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Jonathan Richman fills out the N.Y. Rocker questionnaire
12:03 pm


Jonathan Richman
The Modern Lovers

The February 1978 edition of N.Y. Rocker ran a feature by Craig Zeller called “Jonathan Richman: A Roadrunner for Your Love.” The article has one of the better opening lines I can remember: “I’m straight and I used to be in love with Jonathan Richman.” Not only does it reference one of Richman’s defining tunes, “I’m Straight,” but it also puts forward the prospect of falling out of love with Jonathan Richman. (Actually, having seen Richman complain about the A/C the last two times I saw him play live and also reading Zeller’s account of Richman’s prickiness as an interviewee, I get it.)

In Zeller’s lengthy intro, he puts himself across as a die-hard Richman fan frustrated that Richman’s recent work hasn’t lived up to the initial early promise. He tells of an NYU gig of October 29, 1977, singling out the new songs “I’m a Little Airplane,” “My Love Is A Flower (Just Beginning To Bloom),” “I’m A Little Dinosaur,” and (Zeller’s favorite) “The Morning of Our Lives.” The interview that ran in N.Y. Rocker took place after that show in chilly Washington Square Park (how about finding a bar somewhere, guys?) and was by his own admission a bit awkward.

This 1998 interview with Richman includes a reference to Richman’s distaste for N.Y. Rocker because “they had misquoted” Richman and “distorted some of [Richman’s] comments” and because “they had ‘lied,’” but what I can’t figure out is if this is the feature Richman was upset about—N.Y. Rocker covered Richman more than once, after all. What’s odd is that the interview reads like a verité transcription of what happened (there were four people present, and the interview is presented in straight (lengthy) Q&A style). And yet Zeller himself goes out of his way to explain Richman’s sensitivity on this matter, saying “I promised not to misquote him or take his answers out of context, which is one reason why he is averse to doing interviews.” It seems unlikely that Richman would single out this piece of all pieces for an accusation of distortion, but anything’s possible.

Zeller’s article is still an interesting and engaging read. One of my favorite tidbits is Richman’s mention of an earlier name for the Modern Lovers, that being “Jonathan Richman’s Rockin’ Roadmasters,” a fact that could be corroborated on the Internet solely by this Spanish-language article from 2003. It appears to be not widely known that RIchman had once favored that name for his band.

Tucked in on the final page of three is a quirky questionnaire, presented entirely without explanation or caption, that clearly has Richman’s answers on it…

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Masculine arrogance blows’: Jonathan Richman’s letter to Creem magazine, 1973
10:11 am


Jonathan Richman

Though I can’t dig up the issue to prove it, the backstory is supposedly this: In 1973, Creem magazine ran something negative on The Four Seasons, arguing that rock music demanded a “masculine arrogance.” Never one to stand for the besmirching of sweetness, Jonathan “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” Richman sent them a brief what-for.

For a reminder of what Richman does think of masculine arrogance, I added a little “Pablo Picasso” at the bottom. Though the tune was recorded in 1972, it wasn’t released until 1976 on The Modern Lovers’ eponymous debut. At the time of the letter, the band was still underground enough that the editor felt the need to add the explanatory note at the end.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Who’s Afraid of Jonathan Richman? Super fun 1984 performance from Spain
11:04 am


Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman
”Ice cream man, upon my street…”

Recently I went on a Jonathan Richman YouTube kick, possibly instigated by my hearing “Egyptian Reggae” in a rum commercial (hey, don’t hate, even Modern Lovers gotta pay those bills). When I came across this 1984 appearance on Spanish television, I was struck by two things. First of all, the program he’s on, Arsenal, is actually in Catalan, a language effectively banned in Spain up until 1975, now spoken by a cultural minority. Catalan has an extremely heavy political history in Spain, but it’s pretty esoteric to see the title, “Who’s Afraid of Jonathan Richman?” in Catalan.

Second, amidst a fantastic performance with Modern Lovers, Brennan Totten and Andy Paley, you see Jonathan performing little skits in additional video content, narrating the story of his first guitar, and actually talking about his fame. Anyone familiar with Richman knows that while he’s an incredibly garrulous performer, offstage he often seems very averse to talking to press or journalists. This appearance is a rare and sweet moment of insight into his genuine enthusiasm for what he does.

The set list:

1) Ice Cream Man
2) This Kind of Music
3) Wipe Out
4) I’m a Little Dinosaur
5) La Bamba
6) Rockin’ Rockin’ Leprechauns
7) The Beach
8) The UFO Man
9) Let’s Take a Trip
10) Vincent Van Gogh
11) Give Paris One More Chance
12) Chewing Gum Wrapper
13) That Summer Feeling

Part II is here.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
John Cale and Jonathan Richman interviewed together on Aussie TV, 1983
04:40 pm


John Cale
Jonathan Richman

A youthful Jonathan Richman and a surprisingly (for the time) clear-eyed John Cale interviewed on After Dark by Aussie TV host Donnie Sutherland when the pair played some dates together down under in 1983. Richman describes their Australian gigs as “Bozo the Clown opening for Jean-Paul Sartre.’

