the finished beast were then printed up on CDr and sold at one of the almost-legendary Fence Records Homegames. A year or so later, the album was released again as a limited run of 1000 copies on Chemikal Underground Records, this time retitled ‘My Yoke Is Heavy: The Songs of Daniel Johnston’.

James and Adrian, interviewed in 2009

AC - Years back now. JY was playing in Dublin with his band and I had bought a ticket for the gig. On the day of the gig I got a call from the promoter who I knew pretty-well. The promoter asked me if I could lend an acoustic guitar for this gig he was promoting. He said the chap who was playing that night had a problem with his own guitar. So, I said, who and what is the gig? He said James Yorkston And The Athletes. He said ‘it’d be great if you could lend him an acoustic guitar if you have one. I can put you on the guest list … plus one’, he offered. I said, no problem, I have one all right but I haven’t played it a while. And no need to worry about the guest list. I was going anyway.

JY - Adrian rolled along with his Takemine and I borrowed that. It wasn’t a great guitar and it had much thinner strings than I was used to, but I was pleased to have it.

AC - I don’t think he enjoyed playing the guitar. Though I must say, it sounded great. The poor guy, the strings must have felt like train tracks – they hadn’t been changed in about three years and must have been covered in 100-year-old soot from my old carpet.

AC - Then later on that year, I had been added last minute to the bill of an Irish tour he and King Creosote were doing. I was totally disorganised and hadn’t arranged transport or accommodation. I remember walking into the venue in Belfast during sound check and everyone was like, ‘Who are you? Are you lost?’. I remember saying ‘I’m Adrian, remember? I’m going to be joining you on tour.’ This gruff guy was shaking his head saying, ‘No, no, there’s been a mistake, you should have stayed in Dublin!’ I was about to leave and walk back outside into the dark rainy night when the gruff guy (James) called me back and said ‘oh, aye, I remember now. By the end of the tour we were all like old buddies.

JY - We had no idea Adrian was going to be there so when he appeared in Belfast I was slightly taken aback. In my book (‘It’s Lovely to be Here – The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent’) I refer to this awkward moment as though it was very short and he was quickly and warmly invited into the fold, but a mutual friend told me that Adrian had said I’d been very rude to him. My memory isn’t the best, so the truth is probably nearer that latter. However, since then, Adrian and I have done a load of tours together, at least 4. We did a couple around Ireland with Alasdair Roberts. They were good fun, I remember them fondly.

AC - At the end of that first tour, just before saying goodbye, Kenny King Creosote told me about this festival he had started the year before and invited me over to Fife to play, the following spring. Anyway, I suppose that was the start of a lot of things. Over the years James and I talked about recording together. Actually, James came over to Dublin and played on Long Distance Swimmer several years ago, and I’ve contributed to some special edition releases of his since that time – like that version of his song Shipwreckers I did for the box set of When The Haar Rolls In. I love that song.

JY - Anyway, we recorded this Daniel Johnston album back in 2008-9, via the internet. I guess the nucleus of the idea came about when I asked Adrian to play with me at a tribute show to Daniel in London.

AC - It was to launch the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. The Barbican put on this special show, and they asked a lot of people to play; Vic Chesnutt, Jason Pierce, Howe Gelb, Teenage Fanclub. James chose four or five songs, sent them to me and asked if I could join him. That’s how it began.

JY - Adrian is a fan of Daniel Johnston’s music, way more so than I, and I just thought he’d appreciate being asked. No one really knew of Adrian over here at that point – although he’s a star name now – so I probably thought it’d help him out in some way, too. The songs which I sang at Union Chapel were chosen by my then girlfriend, who is a massive fan of Daniel’s. And those were the songs I stayed with for this record. I think they’re kind of the obvious DJ songs. The hits. Daniel Johnston’s songs are simple and correct, like 1950s doo-wop songs, Sun-era Johnny Cash, or early Beatles — just great wee pop songs.

JY - I guess the other main Daniel Johnston thing I did was opening for him and then playing with him at Union Chapel. That show got turned into a DVD. It was pretty good fun, I recall, hanging out with Adem who is a very friendly, warm and open individual. Daniel was a cool enough guy too. He likes his comics, I mind that right enough.

AC - It didn’t take much really to come up with which songs to do. James already had chosen bunch to do live and I added more songs that I loved. I must add that I had never played any of Daniel’s songs before this. I sat down at a piano in my sister’s house and thought I’d give them a shot. I felt the songs resonate with me and I just let them do with me what they wanted. I think after years of listening to songs you love, been intermittently and tangentially, they embed themselves in your subconscious and then your own natural interpretation waits to be ignited.

AC - Neither of us slot into particular roles, but I think we might have a bit of both merriment and melancholy. Some of the songs that we chose, on the face of it, are upbeat – like Like a Monkey in the Zoo, or Walking the Cow – but they’ve all got that undertone of melancholy. Sometimes it’s even more striking when there’s an upbeat quality to it on first listen, and the words come through later; I think it can be even more affecting that way. I’m really moved by his songs, and that was one of the things I first noticed about them.

