Tuesday, June 7

I don't write it, I just make it up...*


It's Jonathan Richman. You've seen him maybe on Late Night With Conan O'Brien where he has been their most frequent guest. Or maybe on the documentary about rock music on PBS, where they had him talk awhile. You might have heard his songs even if you don't know who he is because movies like Repo Man have used them and people like Joan Jett have made recordings of them. The same goes for his guitar playing which they've used as score music on a network TV show or two. In fact, even your children may know him from Sesame Street, when they play "I'm a Little Airplane."

He's never had a big record or CD here in the USA. But he did have two Top Five in Europe back in the 70s, namely "Egyptian Reggae," the biggest, and "Roadrunner," the one Joan Jett recorded, among others. "Egyptian Reggae" [was] an instrumental tune that was a big disco hit in the summer of '77 everywhere from Finland to Spain...

Richman likes singing and playing in front of audiences the most, as opposed to some musicians who enjoy recording the most and only tour to "support" their record. He has not had a vacation from touring longer than two months in maybe 15 or perhaps even 20 years. Since no records of his were released between 1979 and 1983, it was rumored in the European press that he had taken a sabbatical from showbiz during this time, but not so... He's been averaging 130 or 140 shows a year these past few years.

Considered surly by the music press, perhaps not with reason, Richman is reluctant to talk in print. Usually he avoids the big music magazines and is more likely to talk to the daily papers. Some reporters for these leave an interview less than satisfied with his (usually) short answers. Richman says, "I have a hard time answering a lot of their questions, especially when they ask me what a song is about. O-o-h-h I hate that! Or if they ask how I write my songs. There's nothing to tell them! The songs just come to me."

He's usually nice enough to his fans though, and is one of the pop singers who tries to personally answer his fan mail.

He's a veteran international performer right at home in front of audiences who don't speak a word of English. He sings some in Spanish, French and Italian and has translated some of his songs into Spanish. Among his favorite countries to play in are Spain, Greece and Japan. He loves French singers too and is a big fan of Maurice Chevalier as well as Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, and Edith Piaf.

Among his other favorites are Van Morrison, Eric Burden, Nana Mouskouri, John McCormack, Marty Robbins, Pedro Infante, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Nicholas of the Gypsy Kings, and Evan Dando.

He eats bread and olive oil. He loves Japanese food. He likes cheap red wine when he's in Spain, Greece, or Italy and enjoys the occasional cigar. He drives a car but would rather be riding his bike.

In the future, he'd like to get into scoring movies and before he quits showbiz some day, he'd like to sing in Central America and South America.

-- Press release from Vapor Records 2 August 1996

*Jonathan Richman on his songwriting process

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