Songs of Pain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Songs of Pain
Songs of Pain cover.jpg
Studio album by Daniel Johnston
Released 1981
Recorded 1980–1981
Label Stress Records (self-published)
Dual Tone
Producer Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnston chronology
Songs of Pain
Don't Be Scared
Original cassette
An original self-published cassette made by Daniel Johnston.
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media 8.0/10 stars[2]

Songs of Pain is the first album by folk singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, recorded on a simple tape recorder and released on Compact Cassette. Johnston recorded these songs in the basement of his parents' house in West Virginia.[3] It was recorded in 1980 and 1981, and handed out to friends by Johnston. It was rereleased on cassette by Stress Records in 1988, and on Compact Disc in 2003 by the label Dual Tone, together with More Songs of Pain as Early Recordings Volume 1.


All songs feature Johnston on vocals and piano, except for "Premarital Sex" where he plays organ. The opening track, "Grievances", introduces themes that reoccur throughout Johnston's career. He sings about his unrequited love to "the librarian", which refers to a girl named Laurie Allen who has functioned as a muse in many of Johnston's songs. This has been described as the quintessential Daniel Johnston song, including by Johnston himself.[4] Not only the lyrical but also the musical theme of the song has been alluded to in later works. The word "grievances" has also been reused in other song titles, like on More Songs of Pain's "Mabel's Grievances" and Yip/Jump Music's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances".

Other themes on the album are premarital sex ("Joy Without Pleasure" and "Premarital Sex"), Christianity ("A Little Story") and cannabis ("Pot Head").

Between some of the songs are recordings of Johnston's mother screaming at him that he will never make anything of himself. According to Johnston on "The Goat Show", from Lost Recordings Volume 2, this was an "act", though that was likely a facetious remark, as Johnston claims that he and his mother had been working on this act "for about 20 years", which was about his age at the time.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Daniel Johnston.

  1. "Grievances" – 2:49
  2. "A Little Story" – 3:30
  3. "Joy Without Pleasure" – 1:55
  4. "Never Relaxed" – 3:28
  5. "Brainwash" – 2:40
  6. "Pot Head" – 3:23
  7. "Wicked World" – 2:35
  8. "Lazy" – 2:41
  9. "I Save Cigarette Butts" – 5:26
  10. "Like a Monkey in a Zoo" – 3:28
  11. "Wicked Will" – 1:45
  12. "An Idiot's End" – 4:36
  13. "Wild West Virginia" – 2:39
  14. "Since I Lost My Tooth" – 1:21
  15. "Urge" – 2:36
  16. "Living Life" – 4:08
  17. "Tuna Ketchup" – 2:06
  18. "Premarital Sex" – 3:05
  19. "Don't Act Nice" – 0:37
  20. "Hate Song" – 2:07


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  3. ^ The Austin Chronicle: Songs of Pain Was Not in Vain, Louis Black
  4. ^ The Austin Chronicle: The Continuing Story of Daniel Johnston - Genius of Love, Ken Lieck