Jello Biafra was on the same show, but sadly there’s not video of that on YouTube.

In the clip below, Cale sings “Chinese Envoy” accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar:

Part 2 here.

Here John and Jonathan are a second time with Sutherland. This time it’s Richman performing “Vincent Van Gogh.” Even Cale, who seems hungover in this one, breaks out into a big grin.

Thank you, Jim Neill!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers live on Dutch TV, 1978
10:38 am


Jonathan Richman
The Modern Lovers

Simply superb showing by a youthful Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers circa 1978 (Leroy Radcliffe, D. Sharpe, Asa Brebner) from Dutch TV’s Top Pop program.

Starts off with a playful version of “Egyptian Reggae,” Richman’s charmingly clunky white college boy take on the famous riddim from Johnny Clarke’s “None Shall Escape the Judgment.”

“Egyptian Reggae”.
“New England”.
“Abominable Snowman”.
“Buzz Buzz Buzz”
“I’m A Little Airplane”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Oh for the love of all that is good in the world, it’s Jonathan Richman and Lil Bub
09:55 am


Jonathan Richman
Lil Bub

Richman and Bub
Don’t you love it when wonderful people find each other? Bub’s dude said “They telepathically shared meditation techniques”. Of course they did.
Of all the proto-punk auteurs and of all the famous Internet cats, there is no more potent combination that that of Jonathan Richman and Lil Bub.

There will be an impulse by many to infantilize this moment in glorious Internet cat/music history, the famously earnest Richman, Lil Bub with her adorable physical anomalies. But I maintain this is no less than a beacon! A sign that there is goodness in this world, and that we’re just beginning to live.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Velvet Underground Live at The Boston Tea Party, 1969
03:51 pm


Velvet Underground
Jonathan Richman

Still on a musical high from listening (over and over and over again) to The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition box set (read my review here), I’ve also been on a tear through the (not inconsiderable amount of) VU bootlegs I have amassed over the years.

One of the better ones is this show that was taped on January 10,1969 in Boston, at the Velvets’ “home away from home,” The Boston Tea Party nightclub.

Future Modern Lover and huge Velvets fan Jonathan Richman was often in the audience during the Boston shows:

“Sometimes you just plain couldn’t figure out where on the stage those strange sounds and harmonics were coming from, because of the eerie calm with which they played and improvised in front of you, and because every time they’d come to town they’d introduce at least one new song that would, for better or worse, sound like nothing else that had gone before in rock music.”

The opening act that night were folk freaks The Holy Modal Rounders.

There’s a particularly good take of “Move Right In” (with a Moe Tucker savagely pounding her floor toms), nice readings of quieter numbers like “I’m Set Free” and “Candy Says”; and a great rave-up of “I Can’t Stand It.” It ends, natch, with a roof-raising “Sister Ray.”

The whole thing sounds great for an old audience recording, but it sounds so much better if you REALLY CRANK IT.

1. Heroin (0:00)
2. Move Right In (8:26)
3. I’m Set Free (13:12)
4. Run Run Run (17:49)
5. I’m Waiting For The Man (25:39)
6. What Goes On (34:35)
7. I Can’t Stand It (39:05)
8. Candy Says (45:23)
9. Beginning To See The Light (50:10)
10. White Light/White Heat (56:00)
11. Pale Blue Eyes (61:42)
12. Sister Ray (68:10)


Previously on Dangerous Minds
It’s Just Too Much: Holy grail of Velvet Underground recordings released as part of new box set

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Jonathan Richman gives cable access reporter ‘the silent treatment’
01:00 pm


Jonathan Richman

Poor guy. I’m sure all he wanted was to talk to the founder of The Modern Lovers, but all he got was Richman’s now notorious silent treatment. I’ve heard quite a few journalists and fans revel in some variation of this same story, delighting in the perceived eccentricity of a man who says he’s taking care of his voice and avoids contact with crowds if he can help it.

For the record, I’ve seen Jonathan Richman twice (once for his Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild tour- amazing). He made quite a bit of whispered small talk and took pictures with my friend and me. Maybe his voice is sensitive, maybe he has social anxiety, maybe he just prefers fans to sweaty music journalists trying to get an interview. Regardless, in my book, he seems nothing short of a swell guy with a couple of lovely idiosyncrasies.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment