Yesterday afternoon around 4:30pm word spread throughout a small internet community that Memphis based garage/punk rocker, Jay Reatard had been found dead. Here's the story from a Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal.
Jay was an unknown to most so it was quite surprising to see his death become a trending topic on Twitter by about 5:30pm. Now I sit here in my office only able to share the grief with an online group of friends and fans. "Did you hear, Jay Reatard died?" is a pointless question to ask co-workers, even good real life friends. That's a shame because his talent was worthy of a larger audience.
Sure, he was troubled. You'll find stories of his onstage fights with audience members, urinating on stage, bad band break ups, etc. A talented, troubled rock musician is far from a unique story.
So, you ask, what did he sound like. His hook filled and melodic songs were played out in a barrage of garage and high energy punk. His 2007 release, Blood Visions, is near perfect. It will be high on my end of decade albums list.
You can watch an entire show of his just put up on Pitchfork.
More familiar indie bands are showing their respect. Check out Spoon's site.
I belong to certain music message board. Jay was held in very high regard on it. A Jay Reatard thread started in April of 2007 now boasts 184 pages, 3,660 posts, 189,465 views and counting. It should be made into a book.
I'd like to share some of the tribute posts being written by fans much younger than my 52 years. They say what he meant to the youthful spirit of rock better than I can."March 2008 was around the time I registered onto Sound Opinions. A very good friend of mine, a SOMBie - maxexactly - told me about this board. Signing on my first time, it was Sickpup's thread on British music in the 00's that grabbed my attention. Knowing close to nothing about any of the music on this board, I was blown away.
Sifting through some random threads, I was desperately looking for something. I didn't know what exactly. Just something to forcefully take me away from the hip-hop scene and the barely-tolerable garbage I uncomfortably labeled as rock. And then there was Blood Visions. Passing by the thread many times, I finally decided to dive in. 'Holy shit,' I thought. Coming from random message boards where the maximum page limit for an album was 5, and the most insightful comment would be "yo, shit is hot," -- the feedback on Blood Visions was a whole new universe.
And then came the download.
It was a Saturday morning, somewhere around 9AM -- I promised my parents a nice sit-down breakfast with the family, for once. But I couldn't do it. I was catatonic. I was paralyzed with love over the songs, the sounds, the cover, the voice, the drums, the guitar, and the lyrics -- I couldn't fucking let go.
My first show ever was Jay Reatard.
I went to Europa bar in Brooklyn to see my album of the decade come to life. Funny thing was, I had no idea how this whole 'show' thing worked. Absolutely clueless. Website said 'Doors at 7.' So I showed up at 6:30 to get up front. Too bad he wasn't coming on till 11 -- and I was the only one there.
But eventually the show came on. It was dark. It was loud. It was the most fantastic fuckin' music experience ever.
Then came about 5 or 6 more shows. I couldn't get enough. It was all planned out -- Jay would keep on playing and I would keep on attending them from time to time. For as long as he came around.
Jay Reatard was my gateway drug. Everything I've listened to and loved since Blood Visions is due to Blood Visions. His songs were crafted as if he secretly knew what I wanted. As I'm writing this, 'Turning Blue' has just begun playing -- one of my favorite songs Jay has ever recorded. The guitar, the layers, the simplicity of the lyrics -- it was everything about music I never thought was possible. Beautiful, melodic, loud and to the point. Everything about Blood Visions was to the motherfucking point.
No matter how much his antics disgusted his fans and his critics -- I didn't give a shit. When I saw Jay spitting on people in the front row during shows, I thought to myself "stupid fucks, shouldn't have been standing there." His wild behavior was of no relevance to me, ever.
A small piece of everything I absolutely love about music died today. The reality of it all has finally hit me, but I refuse to swallow it. I still picture myself at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, barking along with maxexactly at Greed, Money, Useless Children. Fucking Jay. Subconsciously, we all knew this was coming. The question was when. And the answer was 'hopefully, never.'
I haven't stopped tearing in hours now. Think what you want, but there was something about Jay Reatard and Blood Visions that cultivated a brand-new perspective in me. A perspective that I cherish dearly. I can't believe I'll never see him live again.
Jay Reatard, your music kicked my ass. Thank You."
"I was driving to Dekalb to move stuff out of my apartment when I heard my phone vibrating. Hate looking at texts while driving so when I got out of the car and checked it, it said I had four new messages all more of less saying the same thing. I was stunned. As I was moving I found my autographed copy of blood visions with my other records and put it on as I was moving shit to my car. Whole night has been surreal. I just saw the guy live about a month ago and was thinking about how lousy of a show it was and hoping that his next tour would be better. Found a ticket stub from Reggies back in 2008 as well.
