Friday, May 20

The Bostonians #4 : Brett Milano

Brett Milano is a rock critic based in Boston, writing in various newspapers and magazines. He wrote a fascinating book two years ago, "Vinyl Junkies" a journey in the world of record collecting. Where Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" was a novel, this is the real world with famous characters like Monoman and peter Buck among others.

It is a funny book too. Brett is a true connaisseur of rock music and particularly of what has and is happening in Boston.

He wrote the liner notes to the DIY CD dedicated to Boston in the series. He spent time to answer my questions for which I am grateful to him.

- What is the first Jonathan song you ever heard ?

I was in college reading rock mags (Trouser Press especially) in 1977, so I bought the second album (easier to find than the first). So the first song would've been "Rockin SHopping Center." After reading descriptions of the first album I was pretty surprised, I was expecting punk rock! But I was into Genesis, etc, so I never realized a rock record was supposed to be that much FUN...

- What is your favourite album ?

Got to be the first, though I'm also partial to Back In Your Life and Jonathan Sings.

- When was the first show of his you attended and how was it ?

I moved to Boston in 1980 (after graduation) and he was pretty visible around then. Lots of acoustic and small=band shows. By then I knew all the albums and was a pretty big fan, so I loved it-- remember being especially into songs like Vincent Van Gogh and SUmmer Feeling which hadn't been released yet. Around the same time I went to a friend's wedding and the late D. Sharpe was playing drums in the wedding band. We kept shouting for Ice Cream Man but the rest of the band didn't know it.

- What is your favourite period in his musical career ?

I'm always going to be partial to the original Modern Lovers-- they were a great band and every song is pretty much essential. I also really love the first batch of troubadour-type albums where he was upending everybody's expectations of what he was supposed to be doing. There was a great in-your-face aspect to this..He got a lot more comfortable once people came around to what he was doing.

- Do you think he has or had an influence on the Boston music scene post 1978 ?

Absolutely. He'll always be really well thought of here. Boston loves good songwriting and he's still thought of as a Boston artist, even though he hasn't lived here in a long while. He plays here at least once a year, usually for two or three nights in a club or a theater, and always draws good crowds.

- Are you familiar with his most recent songs and what do you think of them ?

I missed the last couple of albums, but caught up with the live DVD that came out this year. I'll admit I started losing interest after many years of the troubadour thing, it seemed he was getting a little too cute sometimes and overdoing the sweet sensitivity and the jokes. But parts of the DVD really surprised me...both for the political song and for how powerful some of the new songs are. I think "The Night is Still Young" finale is incredibly life-affirming, the kind of moment he's been trying to do for years.

- How do you appreciate Jonathan evolution from the Modern Lovers rock
sound to nowadays troubadour ballads ?

Seems he found his direction after the original band split up and never looked back. I admire his persistence for never cashing in with a Modern Lovers reunion touor...though I would certainly be there if he ever did it.

- Are you sensitive, as you have been living in the Boston area for a
long time, to the way Jonathan describes in his songs the Boston
surroundings ?

I moved to Boston in 1980 (went to college in western Massachusetts), so for awhile I kept idenitfying references in the songs-- "Hey, I'm in the Lonely Financial Zone!" Still find myself singing :Modern World" when I walk past BU. Also, a lot of us who went to school in Amherst really loved the local references in the "Roadrunner Thrice" single.

- I found that the last album reminded much of the Velvet Underground
for various reasons. Are you also aware of VU references in Jonathan's
music even nowadays ?

Like I said, I missed the last couple of albums (the last one I own is I'm So Confused). I am surprised that he is still referencing them though. I know the song he wrote about the VU in the 80s, but otherwise he seems to be in a different place from them. Think he nailed it when he played the VU song once and said "I had more fun playing that than they ever had."

- Any anecdote related to Jonathan ?

I've never met him and am not sure I want to...I know people who've met him and found him to be rude and dismissive; and I've heard of him being bristly in interview situations. Always hate when that happens with people you admire..but you've probably met him so I would be curious to hear your experience.

- What Jonathan song would you think as pertinent to be covered by the
Lyres , the Real Kids and the Downbeat 5 ?

There's a great garage band iin Boston called the Prime Movers who are doing "She Cracked." I would love to hear the Real Kids do "I'm Straight" but I'm sure that will never happen (John Felice is Hippie Johnny, right?). I can hear "Stop This Car" with Lyres organ, easy! Asa Brebner still does "Roadrunner" on a pretty regular basis and it sounds great-- He does the full throttle rock version that they never did when he was in the band.

1 comment: