Half Japanese, Half All American Boy?

In the annuals of “Rock n’ Roll” has anyone person or group accomplished so much or achieved such a modicum of fame with so little natural talent as the brothers Fair (David & Jad) collectively known as Half Japanese .

Going so far as to abandon rock n’ rolls basic building block, the three chord song, for the no chord song they’ve taken punk rocks D.I.Y. approach and stood it on its head. By ignoring the musical basics like chords, rhythms, and melody, and turning that approach into a guiding aesthetic, and by steadfastly refusing to progress in their primitive musicianship they managed to have a career that lasted decades. Perhaps the Half Japanese philosophy towards music can be best characterized by David Fair’s article “How to Play Guitar”.

“if you rejected conventional ideas about fingering, tuning, and even stringing a guitar, there were no limits on how you could express yourself on what was, after all, your instrument”.

Subject matter for their songs were drawn from horror movies or tabloid headlines and that perennial favorite of adolescent males… girls; songs that veer between innocent longing and wounded sexual frustration.

1980 saw Half Japanese release their debut album, the three-record box 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts. It was a collection of some of their early home recordings; and also included sound experiments pieced together from guitar noise, electronics and odd effects; as well as, some barely recognizable covers of the Temptations, Buddy Holly, and Bob Dylan.

Reflected in their “music” was the minimalism of the Velvet Underground, the innocence of Jonathan Richman and the angst of Iggy Pop.

David Fair would leave group in 1987 for personal reasons and has sporadically worked with his brother since then, but Jad began a concurrent and equally prolific solo career, releasing records under his own name, and in collaborative side projects well into the ’90s.

1993’s Fire in the Sky is one of the most straightforward rock records in the Half Japanese catalog, and boasts a guest appearance from one-time Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, who frequently welcomed Jad Fair as a guest on her own records.

1995’s saw the release of the career-spanning retrospective double-disc ironically titled Greatest Hits. With 69 songs, only four which weren’t previously released it’s an ideal introduction for the uninitiated or the easily easily intimidated.

Half Japanese Discography

Calling All Girls EP7 (50 Skidillion Watts) 1977
1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts (UK Armageddon) 1980 (T.E.C. Tones) 1993
Loud (UK Armageddon) 1981
Horrible EP (Press) 1982
Our Solar System (Iridescence) 1984
Sing No Evil (Iridescence) 1984
U.S. Teens Are Spoiled Bums EP (50 Skidillion Watts) 1987
Music to Strip By (50 Skidillion Watts) 1987
Charmed Life (50 Skidillion Watts) 1988
The Band That Would Be King (50 Skidillion Watts) 1989
We Are They Who Ache With Amorous Love (T.E.C. Tones/Ralph) 1990
Fire in the Sky (Safe House) 1993
Boo! Live in Europe 1992 (T.E.C. Tones) 1993
Greatest Hits (Safe House) 1995
Hot (Safe House) 1995
Heaven Sent (Emperor Jones) 1997
Bone Head (Alternative Tentacle) 1997
Hello (Alternative Tentacle) 2001
Loud and Horrible (Drag City) 2004

Fire in the Sky

Playing Time: 1 hour 2 minutes 19 seconds

Fire in the Sky
1. U. F. O. Expert (1:10)
2. Tears Stupid Tears (2:03)
3. Always (12:26)
4.This Could Be the Night (4:37)
5. Possum Head (2:41)
6. Frosty (2:46)
7. Turn Your Life Around (2:56)
8. I Love a Mystery (2:56)
9. 12 Houses (1:56)
10. Hangar 18 (3:07)
11. Magic Kingdom (2:27)
12. It’s No Wonder (3:04)
13. Fire in the Sky (2:23)
14. Good Luck (0:56)
15. Gates of Glory (2:29)
16. Everyone Knows (2:31)
17. I Heard Her Call My Name (5:41)
18. Eye of the Hurricane (3:09)
19. It’s A Clear Night (3:01)

Fire in the Sky Part 1 Fire in the Sky Part 2

Buy Fire in the Sky from Amazon.com

Greatest Hits

Greatest Hits

Disc A

Playing Time: 1 hour 11 minutes 48 seconds

1. Firecracker (2:42)
2. Daytona Beach (1:48)
3. Said And Done (2:52)
4. Dance When I Say Dance (1:47)
5. Postcard From Far Away (1:42)
6. The Worst I’d Ever Do (0:44)
7. Horseshoes (2:13)
8. Open/Close Your Eyes (1:11)
9. This Could Be The Night (4:39)
10. Put Some Sugar On It (2:50)
11. Calling All Girls (1:01)
12. La Bamba (1:57)
13. Love At First Sight (2:45)
14. Rub Every Muscle (1:45)
15. Silver And Katherine (3:14)
16. My Sordid Past (1:30)
17. Ride Ride Ride (0:32)
18. Day And Night (2:52)
19. Last Straw (1:22)
20. Nicole (4:30)
21. Miracles Happen Every Day (2:17)
22. U.S. Teens (1:09)
23. School Of Love (1:09)
24. T. For Texas (8:23)
25. Colleen (2:34)
26. Red Dress (2:16)
27. Charmed Life (1:46)
28. Rosemary’s Baby (1:32)
29. I Know How It Feels… Bad (2:39)
30. Roman Candles (2:21)
31. Dream Date (1:46)

Greatest Hits [Disc A] Part 1 Greatest Hits [Disc A] Part 2

Disc B

Playing Time: 1 hour 12 minutes 40 seconds

1. Movin On Up (2:18)
2. No More Beatlemania (1:54)
3. How Did You Know? (1:34)
4. Penny In The Fountain (1:59)
5. King Kong (3:29)
6. Secret (2:17)
7. B./C. Millionaires (2:14)
8. Amazing Clock (2:45)
9. Thick And Thin (1:14)
10. 1.000.000 Kisses (1:56)
11. Big Mistake (1:27)
12. Little Records (1:20)
13. No Direct Line (2:02)
14. The House I Live In (1:03)
15. U.F.O. Expert (1:11)
16. Identical Twins (0:39)
17. Double Trouble (2:05)
18. Evidence (2:05)
19. Stripping For Cash (1:22)
20. On The One Hand (3:28)
21. Snakeline (2:08)
22. Too Much Adrenalin (1:28)
23. Trouble In The Water (3:01)
24. Ball And Chain (3:03)
25. Her Parents Came Home (1:02)
26. Deadly Alien Spawn (2:39)
27. Ancient Life (1:37)
28. Poetic License (2:11)
29. Uncertain Feelings (2:11)
30. Something New… (1:16)
31. Fire To Burn (2:34)
32. Acupuncture (2:17)
33. Salt And Pepper (1:58)
34. Guitar Solo (0:44)
35. A Little Bit More (1:36)
36. Mono (0:20)
37. Better Than Before (1:26)
38. Everything Is Right (2:47)

Greatest Hits [Disc B] Part 1 Greatest Hits [Disc B] Part 2

Buy Greatest Hits from Amazon.com

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2 responses to “Half Japanese, Half All American Boy?

  1. Pingback: Velvet Monkeys / Gumball « Old Fart at Play

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