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Music / Hi, How Are You

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Hi, How Are You (the more colloquial version of its technical full title Hi, How Are You: The Unfinished Album) is the sixth self-released album by Daniel Johnston, recorded in late 1983.

It's generally seen as one of his most popular albums and was his first cassette tape to receive a wider release, which occurred on vinyl in 1988. However, it still contains less material than his other tapes because Johnston suffered a nervous breakdown and didn't want to finish the album.

Kurt Cobain was once photographed wearing a T-shirt featuring the album cover image, which did wonders to boost its popularity.

The album is best known for the song "Walking the Cow", which has been covered by Pearl Jam, TV on the Radio, A Camp, Kathy McCarty (Glass Eye) and updated by Johnston himself on his album Beam Me Up (2010).



Tape Side One

  1. "Poor You" (2:03)
  2. "Big Business Monkey" (2:02)
  3. "Walking The Cow" (3:37)
  4. "I Picture Myself With A Guitar" (0:44)
  5. "Despair Came Knocking" (2:44)
  6. "I Am A Baby (In My Universe)" (1:38)
  7. "Nervous Love" (0:18)
  8. "I'll Never Marry" (0:20)
  9. "Get Yourself Together" (0:29)
  10. "Running Water" (1:32)

Tape Side Two (Unfinished)

  1. "Desperate Man Blues" (3:39)
  2. "Hey Joe" (2:44)
  3. "She Called Pest Control" (0:52)
  4. "Keep Punching Joe" (3:11)
  5. "No More Pushing Joe Around" (0:34)


Despair Came Troping:

  • A Cappella: "Hi, How Are You?" and "She Called Pest Control".
  • Accentuate the Negative: Most of the songs are about love sickness, despair and/or alienation. Nowhere summed up better than in "Big Business Man".
    Everything you cling to will rot
    And everything you do will be forgot
    By everyone you ever tried to impress
  • Album Title Drop: Right from the start Johnston welcomes us: "Hi, how are you?"
  • Arc Words: The sentence "Hi, how are you?" returns a few times throughout the album.
  • Continuity Nod: "Hey Joe", "Keep Punching Joe" and "No More Pushing Joe Around".
    • "Hey Joe" also has a line "I know you're thinking of your nervous love", referring to the earlier track "Nervous Love".
    • "Keep Punching Joe" has a Call-Back to the earlier songs "Walking The Cow", "Running Water" and "She Called Pest Control".
      Listen, folks, I gotta tell you now
      I've been singing the blues and walking the cow
      I tell you my soul's like running water
      Hot or cold now one or the other
      ''(...) Dial "P" for "Pest Control".
    • After "No More Punching Joe Around" a melodical medley of all the previous songs is heard.
  • Covers Always Lie: With a happy album title like that you wouldn't expect it to be a gloomy record at all.
  • Cut Short: As with many of Daniel's early albums many tracks are abruptly cut short. In this case even the entire album project remained unfinished, because of his mental breakdown.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: Johnston drew the album cover himself.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Running Water"
    And you never change no matter what you do
    You always wind up the same, never knowing where you go
    Always running, never stopping to see where you are at
  • Fading into the Next Song: Typical as most of it was recorded on cassette.
  • Foreshadowing: "She Called Pest Control"
    She wore western-style boots
    Foreshadowing things to come
  • Funny Animal: The frog on the album cover.
  • I Love the Dead: "I'll Never Marry"
    I'll never marry, I'll never wed
    Nobody wants to kiss you when you're dead
    Nobody wants to lie in bed with you
    When your flesh is rotting
  • Immortality: "I Am A Baby (In My Universe)" where the protagonist sings he is "only 22 and I'll live forever."
  • In the Style of...: "Keep Punching Joe" is done in the style of a jolly crooner.
  • Love Hurts: "I Picture Myself With A Guitar", "Despair Came Knocking", "Nervous Love", "I'll Never Marry".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Keep Punching Joe", which is sang in the style of a jolly crooner, but addresses Daniel's mental problems and a character named Joe who ought to be punched.
  • Miniscule Rocking:
    • "Nervous Love", "I'll Never Marry and "I Picture Myself With A Guitar", all under a minute long.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Get Yourself Together" and "Hey Joe" which is clearly inspired more by "Hey Jude" by The Beatles when you hear the lyrics than "Hey Joe", the Garage Rock standard popularized by Jimi Hendrix.
    Hey Jude, come on, Joe
    Don't make that sad song
    Any sadder than it already is
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Poor You" addresses Daniel's mental state. "Big Business Man" refers to his bad experiences while working in a fast food chain. Daniel lampshades his mental breakdown in "Keep Punching Joe"
    I guess I lean toward the excessive
    But that's just the way it is
    When you're a manic depressive
    (...) Let me tell you now it's been a long hard summer
    And I feel every bit, every bit more dumber.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: "No More Punching Joe Around" has Daniel singing a duet with himself on a pre-recorded tape.
  • Singer Name Drop: "Keep Punching Joe".
    Ladies and gentlemen
    He headed out West looking for the best
    And he's here tonight because he's got a lot to get off his chest
    Here he is, ladies and gentlemen
    None other than Daniel D. Johnston
  • Shout-Out: "Hey Joe" lyrically references "Hey Jude" by The Beatles.
  • Something Blues: "Desperate Man Blues".
  • Stock Sound Effects: Near the end of "Big Business Man" a recording of an animal sounds toy for babies can be heard. In "Running Water" running water can be heard. "Desperate Man Blues" and "Keep Punching Joe" are sang while a jazz instrumenal by Johnny Dankworth is playing in the background. After "Keep Punching Joe" a sound recording of a film is heard boasting about "the greatest adventure of a lifetime".
  • This Loser Is You: "Poor You", which is in Second-Person Narration.
  • Wham Line: "Keep Punching Joe"
    How am I supposed to give love
    If I never got love?
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "She Called Pest Control".
  • Worrying for the Wrong Reason: "Nervous Love"
    I got a nervous love
    I got a nervous love
    Worrying's all that I do