J Mascis vs Jay Farrar

That’s right, we’re gonna have ourselves a good old fashioned mumble off – past to present – between two guys who don’t even spell their name the same.

It was coincidence that initially drew me to the bill (two J’s, neat) but after a few day’s of sifting through the annals of late-80’s/early-90’s-indie writing this post has become a labor of curiosity.  Dave Markley’s “1991: The Year Punk Broke” was enough to sell me on Sonic Youth. In Utero was enough to sell me on grunge. Wilco was enough to sell me on Uncle Tupelo and   Dinosaur Jr. was enough to sell me on the Fender Jazzmaster.

early days

J Mascis found himself on the ass-end of hardcore and wanting something more. So, he started a band called Dinosaur. Originally a drummer, J bought a Jazzmaster and brought in a few of his Massachusetts mates. They released an S/T in 1985. No big deal. They kept to the righteous path and a few years later released Bug. They were sued by the supergroup the Dinosaurs and consequently changed their name to Dinosaur Jr. But it was too late, the footprint had been cast. No one would remember the Dinosaurs, but everyone knew Jr. This is from Bug.

Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene

Meanwhile, a couple of kids from greater St. Louis were just getting their start. As the story goes, the Ferrar brothers taught Jeff Tweedy how to play guitar. But Jay played guitar better than Jeff so Jeff was put on bass. This is a 1990 cut of Tupelo playing Dinosaur. Jay’s too drunk to remember the most important verse but little Jeff  saves the day…

“sometimes I don’t thrill you,
sometimes I think I’ll kill you,
so don’t let me fuck up will you,
‘cause when I need a friend it’s still you.”

Uncle Tupelo – Freak Scene (Dinosaur Jr. cover)


J Mascis wasn’t a guy you’d hang out with, much less play music next to. Not only was he directing drummer Murph’s every beat but his fascist complex had led to bassist Lou Barlow’s dismissal. Dinosaur continued on, eventually signing to a major label and releasing a few records. The older wiser J was so still as bold to say, “Bass and drums are distracting enough, I just want to hear myself play.” Apparently he’d forgotten how lonely it was playing as J Mascis and the Fog.

It took until 1998 for J to realize the he’d cut off his arms to spite his hands. The original three-piece was reassembled. They immediately released Beyond.

Dinosaur Jr. – Almost Ready

After four years of Tupelo Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy hardly acknowledged each other’s song’s on stage. The inevitable split finally came giving birth to fraternal twins Wilco and Son Volt. Tweedy tells a story of 10 years later renting a house in Mexico with his wife. He claims he was out on a jog and when he got back his wife was talking to some guy on the beach. As he got closer he realized it was Jay. They exchanged pleasantries and found out they were staying one house apart. As Tweedy says, the sad part of the story is that nothing came of the encounter – nothing had changed. Jay claims he’s never listened to Wilco. This one’s from the final Tupelo album, Anodyne.

Uncle Tupelo – Fifteen Keys

latter days

Both J and Jay cut albums in 2009, Farm with Dinosaur Jr. and One Fast Move or I’m Gone: the Soundtrack with Ben Gibbard, respectively. Niether J is presently putting any more effort into his singing than when he first started.

This gives you a good idea of where J’s at now…

This gives you a good idea of where Jay’s at now…

    • Ben
    • April 3rd, 2010

    Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar WTF.

    Oh yeah, Kicking Television is FINALLY coming out on vinyl on Record Store day. My collection shall soon be complete. BTW, I’m probably the only person who thinks Dinosaur Jr. is overrated.

    • Ben
    • April 3rd, 2010

    Oh yeah, Anodyne is phenomenal.

    • Ben
    • April 3rd, 2010

    Also I’m drunk so I’m on cloud 9.

    • i’m pleased you posted drunk, hogan. i’m also trying to get there as we speak. but really, D Jr. may be overrated but the year punk broke is an amazing documentary

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