Sunday, June 17, 2012




Shyboy Tim and I are on a bit of a Jandek bender as of late, and we are looking for an excuse to find more time to listen to his discography. While recording the Shuffle Function night show we got to chatting about the possibility of forming a "Jandek Study Group" with other like minded music geeks. At first we giggled about it, but the more we thought about it, the more we fell in love with the idea. Study Group meetings will not be on a specific day or time, and locations will vary. We may listen to Jandek on a trail with a scenic vista, riverside, or as we will on Friday - a coffee shop.

  and so..............

You are cordially invited to join us for our first Jandek Study Group - and we are making this one a coffee klatsch!!

WHAT:   Jandek Study Group

WHEN:   this Friday, June 22nd at 8:30 a.m. (after the morning    
                 show is done)

WHERE:  The Coffee Hag at 329 N. Riverfront Drive
                   (we are planning on sitting outside)

YOUR HOSTS:  Shyboy Tim and Shelley

All that you need to bring is a natural curiosity, an open ear, and maybe a notebook for collecting random thoughts, doodles and opinions.  

We will be listening to the first album in Jandek's discography, READY FOR THE HOUSE. This is where it all began for Jandek, and so this is where we will start on Friday. The great website for Jandek by Seth Tissue has quite a bit of information about this release, but as we will soon find out, it doesn't really cover everything! Here is what is listed:



(LP, 1978)

(CD reissue, 1999)


  Side 1: Naked in the Afternoon (4:43) / First You Think Your Fortune’s Lovely (8:04) / What Can I Say What Can I Sing (4:44) / Show Me the Way, O Lord (4:10); Side 2: Know Thy Self (2:31) / They Told Me About You (4:26) / Cave In On You (4:18) / They Told Me I Was a Fool (5:04) / European Jewel (incomplete) (4:43)



Chair beside a window. The shade is drawn. The colors are rather garish — could the photo have been tinted after the fact? A paperback book is leaning against the shade, and there are two more books on a table. The book in the window has been identified as a Penguin edition of the complete plays of Christopher Marlowe. (More recent editions of the same book use the same picture of Marlowe, but with a different design.)


The original LP was credited to “The Units”. The CD reissues are credited to Jandek, a change Forced Exposure has called “an epic travesty in the minds of a few hardliners.” A note from Corwood accompanying the 2005 edition said “0739 remaster, all other editions obsolete... We really believe it is much improved without compromise... Note: track 3 second 124, the word ‘do’ was recaptured from the vinyl and inserted. Somehow it got transposed to the word ‘feel’ in one of the two previous CD masters.’ I only have copies of the first and third CD editions, so I don’t know how the second edition differs from the others, but the third edition can be identified by the bar code on the back, the longer track times (4:51, 8:10, and so on), and the less intense colors on the front. The 2008 vinyl reissue on Jackpot Recordsis from the same digital master as the 2005 edition.


If anyone knows of a numerological justification for starting the Corwood catalog numbers with 0739, please let me know. Note that the date is a full three years before his second LP. In the Trubee interview, Jandek says that 1000 copies of the LP were pressed.“European Jewel” is the first of Jandek’s five recorded versions of the same song. The version here is played on electric guitar (the rest of the album is acoustic). “You think you’re cool/ A European jewel...”

