Jonathan Richman
January 27, 2003 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Ah, the world cries out for an updated Jonathan website. The Abominable Lesbian Vampire Cappuccino Bar in Cyberspace has withered on the vine, links almost all dead--damn, I should've copied that tab!--but some of the music's not firing blanks. The Jonathan Richman Project only posted one issue of their xerox zine--jeez, remember zines? Mail art? Man, those were the days--but they're nice enough to print Lester Bangs 1976 Creem diss of the Twerp King At The Summit. God, I remember reading that Bangs piece new and running out and buying The Modern Lovers, trusting as I did in his taste or maybe just his gonzo stylings? Little did I know...(inside)
posted by y2karl (32 comments total)
His current label Vapor flies the flag for the three titles they carry, and all have some music. I'm So Confused, for instance, has an mp3, various streams and even a lowrent video. An, Twin Tone carries an autobiographical note. And Joe Harvard's known the guy since the preCambrian era, so he's got the skinny. Jonathan Richman knew Gram Parsons and was going to work on a project with him. Who'd a thunk?

Well, I saw him last monday--and I'm still jazzed. Except... he'd grown a goatee...shot with gray? And had lines around eyes that were no there before. Ah, sigh... But he was Mr. Entertainment as perusal. I wrote my niece and told her all about him ...

He writes these basic rockabilly and doo wop melodies that are very singable and his lyrics are really simple and sweet and funny, too. It's really craftsmanship, his lyric writing. He plays guitar, acoustic or hollow body electric and he has this really sweet and heartfelt way of picking his leads. He has a sweet voice. And then he has this charisma.

God, does he have charisma. Tina bought me two tickets and I took Lisa, a friend who's pretty much a Goth, in her thirties, who'd never heard him. She said she was hooked the minute she saw his eyes.

Some people--I think this is true especially for comedians but it extends to singers and actors, too--are memes. You see them and you feel their expressions in the muscles of your face, they are so magnetic. He is one of these.

Yet I was shocked myself, this time, to see him. He's always had this boyish quality and here he'd gone and grown a goatee. With a shot of grey in it. And he had lines around his eyes and more sadness in them.

I don't know, it hurts to see anyone grow old.

But he was the same as always otherwise--and the shock wore off. And he did this new song I just loved called
Life Is Danger

There are no guarantees,
We won't live forever,
Life is not safe,
Life is danger

Well, I guess you had to be there.

But you should go see him—it's like a total spontaneous happening—the audience knows every song by heart, are shouting requests and he's just winging it. Oh, he's got some shtick and routines but he's really smart and literate--shtick in French and Spanish as well as English--and funny, oh, man, he's ten pounds of charisma in a five pound bag and the life of the party up there on stage. And it's all real and real live. It's like a religious experience. I know of people who follow bands like the Grateful Dead in their time, Dylan and Tori Amos now. Man, I'd follow him if I could. I really feel like that this last time.

OK, I'm through gushing now...
posted by y2karl at 11:05 PM on January 27, 2003

I saw jonathan richman myself,
i was amazed how good he was , the way he connects with his audience is just fantastic.
is he touring ? is he coming to the uk ?
He's certainly in my top 3 gigs, its hard to seperate bossanova era note perfect pixies, the velvet underground reunion gigs in edinburgh and this guy.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:14 PM on January 27, 2003

He's coming to LA in a couple weeks. Thanks y2k.
posted by shoos at 11:19 PM on January 27, 2003

I saw him playing with Mojo Nixon at a festival. One of the better shows I've seen.
posted by Vidiot at 11:23 PM on January 27, 2003

Jonathon was part of the soundtrack for an insane half a year or so I had crewing on sailboats in the Sea of Cortez in the mid 90's, 'doing dangerous things on the pointy end.' I will forever love him as a result.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:24 PM on January 27, 2003

But get ready for a guy that looks like, um, Peter Yarrow--just so you know. Although it served the same purpose as Dylan's white face did in '75--accentuates his eyes and lips...

I was just not ready for the new old Jonathan at first sight but he won me over with I'm So Confused.

"It was like he was singing it to me..."

Now, if only I didn't have to be standing to some women that kept shouting Ice Cream Man!

Cripes, I'm only two years older than him. *shudders*
posted by y2karl at 11:27 PM on January 27, 2003

Yay, more cool and well-researched musical pointers from y2karl! Excellent! I throw this into the mix - the Rolling Stones amalgamation of Jonathan Richman stuff - it has some interviews and reviews. ..also two video clips that I haven't yet sampled.
Thanks for another superb post Karl!
posted by madamjujujive at 4:48 AM on January 28, 2003

Ah, the world cries out for an updated Jonathan website. And I know just the man for the job. I'm looking in your direction, y2Karl. This post is fabulous, as usual. Jonathan has a new fan, thanks to you.
posted by iconomy at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2003

Jonathan Richman groupies are pretty hot too. (And believe me, he does get them)
posted by jeremias at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2003

Jo Jo played a bar here in Kyoto a few years back. "What the..!??" is what I said when I found out two days later.

Stav, "Oh-oh-oh Down in Bermu-u-u-uda"

Is that part of the memory?
posted by planetkyoto at 6:06 AM on January 28, 2003

While I was at U.C. Davis Jonathan Richman would play at the Whole Earth Festival. I just remember how silly and great he was. I saw him interviewed on local TV later and he just explained how he was just a little kid that never grew up. Perpetually 10 years old.

One year when he played it rained, so they held the concerts in Freeborn hall. Wavy Gravy was the emcee for the Whole Earth Festival. There was a really little kid running around on the stage, and Wavy was freaking out telling people to get the kid before he hurts himself. A friend of mine looked at Wavy Gravy and told him to mellow out. I attribute the wackiness to the magic of Jonathan Richman.
posted by Eekacat at 6:43 AM on January 28, 2003

For those who don't know who JR is, you might remember him as the goofy balladeer from the transitions in Something About Mary, the Farrelly Bros' best (only good) film.
posted by maniactown at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2003

I'm ready to believe that Richman is great live. But on record, he never really surpassed his version of "Roadrunner," nor the originals "Government Center," "New Bank Teller," which appeared, along with a wonderful cover whose title escapes me, on that unforgettable Berserkley compilation of the mid-70s. At that early point in his career, he still seems to have his voice somewhat under control. In subsequent releases, his voice starts careening all over the place, and he seems unwilling or unable to place a single syllable square on a note, or maintain any kind of compelling verbal rhythm. It's incredibly annoying, and even though I know he's written some great songs over the past 25 years, I can't listen all the way through without wanting to grab and shake him. (That Berserkley disc also had the only good Greg Kihn song ever recorded, and two excellent Rubinoos numbers. I wonder if it ever came out on CD?)
posted by Faze at 8:32 AM on January 28, 2003

Thanks for the 'Info on JoJo,' y2karl. Wow. I still have that fanzine of Rich Hager's. I even made one of my own, in addition to the "Jonathan Richman for President" and other t-shirts (when he saw that one, he quickly responded: "If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.")

Oh, and I have a bunch of amazing bootlegs recorded by friends, too. I'd love to trade with any of you interested in hearing him in Atlanta at the Cotton Club circa 1988. Or in Tucson in 1987. I've exchanged for others, too, over the years. People like Faze (above) probably won't get it--low fidelity and not much perfect form, you know--but this is where the magic happens, y'all.
posted by micropublishery at 8:44 AM on January 28, 2003

oooh im putting the cd on now...
i have to mention crackers like "im straight" and "egyptian reggae"

ooooh in bermuda...............: )

thanks y2 !
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:42 AM on January 28, 2003

Faze, what are you talking about? He's got an incredible sense of rhythm. Sure, his singing voice is take-it-or-leave-it, but he's actually a smoking rhythm guitarist.

I can vouch for this from having seen him (and once, opening for him, he bragged) about 800000 times (up till about 2 1/2 years ago, anyways). If I had the presence of mind to tape any of those shows, I'd have happily shared.

Part of the problem with putting together a Jojo website is that he's been so resistant to it whenever asked. He's quite the precocious 4-year-old, but his mistrust of what he doesn't know can stop projects like this one in their tracks.

But I will listen to his sweet, easy music for the rest of my life.
posted by chicobangs at 10:00 AM on January 28, 2003

Oh, piffle, Faze, on your assessments--

It's rock 'n roll, not opera. He has an adenoidal head cold sort of unmusical voice--but he can sing and with great feeling. It doesn't require classical training to sing great rock 'n roll.

People who go on about the Warner Bros/Beserkely albums Uber Alles are most annoying. It's like a Meet the Beatles was really great but Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road and the White Album really suck sort of mentality--all opinion and no real listening after point X. I know jazz fans that hate bop from the same mentality. I mean, I like dixieland as much as tne next guy but get real... Life goes on.

Exhibit A: Lydia on Back In Your Life--a cover of a doo wop classic with an intricate and subtle vocal harmony arrangement. As noted here. Exhibit B--Jonathan Sings on Sire. Criminally out of print. Buy a used copy. RS review. Rockin' Romance is great, too. I have it on vinyl but it looks like it's got a CD, too. I don't know nothin' about no liquid audio but it looks like they're charging for downloads from it. Vincent Van Gogh, The Fenway, I'm Just Beginning to Live and Chewing Gum Wrapper recommended. I just got I'm So Confused--which surprised me.

He was interviewed on KUOW the next day and sang Life Is Danger. But crap, they don't archive.

He said he is doing more movie work, which cuts into his touring. He said he plays about 80 days last year. Good for him but it sucks as far as the touring is concerned.

The only other performer I've seen to match him in pure entertainment fun by the pound or minute was Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Maybe Bad Manners, the Specials and Madness matched in the collective department for pure enjoyment wattage. Folks like Dylan, Etta James, etc. are in the second rank thereto--in my opinion. And, of course, Son House was in a category all by himself...

Here's two other Jonathan anecdotes:

I saw him about ten years ago at the Backstage. He started in on The Neighbors and this woman in the audience started singing the female vocal thereof. He stopped, pulled he up onstage and they did a note perfect version.

