Daniel Johnston (partially found early handmade cassette albums; 1980-1983)

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Daniel Johnston.

Status: Partially Found

Daniel Johnston (1961-2019) was a musician and visual artist whose early cassette albums helped define the lo-fi genre. Prior to the Summer of 1983 (when he recorded Yip/Jump Music), Johnston seemingly had no way to copy his tape recordings and would re-record his material every time he wanted to give someone a tape.[1]


Throughout the late 1980s, Jeff Tartakov, Johnston's then manager, compiled the now-definitive early Johnston discography from whatever versions of the original material he had access to. In recent history, more photographs and even snippets of these early tapes have begun surfacing online.

Known Tapes

Ugly Music (1982)

An alternate version of Johnston's first album, Songs of Pain, recorded around the same time The What of Whom. The tape was first showcased in a video by Johnston's' childhood friend, John Fair, uploaded to YouTube on October 7th, 2017. Despite being largely made up of material from Songs of Pain, 'Ugly Music' also contains a handful of songs from Don't Be Scared, and The What of Whom, as well as three unreleased songs.[2]

Songs of Pain (the Al Pomplas version, 1983)

In November of 2017, Tartakov posted two photos of a version of 'Songs of Pain' dated 'late 1982 - early 1983.' [3] The track listing appears to contain songs from Johnston's first three official albums, as well as a few unreleased songs.[4] The song 'Greensleeves' was posted as a YouTube video in 2008. The description refers to it as a 'long lost 1982 recording.'[5] As of November 2017, The tape seemed to be in possession of Jeff Tartakov, which may mean that the version of "Natalie Queen Of Wierton", uploaded to Tartakov's SoundCloud page in December of 2015 is from the tape,[6] as well as the alternate version of 'Brainwash', uploaded the same week.[7]

Someday You're Gonna Make It, Joe (1983)

On July 15th, 2019, Discogs user MusicThatShapes posted information on a 1983 tape titled 'Someday You're Gonna Make It, Joe,' shortly after submitting the 'Al Pomplas' Songs of Pain, as well as a 1982 version of What of Whom[8][9]

'Someday You're Gonna Make It, Joe' appears to be very similar to the 'More Songs of Pain' tape, with only a few additions. The song 'Surely You Don't Work All Night' from What of Whom appears to be featured.

The 'Joe' cassette was showcased at the 'I Live My Broken Dreams' exhibit in February of 2022.[10]


Rejected Unknown Members Area

Between October 2003 and November 2004, the Daniel Johnston fan-site 'RejectedUnknown' uploaded several rare early recordings to the 'members only' section of the site, dating between 1980 to 1987.[11] Some of these recordings have incorrectly circulated as 1979 demo tapes.

The Daniel Johnston Story/Daniel Interviewed by Daniel

On March 9th, 2015, Discogs user 'Marcuj' posted a tape released in the UK titled 'The Daniel Johnston Story.' Over a year later, 'Katossa' contributed photos of the tape to Discogs, which feature a photograph of Johnston circa 1985.[12] That same day, Marcuj posted a tape titled 'Daniel Interviewed by Daniel' dated 1989.[13]

Mei Clover uploads

Many unreleased Johnston tracks have been uploaded by rare music archivist Mei Clover on YouTube.[14] Many of these appear to be sourced from bootlegs which have surfaced onto the internet.

Songs of Pain, 2023

The 2023 re-issue of 'Songs of Pain' features 8 bonus tracks not featured on the 1988 Stress Records cassette.

It's unclear the origin of these bonus tracks, perhaps they were featured on the original Songs of Pain cassette given to Stress Records, but were cut for the mass produced version, or perhaps they were taken from other tapes from around that same time. The version of "Natalie Queen of Weirton" uploaded by Jeff Tartakov to soundcloud is the same as featured here, which may link it to the 'Ugly Music' cassette.

Also notably, the bonus tracks include the same recording of 'Golly Gee' featured on the 1988 album Merry Christmas. Either the version on Merry Christmas was an old recording, or it was misdated by the compilers of this release.

Exclusive songs

  • "Ballad Of A Teenage Acid Queen" - featured on Ugly Music. "Funeral" - featured on the Al Pomplas Songs of Pain.
  • "Greensleeves Revisited" - featured on the Al Pomplas Songs of Pain and Someday You're Gonna Make It, Joe. A recording of it was uploaded to YouTube in 2008 with the note that it is a 'long lost 1982 recording.'
  • "I Was Thinking About What She Said" - featured on Ugly Music, not released.
  • "Lend Me A Penny" - featured on Someday You're Gonna Make It, Joe.
  • "Natalie Queen Of Wierton" - featured on Ugly Music, Al Pomplas Songs of Pain, Jeff Tartakov's soundcloud, and Songs of Pain deluxe edition.