I know I don't really post anymore and I've been away for awhile but people might remember I was one of the biggest proponents of his music on here and I still remember that first show he played here, being front row(famously captured in a photo) headbanging like crazy. Buying him a shot of tequila after the set telling him that his record changed my life, as cliche as that sounds. I remember sending the record to my brother one night and the next morning seeing an email in my inbox that just had DEATH IS FORMING written over and over. It was music that we bonded over and both of us claimed it was one of the ten best records of all time. Later on over the last year, I met who would become my best friend who was a HUGE punk rock fan, and we both emphatically discussed how Jay Reatard was the best thing in music right now, going so far to use "Nightmares" in a presentation we did for class. In november, my friend passed away and it was, and still is, something I'm dealing with. Punk rock, Jay's music included, has been something that is easing the pain. Listening to Blood Visions has become ever more surreal. I'm going to miss going to those shows an awful lot as each time I went, I had another story I'd remember for the rest of my life.
Without a doubt he was my favorite performer still active and I still listened to his music regularly. He was one of the best goddamned musicians who ever picked up a guitar. Rest in peace.""There's a lot of things that I want to say and it's just crushing to think that as the years pass, I'm likely not going to accumulate more. Because it's over. But like Dan, I have absolutely no shortage of memories regarding his music, particularly Blood Visions. Three years later and it still towers above everything else, one of the greatest albums I have ever heard and that I will ever hear, synthesizing decades upon decades of punk rock and managing to actually somehow transcend it all.
I'm thinking back to it all now. Hearing the album on Christmas Eve 2006 and just knowing how special it was but not how special it would become. Burning CD copies for teachers and classmates who never listened to it, one of whom was a punk rock chick whom I secretly adored throughout all of high school but knew I would never be able to get to know on any kind of meaningful level. Playing the album in a car with two other people who didn't say a single word the entire time I spent singing along and air drumming to every goddamn second of it. Going into this girl's brother's room and seeing Fucked Up and Crass LPs all over the place, grabbing a piece of paper, writing "Jay Reatard - Blood Visions: $8.99, Reckless Records" on it, and saying, "Buy this." MAILING the thing to Mark Prindle... or was that Sausage? I think we both did it but he lost one of the copies. Running through the tracklisting in my head during Spanish class and trying to write all the songs in order in my notebook. Playing the entire album from start to finish in my head on the way to see the Stooges with Undercooked Sausage. Sending Jay a MySpace message that included my embarrassing fanboy review of Blood Visions and getting him to agree to put me on the guest list as his "cousin" for the 2007 21+ show at the Hideout (for free... "save your money," he said!) and then having my parents refuse to let me out of my summer program at Northwestern... on that night, I just thrashed around in the dorm room while listening to the album on headphones really fuckin' loud. Walking around the train station listening to the album on my earbuds at full volume while the girl whom I was in the process of deciding was not worth the months of effort (or noneffort, really) that I had just put in kept talking and talking and talking, not realizing that I could have given half a fuck about anything she had to say and didn't hear any of it, anyway. Negotiating with the Mpshows.com guy via e-mail about making me an "intern" for a couple nights so that I could get into his show at the Note (didn't happen... boo.) Having the period where I just could not stop playing Blood Visions and the 7" tracks from that time multiple times per day last longer than I could have ever expected. Finally seeing him perform after being forced to miss all three of his solo shows in Chicago... twice in one day, first at the Pitchfork Festival where Time Out Chicago got a picture of my overrocked face and put it on their website, and then that night with Undercooked Sausage, featuring guest appearances from Simakos, William Tell (at last!), and a friend of mine whom I was actually speaking with today just minutes before opening up my laptop to hear the news. Putting Blood Visions on at a party, screaming along, getting funny looks. Responding to a 40something guy at the Wire show asking for new music recommendations with "Jay Reatard" because even after the initial '07 jizzstorm had fizzled out, that was just still the first thing that came to mind. Hell, almost exactly one year ago to this very day, I was dragging an agonizingly heavy keyboard down Chicago Avenue in the slushy dead of winter and who should drive by but Simakos himself, listening to Blood Visions
I've never felt more excited about a new artist than during that initial string of months when demos in his car and still seeming really damn excited about being able to do that.Blood Visions was the most important thing in my life. I even e-mailed Stylus Magazine head Todd Burns telling him to get somebody to review the damn thing because of the passionate feelings that it was inspiring in myself and so many people here. This was perfect, perfect, perfect, fucking perfect pop music that should have been huge, but wasn't. And so instead it belonged to me and to a great number of people whom I respected the hell out of and nobody else. You could barely find reviews of the fuckin' thing. You'd think that with all the obscure bands that nobody listens to out there, that would be a common thing. But nah. They need to be good. They need to be exceptional. Most aren't. Jay was. That's it."