Fever of the Week: Jack Starr // Born Petrified

 

Deep in the heart of Texas there was a teenage recluse who obsessed over monster flicks, magic tricks and a new craze called rock ‘n’ roll. Since this was the late ’50s where elbow grease and frugality reigned supreme, Jack Starr rolled up his sleeves and began writing, acting and scoring his own horror features in true blue-collar fashion. This industrious 17 year old didn’t need a studio to capture the lo-fi-rockabilly-spook his films pined for…or even a garage for that matter. No, he took the Freudian route and used his mother’s bathtub to record the murky songs swirling in his head just before they careened down the drain below. While his films never ended up seeing the light of day, the blessed sewer rats at Norton Records managed to fish out twenty primitive rockers and bring them back to the surface for the rest of us. Born Petrified doesn’t need any visual effects to help us feel the horrors of deceased love and the dangers of survival; rather, this album stands on its own two feet and steadily throbs forward like any respectable swamp cretin or hexed mummy would. It’s impossible not to speculate that him and Hasil Adkins were merely separated at birth, as they both share the same rebel sound and unearthly love of the macabre. However, Jack seems to have just as much in common with a fellow Texan that would follow in his footsteps thirty years down the road. With the same DIY enterprise and outsider naïveté, a young Daniel Johnston would eat, breathe and sing similar narratives of heartbreak and misunderstood leviathans. Most notably, Daniel would channel some claw-foot tub echo while crooning, “The devil has Texas, Spirit world rising, The devil has Texas”…and there ain’t no one to blame but Jack Starr for that.

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