Bloomsbury is extremely proud to announce the ninth of fourteen new 33 1/3 volumes…coming to a bookstore (and kindle/iPad) near you in: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016 and Fall 2016. It was extremely difficult to select these titles from a pool of over 400 brilliant proposals so we hope you enjoy! To highlight each new title and the author behind it, we’ll announce one book each day over the next two weeks.
Hi, How Are You – Daniel Johnston
By Benjamin Shapiro
Coming Spring 2016!
In 1983, the troubled American songwriter Daniel Johnston suffered the first of a series of mental breakdowns that would plague him for the rest of his life. In his mental illness, he managed to commit 15 song fragments to tape using a $59 Sanyo cassette recorder and Radio Shack tape stock. The collection would later be presented as Hi, How Are You, the single most influential homemade cassette tape of all time. Composed during a period of extreme emotional stress, the album has fascinated and haunted its many listeners, including Tom Waits, Beck, Ben Gibbard, and Kurt Cobain, who popularized the record by wearing a Hi, How Are You T-shirt during Nirvana’s 1992 performance at the MTV Music Awards. 20 years later, the recording is recognized as a key document of early independent music and a master text of virtuosic outsider art.
The album doubles as a document of music produced from the isolated borderline between insanity and mental disorder. The historical links between creativity and madness have been studied at length, but never seen through the lens of a document such as this. Johnston, who suffered from schizophrenia and manic depression, saw his early cassettes as a message to the world. This lo-fidelity recording was not only a temporary cure for the disease that had gripped his mind since childhood, but also a manifestation of a schizophrenic’s illusions of grandeur. Johnston didn’t hear the tape as the hiss and crackle of a basement recording—he heard the pronouncement of the next major pop star who would, like the Beatles before him, change the very fabric of the world.
A bit about the author: Benjamin Shapiro is from Providence, RI, but he’s currently living across the hall from a cat hoarder in Brooklyn, NY. He’s played drums in Pop. 1280, Asobi Seksu, Scary Mansion, and a bunch of punk bands. He is the senior editor at VICE Magazine and a contributing writer at the New Yorker. His columns, profiles, essays, and stories have appeared in the New Yorker, VICE, Film Comment, SLC Magazine, Slant, and a bunch of zines.
You can find Benjamin on twitter here.