Saturday, August 28

Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine - August 1973

(A great interview if you can get past the first mis-spelt line…)

Jonathan Richmond
by Scott Cohen

Jonathan Richmond is the singing lead of The Modern Lovers, a Boston band bound to be the Next Big Thing in rock. They are currently at work on their first album which is being produced by ex-Velveteer John Cale for Warner Brothers. Despite the current glittermania in the music world the Modern Lovers are recording a song called “I’m Straight.” It could be the wave of the future. – G.O.


How did the group get its name? It’s the kind that you have to be good to live up to.

We wanted a name for a rock and roll band that wouldn’t be just another name, but would describe the group. The Modern Lovers was chosen because we sing modern love songs.

What is “modern love?”

“Old love” is the whole Casanova thing. Don Juan trying to get as many girls as he can. He’s proud of fucking girls. He likes the power and the whole ego thing of sex. I think that whole form of love is outmoded because it really isn’t love. People don’t distinguish between love and the ego thing of sex. Here you have Don Juan, the young lover, and let’s say his idea of a beautiful woman walks by. He says, “I must have you” in other words, “I love you.” That’s my idea of horseshit. The girl would say, “Don’t you care about what I want? What do you mean you love me? You mean you want to do what you want to me.” So Don Juan says, “I could show you new things,” and she says “Yeah, but suppose I’m not ready for it?” If Don Juan was together and really liked himself he would know that when a girl wants and needs him he won’t have to tell her. He won’t have to convince her. There she is. All this convincing is forcing the issue. When I say “modern love” I mean the time when you don’t have to force the issue. When you don’t have to prove anything to yourself. When you think you’re alright. When you don’t need sex to feel alright.

What is your kind of woman?

Well, I like all girls, but as far as my kind of woman goes, if there is any, it is someone who has a fire inside she’s in touch with and doesn’t waste any time to express it.

Where would you go on a dream date?

First, maybe a dream date would be a date where you spend the whole time dreaming. That’s my idea of a dream date. It’s at night under the stars. I could be right here. Or near Chinatown, overlooking the East River. A dream date would be trying to get closer to the dream, the girl and you both see the sky, and the sky is a combination of that cobalt blue and that warmth and that cold that scares you and you want to fly into it. This is what the guy thinks. This is what the guy thinks. And this is what the girl thinks. Combined, they are both thinking the same thing.

When you write a song are you writing what the guy is thinking and what the girl is thinking? Are you trying for more than one point of view?

First I write what I’m thinking, what I want to tell, which is a combination of what I see girls thinking and what I see guys thinking. Suppose I see a lot of guys feeling they’re inferior because they don’t fuck. That makes me write a song that says you’re not inferior because you don’t fuck. In fact, that would be the title of the song. And if I see girls thinking, “Where’s the man who understands these dreams?” I would want to write a song ”I’m the Man Who Understands, Just Like All Men Can.”

Many of the Modern Lovers’ songs are about pure love and are down on sex and drugs. Does most of your audience think you’re putting them on?

I think some of them are too shocked. Some of them are sure we’re putting them on. Some of them can’t hear the lyrics because we don’t have a good P.A. system and don’t worry about it. Some of them are too scared and don’t know what’s happening and can’t even get that specific. But I want to do everything I can to let everyone know I’m serious.

Would it bother you if an audience left a Modern Lovers’ concert totally smashed by the music but had ignored the lyrics?

I don’t know if it can be differentiated that way. First of all, my voice… let’s say it’s a situation where they can hear everything, the P.A.’s working, or better still, let’s say the audience is French, or Indian, where they don’t have a chance. See, they wouldn’t understand the words because they didn’t understand the language, but they heard my voice singing those words and if I have my heart in those words then the very sound of my voice conveys it.

Your phrasings are like your heartbeats.

That’s why I cry when I sing. I break down and cry, I’m so moved by my own singing. I’m almost crying now.

How important are your tears when you perform?


What were you doing before you were a Modern Lover?

I was frustrated. I had no friends. I had big dreams. And even for a while during the early Lover stages I had these problems.

(Continues in the comments section below...)

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