Sometime later he played the OK Hotel, a very small space and like, totally ruled. Havin' A Party with Jonathan Richman had just come out and I ran into him at Elliott Bay Books just before the concert, did a doubletake, answered by an extravagant mock comedic doubletake on his part and then we yakked. I pointed out that on the new album, he used the word arcane for the second time in my experience. Later, he did At Night

At night,
That's when I get my bright ideas

and of course, I got the obligatory eye contact and wink on the approriate line. Pretty cool, but wait! That's not the anecdote!

So he did the concert, the obligatory four encores and then sent us home and popped open his guitar case and started packing up. This shy blonde woman of about 19 to 22 walked up and said 'Hi, Jonathan, you probably don't remember this but I sent you a tape of some Ital--

JR: --The Italian pop music--I loved that stuff! You must be Mary!

Now that's your full service cult muscian's cult musician.
posted by y2karl at 10:08 AM on January 28, 2003

Part of the problem with putting together a Jojo website is that he's been so resistant to it whenever asked.

Too true--he's a Luddite on the topic as the title tag on skinny up there shows: every fan site comes with a huge Not an offical Jonathan Richman website disclaimer.

Heck, even Vapor's Surender to Jonathan page says that--

Please be advised, this page is "unofficiated" by Jonathan Richman.

I also concur with chicobangs on his guitar playing, it's a sort of rhythm 'n fill style with the most understated leads. I love the sound of it--it's so sweet and succinct. Truly sublime...

God, he was playing a flamenco classical guitar this time, by the way. That and the goatee--just being unpredictable...

But I was bright enough to sign up for the mailing list on the Abominably Entitled Cappucino Bar up there in the first link this time... So maybe I'll get the down low on the goatee, at least.
posted by y2karl at 10:30 AM on January 28, 2003

Holy crap, he's playing on thursday nearby. Kick fucking ass, and thanks y2karl!
posted by mathowie at 11:20 AM on January 28, 2003

You, among all people on earth, have the amazing ability to read my mind. Meet the Beatles really WAS great. And Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road and the White Album really DO suck. (Not Rubber Soul.) The first statement in popular music is usually the clearest, most complete, and most invigorating. Look at the Sun Sessions. Look at jazz up until 1936. Look at opera and classical music up until Wagner. Sitcoms aren't the only art form to "jump the shark." (Jonathan Richman, however, might be said to have jumped the little dinosaur.)
posted by Faze at 11:31 AM on January 28, 2003

So, by that estimation, everyone should shrivel up and die after the first record?

Drop dead, kids, all forms of expression are meaningless and wasted from point X. Which was long before you were born. Of course....

History: Stick a fork in it because it's over.

Everything cool happened a long long time ago and la la la I'm not listening....

And think of the reading, viewing and listening time you save by being shut down to everything new.
posted by y2karl at 11:45 AM on January 28, 2003

This is a wonderful wake up call. Thanks y2karl. I've not seen Jonathan since 1986 in Ann Arbor and all my JR stuff is on vinyl, which doesn't get played so much anymore.

Time for me to get cracking on catch up!
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:23 PM on January 28, 2003

i heart jonathan richman. that's a bumper sticker, if there e'er was one. bless the crystal ballroom here in town for having him in for a free show the other week. yeah, the goatee's a bit odd, but he's still so freakin' charming i hardly noticed.
posted by redsparkler at 1:31 PM on January 28, 2003

y2- never mind faze -you cant talk to the dude
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:41 PM on January 28, 2003

Yeah, you guys don't pay any attention to Faze, there's a lack of sweetness of his life. It's very sad.
posted by micropublishery at 5:47 PM on January 28, 2003

Metafilter - People who listen to Jonathan Richman and admit it freely
posted by planetkyoto at 6:05 PM on January 28, 2003

I just signed up on the Jonathan Mailing list and, among other things, got this:

Does anyone out there have a complete list of European Tour Dates for Jonathan?

So far we seem to have:


Having been lucky enough to catch Jonathan in Paris, I cannot recommend highly enough the experiance of seeing Jonathan do a show in another language! And I'd love to see him to a Spanish show.

I know he does in Spanish and I know he does schtick in three languages but Jonathan sings in French?

Guess I never thought about it--wonder what Give Paris One More Chance sounds like in French.
posted by y2karl at 10:10 AM on January 31, 2003

in case sgt serenity's using a fake email on his user page:

posted by y2karl at 5:51 PM on February 6, 2003

One of the best things about threads that y2karl posts or participates in is that if you go back and check the thread again a week or two later, as likely as not, there's been some neat new stuff posted. Thanks, y2karl!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:11 PM on February 6, 2003

my email is :

and some strange thing with letters blueyonder gave me

which is a load of bollocks if you ask me,

i think maybe works..

posted by sgt.serenity at 4:02 AM on February 7, 2003

We're expecting a book report & concert review, sgt.
Pictures would be nice, too.
posted by y2karl at 11:34 AM on February 7, 2003

i'll even plastercast him after the show heh.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:18 AM on February 8, 2003

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