Issue 22, Magazine

Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.

Alex Moore :: Monday, November 2nd, 2009 4:00 pm

He immediately set to work recording an album in his bedroom on a four-track recorder. He mailed the tape to Eric from the Oblivians, who quickly called back to say he wanted to release the album on his label, Goner Records. Within six months Jay had become Jay Reatard, and had dropped out of school to chase his rock n’ roll dreams. He was fifteen. And he never looked back.

Which is how, at twenty-nine and a relative newcomer to national attention, Reatard’s discography clocks in at well over twenty full-lengths. There were the initial records released with Goner as The Reatards, there was the time spent playing with his heroes The Oblivians, there was The Lost Sounds, into which he poured himself for six years along with then-girlfriend Alicja Trout. All this before he came full circle and decided to go back on his own to work on what became 2006’s Blood Visions, the first official full-length under the name Jay Reatard. Blood Visions, in addition to enjoying more national press, marked the start of an immensely productive period in which Reatard recorded and released singles relentlessly, often hand-packaging vinyl 45s by hand. The emerging torrent of song-craft flowing from Memphis led Matador to sign Reatard and compile these gems into the volumes Singles ’06-’07 and Singles ’08. Given Reatard’s penchant for contorted appearances, it’s likely no accident the titles of his two major-label debuts read like greatest hits albums.

It’s a long history, whose entire span seems to come barreling into focus as I pull up to his house on an otherwise quiet block well outside the fray of downtown Memphis. Even from down the street there’s no mistaking which house is Reatard’s. The front porch is cluttered with air conditioners, discarded sinks, a giant cardboard box for trash, and more beers than you’d expect, at least for a Tuesday. From inside, the sound of Pantera’s early glam record Power Metal drifts out to the porch, where Reatard holds court in his signature frizzy mop and a sleeveless shirt. He is surrounded by friends—a group of young rock n’ roll lost boys who Reatard plays in side projects with, looks out for, and takes care of.

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2 Responses to “Jay Reatard: The Ballad of Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr.”
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