JY - One of us would begin a song, send it over to the other, who’d add parts, and back and forth, until finally, the song would be complete. Great fun. No pressure, no expectations.

AC - Both James and I were into the idea of home recording with the most basic of equipment. We didn’t use computers, just old tape machines and near archaic porta studios. All sorts of items were used to make a joyous racket. Kids toys, spurs, 1960’s tape recorder to garble the sound a bit here and there… The machine I was using mostly to record had a built in CD burner, so in order to mix down/ export any of my work, I had to burn a CD. There were loads of CDRs piled around my desk in the end with notes scrawled on them. I’m not sure if I sent some of these to James or not. I think I did.

JY - My tracks were based on the demos I’d made for Adro when I was doing that Barbican show and then we just sent Wav. files back and forth. We hadn’t rehearsed or anything and neither of us were taking it too seriously, just making a cheap but fun CD-r for the Fence Homegame thing. There was no brief I remember other than to make it as good as fuck and not worry too much in the process.

JY - Imagine if all recorded music was perfect? Auto-tuned to buggery? The magic is in the fluffs, the slight delay in striking a chord, the bending of a note. I think the most important thing when recording is having the right material, being comfortable in your surroundings and having the confidence to make those mistakes that give records character. There’s no way I would have re-recorded them. I’m not interested in polishing them up at all. Even if I had been, Daniel Johnston’s art and music is almost the definition of lo-fi, so it would have been wrong – we had to keep the grit and sand in the Vaseline.

AC - I had always loved using tape recorders, four track recorders, mini discs Dictaphones, mainly for rough work but now and then something about the sound would stay with me. A part of those recordings would make their way onto a record of mine. I’ve recorded pigeons taking flight and footsteps for songs of mine like From Champions Avenue To Misery Hill or the rustling of dried leaves for songs like Liberty Stream. I do like the atmosphere of sounds other that what comes from a conventional musical instrument. They trigger something in my mind, personally but can work in an ambient musical sense also.

AC - I think at some stage we tried to outdo each other with wacky, unconventional ideas, in terms of production. I’ve a little studio in my attic where I write and there’s a lot of gadgets around – even non-music related things. A lot of them ended up in the recording, and it was the same with him – there’s the sound of baby monitors and kids’ toys mixed into some of the songs.

JY - This album was originally made as a limited edition of 99, just for a Fence Records Homegame Festival. When Chemikal Underground asked if they could release it properly, I had to ask on the Fence Records Internet message board and someone sent one in. It was good to hear it again. I don’t really hoard my recordings, I’m happy for them to go their own places. I don’t know if Daniel Johnston has ever heard the album, and I’m not going to bother him with it. I’m not using it as a calling card to be his new number one buddy, or anything; it was just a bonny wee album we made... I guess some people will like it. I think it’s lo-fi and interesting enough not to annoy any Daniel Johnston purists, but the songs are accessible enough to ease any Daniel Johnston virgins into his songbook. I guess if it meant a few more people bought his records, that’d be a good thing. He’s written some great wee songs and deserves to be heard.

credits

released January 1, 2009

All music played, recorded and mixed by James Yorkston and Adrian Crowley. All songs by Daniel Johnston, with the exception of Some Things Last A Long Time which was written by Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston

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James Yorkston Scotland, UK

This is the home of the limited run releases of James Yorkston, a low-rung sangster from the East Neuk o' Fife, Scotland. For James' official Domino Records releases, his books, live dates and such, please go here - www.jamesyorkston.co.uk/shop/

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Track Name: True Love Will Find You In The End
True Love will find you in the End - Daniel Johnston

True love will find you in the end
You'll find out just who was your friend
Don't be sad, I know you will
But don't give up until
True love will find you in the end

This is a promise with a catch
Only if you're looking will it find you
'Cause true love is searching too
But how can it recognize you?
Unless you step out into the light

Don't be sad, I know you will
Don't give up until
True love finds you in the end

True love will find you in the end
You'll find out just who was your friend
So don't be sad, I know you will
And don't give up until
True love finds you in the end
Track Name: My Yoke Is Heavy
My Yoke Is Heavy by Daniel Johnston