Review excerpts

  • uncredited, Forced Exposure web site (, 1999. “There were plenty of significant events in 1978, (“You’re The One That I Want” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John was quite a popular track, for example), and one of the most low-key yet significant events was the debut LP release on the Corwood Industries label out of Houston, TX. Mysteriously enough it came out under the name “The Units”, but it was obviously a singular vision and not a band. That individual would come to be more commonly known as Jandek, and a total of 28 albums have been issued on Corwood to date. In 1978 however, there was no telling what was to come. Ready For The House was a mostly acoustic guitar/vocal record, of ethereal, shambling post-blues form. It set the stage for one the most individualistic and fascinating bodies of work in contemporary music. The original LP was casually issued in a beautiful color sleeve, featuring a mundane but striking image of a living room chair& table (replicated with almost pop-art brilliance on this CD). No other information was ever offered. As it remains today. Ready For The House sounded like no other record, and it’s doubtful that more than a handful of copies were sold at the time (promotional copies sent to out radio stations and reviewers were more voluminous). A second Jandek album wouldn’t come out till 1981. By the mid-80s a wealth of documentation had occurred and the early Corwood albums became notoriously unavailable just as people were finally getting up the gumption to consider buying them. This record has been“in demand” for over a decade now and Corwood has finally caved in and reissued it proper. Find out what you’ve been missing for the last 21 years!”
  • Phil Milstein, Op issue L. “Sterling Smith has created an album that is homemade in every way, and it is a joy to listen to... The Units are completely enveloped in their own musical world. It shows in Smith’s thin, strained voice, in his unusual guitar style, and in his oblique, personal lyrics. This enraptured quality is one of the strongest points of the album, and one The Units share with great primitives like 1/2 Japanese, The Shaggs, and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Here it servers as a deterrent as well as a benefit. Unlike the others mentioned, Smith’s LP just doesn’t communicate itself very effectively. We can hear the wistfulness, the lostness, the loneliness, the anger and the joy Smith fills his songs with, but we feel it in terms of sympathy, not empathy. We feel for him, not with him... The Units have come up with an original musical language. Because of this, the songs sound very similar to each other at first, but after a while they each begin to prove themselves as wholly autonomous compositions. The guitar-playing is slow, only faintly melodic, alternately rich and tinny (sometimes both at once); occasionally Smith will slam the strings in anger or in hurt or in something, and the playing is so engrossing that these abrasive moments are enough to knock the listener on her butt!... Another endearing characteristic of Ready for the House is its overwhelming amateurness. The rough-edged crudity of each touch seems almost deliberate, but it carries a sweet beauty that a more polished production would probably have softened... Another highlight is the cover itself. Jad Fairs calls it ‘one of the best covers I’ve ever seen, and I agree... it really is gorgeous... Any one of us could have made this record, and as Lester Bangs often argued, that’s half the point right there. Bring the means of production to ‘the people,’ and they will out-create the moneyfolks almost every time.”
  • Eddie Flowers. Quoted at The History of Rock Music, Vol. 4 (website).“The stark, painfully exposed, untuned-acoustic blues/folk that once made for such a richly uncomfortable listening experience now sounds focused and brilliant. it’s not that the music is any less dark, or the technique any more refined than it was 22 years ago; it’s just that the world has moved closer to Jandek’s reality. The anxious beauty of isolation and doubt.”
  • Brogden, Garry. Vinyl Absolution #20 (October 2002) (website).“I like to play Ready For The House just as the light is fading on the day: as it creepily gets darker, Jandek is the perfect accompaniment for making you feel that, yep, life really isn’t worth living. It’s not necessarily what he says, it’s the way he says it... The tension is palpable, like there’s a vampire in the room and you just know that you’re on the menu... But, there’s something strangely life affirming about the whole thing. That someone like this, with the ability to track down those dark corners of the brain can somehow get his art (or artifice) out there.”
  • uncredited, Aquarius Records catalog (website), 2002?.“The final song on the album... sounds a bit like a lost Velvet Underground demo, exhibiting a rare outside influence on his isolated world.”
  • Daniel Marks, web review (full review). “Total isolation... is one of the themes ofReady for the House... particularly in the second track,‘First You Think Your Fortune’s Lovely’. The song is about someone who does not wish be a part of the world, either because he feels he cannot, or because the world isn’t letting him... The vocals are sung and spoken. Some songs almost have a vocal melody, particularly the first two and the last tracks, but he never approaches a real ‘song’ in any definition we’re familiar with. Oddly, he always makes sure it rhymes, in a rare show of artistic effort... The single string plucking is used in a very creepy way on ‘They Told Me About You’. Jandek tunes his guitar and one chord not in a musical way, but more as an ambience. The sound of the one chord fits the feelings of sadness and isolation expressed in the lyrics... Jandek uses [the guitar] as a second voice, groaning its one, mournful ‘word’ over and over. One rule though: never touch the fretboard... One of the best of the typically boring Early Period.”
  • Aaron Goldberg, web review for Perfect Sound Forever.“If you can hack this track [‘Naked in the Afternoon’] with no problem, you can pretty much well handle 90% of the man's voluminous catalogue. The sonic trademarks are there: the detuned at times death rattle acoustic guitar, the reverby haunted whiny voice, the banal, abstracted and often poetic lyrics... pretty much a homebrewed white boy-blues album, taking its chops (either purposefully or accidentally) from the Delta Blues via suburban Houston. In fact it's Jandek's inability to play the blues well that makes it so fucking 'authentically' Blues-like, in a sort of John Lee Hooker droney sort of way. Album closer ‘European Jewel’ has Jandek plug in an electric guitar and prove outright that he can play that lazy-hazy Lou Reed style as good as the best of ’em...”

Other commentary

  • Irwin Chusid, WHRB interview, 2003. “I was given a copy of Ready for the House in 1978, I think... I was really stunned by it... I was stunned at the sheer amusicality or unmusicality or nonmusicality, the sheer emptiness of it. This was an album that started nowhere, went nowhere, and ended up nowhere... It was really like hearing a posthumous recording, a recording that was made after they had died... I had never heard anything that was so naked.”

We hope to see you Friday morning for coffee and Jandek! Pass the word around and email us at if you have any questions.


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