On February 4th 1990, Daniel Johnston, from his parents' home in West Virginia, and Yo La Tengo, in WFMU's East Orange studios, performed a 3 song set on Nick Hill's program, The Music Faucet.
This set inspired listener Jeff Feuerzeig to create and direct his recently released documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Now, we present for your entertainment, the recently resurrected archive for this historic broadcast:
Streaming MP3 archive.
Streaming Realaudio archive.
Nick Hill kindly shares his memories of the legendary set after the jump:
One evening in late January of 1990 I was doing my weekly live music program "The Live Music Faucet". The telephone rang, and on the other end was Daniel Johnston. At the time it is likely that WFMU was one of the very few places in the country who were playing his music regularly, and with great enthusiasm. He had many boosters here, and may have been trying to reach someone specific, but the call seemed more random that that. His last trip to the New York area had been fraught with peril, and it did not seem likely he would be returning any time soon. The very next Sunday I had a special, 4 hour, second anniversary show planned, so I asked Daniel if he would like to appear in performance "over the phone". He readily agreed. His remote West Virginia location, his lack of live performances, and his experience in creating lo-fi music productions all inspired him to create a fully produced, hour long program which included ad jingles for his upcoming album, "1990", "interviews" with managers, rock critics and fans, with Daniel playing all the parts, mixing prerecorded characters, and music and himself, live, in a brilliant, fantastical collage. Yo La Tengo, who had just covered Daniel's tune "Speeding Motorcycle" on their "Fakebook" album, had already been booked as one of the guests that week, so during the week I called both of them and asked if they would like to try a telephone collaboration of the song. Daniel even called Dave the Spazz's show that week and did a promo for the upcoming appearance.
On the evening on February 4, 1990, Loren Mazzacane, then known as Guitar Roberts, Angel Dean & Lianne Smith's wonderful trio Shackwacky and several other performers appeared, juggling between the two different studios at the station. Yo La Tengo, then featuring Dave Schramm on organ had just finished their set, and like clockwork, up in Studio A, the telephone call came in from Daniel Johnston's parents' bedroom in West Virginia. "W-W-F-F-M-M-U-U-U!!" came the disembodied multi-tracked voice on the other end of the phone. The show had begun! Part way through the program, Daniel said, "I heard you got a band there". Yo La Tengo, being mixed by Ms. Irene Trudel in the downstairs Studio B had been listening in their headphones with rapt attention. With no pleasantries they launched into their legendary, now classic collaboration. They did three songs together, and then the show continued with more amazing stunts, and live telephone calls from listeners. One of the callers that night, Jeff Feuerzieg, was inspired to create the film "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" which just opened last week in theatres across the country.
Yo La Tengo released "Speeding Motorcycle" as a CD single B-side (if there is such a thing), and later included it on their collection "Genius+Love = Yo La Tengo" (which also includes a wonderful version of their song "Barnaby, Hardly Working" from earlier that evening). That version includes my interruption and the false start of the song, highlighting Daniel's lack of interest in even knowing who the band was.
A 45rpm single was pressed with no false start, on Singles Only Label, a label I ran at the time with Bob Mould & Steve Fallon. Daniel did wonderful cover art for the single, and the B-side was from the only other performance he did at the time. A triumphant return to Austin, Texas as part of SXSW.
Film maker John Bruce & photographer Sandra Lee Phipps shot footage for an ill-fated rockumentary style, recreation of the event. Daniel did some drawings for an animated intro, and John Schnall began the process making cells from them. Yo La Tengo performing, the old WFMU studios in East Orange, the telephone, VU meters, the commute to the station past Fish House Road, and our old wooden "tower" we used to cart around to live remote broadcasts were all shot on 16mm. The film was never made, but because Yo La Tengo was recorded in a separate studio from the phone call, an instrumental version of the song exists. You can vaguely hear Daniel voice bleeding the Ira Kaplan's headphones. A Karaoke version of "Speeding Motorcycle" was cut using this footage and this instrumental tape, and Perry Hoberman put the words on the screen.
Many people have heard "Speeding Motorcycle", but here is Daniel Johnston's entire program from that evening:
*** Jeff Feuerzeig was interviewed on Tom Scharpling's show about the film on March 28, 2006. Listen to that archive here.
(photo (c)Quentin Degraveve)