Blue clouds twisted into a tunnel
Somewhere far off the thunder roaring
And the fortune teller has fixed her sleepy eyes on my
Child
Sometimes I climb high up a tree
To let the wind blow in my face
Sometimes I leave my cares lying in piles
Somewhat disturbing is the sound of birds singing
When you know you don't deserve it
You are not here today
And I feel just like an empty eggshell, and
My yoke is heavy
My yoke is heavy
My voice is a little horse
Galloping lost through the woods
Calling your name
It's new to me
But just the same
The earth is an old canvas
Painted over many times
The poet rambles
The world it scrambles
But who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men
Your shadow knows
It's right behind you all the way
Your shadow knows where you've been
Somewhat disturbing is the sound of birds singing
When you know you don't deserve it
You are not here today
And I feel just like an empty eggshell, and
My yoke is heavy
My yoke is heavy
Sacred is the smile
That opened up my mind
That may at last please save me
And rid my cold, cold heart
Of the dark deep gloom
That took up so much room
In my many spacious memories
And many are the times
I thought and rethought
The thoughts you got me thinking
Though the sun shines bright upon me now
And I am young and kicking
My yoke is heavy
My yoke is heavy
Songwriters: DANIEL JOHNSTON
Track Name: I Held The Hand
Held the Hand - Daniel Johnston

Oh my Lord
I am so bored
Held the hand
Of satan

Oh Laura
What has happened to you?
Held the hand
Of the devil

I was on MTV
Everybody was lookin' at me
Held the hand
Of the devil
Track Name: Like a Monkey in the Zoo
Like A Monkey In The Zoo by Daniel Johnston
 
I’m chained to the wall
I’m nothing at all
And my staring at the sunset
Thinking of better things to do
Like a monkey in a zoo
 
The days go so slow
And I don’t have no friends
Except for all of these people
Who want me to do tricks for them
Like a monkey in a zoo
 
And it could happen to you
You could be in my place
No it wasn’t all ways like this
Oh, but I never coming
 
I’m so alone
But this my home
And the bars that surround me
Keep me from knowing any better
Like a monkey in the zoo
 
Throw me a peanut
Laugh and make jokes
But I had enough peanuts
And I’m ready to croak
Like a monkey in a zoo
 
You come to look at me
You seem so amused
But things would look different
If you were in my shoes
 
I know it’s my fault
But I want out
And when I cry out
Nobody seemed to understand
Like a monkey in a zoo
 
You say I’m cute
You don’t know how much that hurts
You don’t know how it feels
To live in your own dirt
Like a monkey in the zoo
 
And it could happen to you
You could be in my place
But don’t let yourself slip
Don’t get egg on your face
 
I use to be happy
I can remember those days
But I sold my freedom
For free room and board
Like a monkey in a zoo
Track Name: The Sun Shines Down
I’m getting closer to the fact
I’ve turned my on silly dreams
And I’m walking down that lonely road
And my heavy load I didn’t bother to bring it
 
And the sun shines down on me
I fell like I deserve it
And the sun shines down
 
I’m hiding out where you can’t see
Behind the wall
In the back of the room
 
And I’m crawling slowly through the dark
And feeling for a punch line
 
And the sun shines down on me
I want to feel like I deserve it
And the sun shines down
 
I’m walking down that empty road
It ain’t empty now because I’m on it
And I’m getting closer to a home
That I can carry and take home with me
 
And the sun shines down on me
I feel like I have to earn it
And the sun shines down
Track Name: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances by Daniel Johnston

 
Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh
Do yourself a favour: become your own saviour
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances
And when you wake up in the morning
You'll have a brand new feeling
And you'll find yourself healing
So don't let the sun go down on your grievances
 
And yet if you find yourself in the dark
And you're left holding the bag
Then take care of it right away
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances again
 
Sometimes you might want to give up
But keep that chin up
Cause you're gonna find
You're gonna find
Sometimes you might be alone
But don't feel lonely
'Cause you're gonna find
You're gonna find
So don't let the sun go down on your grievances
 
Start each day with a clean slate
You'll feel better if you can shake off all that hate
And don't forget to forgive and forget
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances
 
Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Everybody!
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh
Sing it!
Do yourself a favour: Become your own saviour
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Track Name: Walking the Cow
Walking the Cow by Daniel Johnston

Try to remember
But my feelings can't know for sure
Tried to reach out
But it's gone
Lucky stars in your eyes
I am walking the cow
I really don't know how I came here
I really don't know why I'm staying here
Oh oh oh...
I am walking the cow
Tried to point my finger
But the wind was blowing me around
In circles
Circles
Lucky stars in your eyes
I am walking the cow
I really don't know what I have to hear
I really don't know what I have to care
Oh oh oh...
I am walking the cow
Songwriters: DANIEL JOHNSTON
Track Name: Some Things Last A Long Time
Some Things Last A Long Time by Jad Fair / Daniel Johnston

Your picture
Is still
On my wall
On my wall
The colours are bright
Bright as ever
The red is strong
The blue is true
Some things last a long time
Some things last a long time

Your picture
Is still
On my wall
On my wall
I think
About you
Often
Often
I can't forget all the things we did
Some things last a long time
Some things last a long time

It's funny
But it's true
And it's true
But it's not funny
Time comes and goes
All the while
I still think of you
Some things last a long time

Your picture
Is still
On my wall
On my wall
The colours
Are bright
Bright
As ever
Things that we did
All we forget
Some things last a life time
Some things last a life time

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