Friday, October 28

Bring Back Springtime to the World of Nature*

Well now, nature itself must be sighing,
Watching all the animals, the way they’re dying…
Well there’s different kinds of birds won’t be there no more,
You can watch them, the whole kinds are dying.

I just don’t like the way that they’re tearing down the world,
Coz now folks… I love the world more and more,

It hurts my heart when they’re tearing up whole groves of trees,
Coz I love trees more than I ever did before,
So I say to god… god I want to help bring back the springtime of nature,

Meanwhile nature itself must be sighing,
Seeing different kinds of animals that it loves dying,

Well now there’s whole kinds of fish and birds that are there no more,
You can see them the way they are dying,
And it hurts my heart when they’re tearing down the world,
Now that I love the world, more and more,

I just don’t like the way they’re tearing up trees,
Coz I love trees more than I did before,
So I say to god… bring back springtime to the world of nature.

*An unreleased song, performed at Jonathan Swifts, Boston, 1982.

The plight of the Passenger Pigeon...

Last year we were visiting Edinburgh, and went into the Royal Museum. Among the many exhibits was a display of extinct species of birds and mammals. Looking into the displays of creatues & and reading their reasons for extinction was both sad and moving.

Coming away from Edinburgh I wanted to find out some more, especially the story of the Passenger Pigeon, which though I'd heard its name before I knew nothing of its plight. Maybe its story is told in some schools, but not in mine in the UK; anyway here's some of what I found out...


Passenger Pigeons were once the most common bird in North America, probably outnumbering all the other birds in the world, their numbers were estimated to be up to 5 billion birds (yes, thats 5 billion) flying in the skies in enormous flocks.

They were quite an impressive looking bird, larger than you might think, about the size of a large dove, males with a bright red chest plumage.

Flocks could number many, many, millions of birds, flying together up to 1 mile deep, 5 miles wide and 100's of miles long... so vast were the numbers said to be that that they took several days to fly overhead, reportedly making the skies turn dark...

So, if they were so numerous how did they become extinct?

Enter mankind... and unchecked hunting.

Unregulated hunting seems to be largely responsible for the death of the Passenger Pigeon, and removal of their roosts for breeding too. Because they were so common they were also very easy to hunt, for food or feathers, hunters used nets, guns, poles, and smoke to suffocate nesting birds (100's of birds nested in each tree were an easy target) plus many other methods.

In the 1850's it was becoming apparent that the numbers of birds were reducing but nothing was done to outlaw their hunting... 'because they are so common they need no protection'.

They were seen as a cheap food for growing cities, whole trainloads of many thousands of birds being shipped daily to New York, Michigan and other cities. One operation in New York is said to have harvested 18,000 birds each day throughout 1855.

Indiscriminate hunting and loss of seed trees eventually took it's course, setting the birds into an extinction vortex, and by the 1890's adverts were being placed asking for sightings of wild passenger pigeons.

The last passenger pigeon, Martha, lived alone in the Cincinnati Zoo, for a while the zoo had been offering $1000 to anyone able to supply a male passenger pigeon for mating with Martha, unfortunately the reward was never claimed.

In 1914 Martha died, the last of her entire species.

"Men still live who, in their youth remember pigeons; trees still live that, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a few decades hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know."

"We grieve because no living man will ever see again the onrush of victorius birds, sweeping a path for spring across the March skies, chasing the defeated winter from all of the woods and prairies."

"There will always be pigeons in books and in museums but they are dead to all hardships and to all delights. They cannot dive out of a cloud, nor clap their wings in thunderous applause. They know no urge of seasons; they feel no kiss of sun, no lash of wind and weather, they live forever by not living at all."

from A Monument to the Pigeon.

Aldo Leopold, 1947.

Saturday, October 8

40 Watt Club, Athens

last night at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia

:: set list ::
Give Paris One More Chance
(?) the song about how he loves with his body not with words
Springtime in New York
"this is not a song this is just fooling around"
In Che Mondo Viviamo
Let Her Go Into the Darkness
Corner Store (by request)
Summer Feeling
Pablo Picasso
Older Girl
19 in Naples
Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow
Les Etoiles
Vincent Van Gogh
My Baby Love Love Loves Me

Walter Johnson

Friday, October 7

FWIW: Quiet Please

Allentown (PA) Morning Call
October 6, 2005

"When Jonathan Richman performed at Philadelphia's North Star Bar in 2003, he and the crowd quarreled throughout his 85-minute show over the sound level. Many wanted singer-acoustic guitarist Richman and drummer Tommy Larkins to play louder, but Richman stubbornly insisted the audience make less noise or move closer.

"On Tuesday, the battle will no doubt resume when the 54-year-old performer with the childlike persona and fierce punk-rocker's heart will play at Philadelphia's Theatre of Living Arts. The multi-lingual Richman likely will be performing some songs in Spanish and French -- he may even do the sublimely silly "Couples Must Fight," where he replicates a quarrel in five languages. And there will be those extended acoustic guitar solos, and repeated outbursts of spastic dancing padding the performance.

"But despite his many eccentricities, Richman is one of a kind, with a wealth of wonderful, whimsical material that dates back a quarter-century to his days fronting the Modern Lovers. No one is capable of songs such as "Pablo Picasso," "Roadrunner," "Back inYour Life," "Rooming House on Venice Beach," "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,""My Career as a Homewrecker," "Give Paris One More Chance," "Vincent Van Gogh,"etc.

"Now, if only he would play them."

Monday, October 3

Erasing Clouds... Yesterdays music is still alive.

This is rock and roll, no matter what music history books will tell us. What, you can't write a rock n' roll song about how much you love New England? Or dedicate a rock song to an insect? Or base one around the idea that when Martians come to earth, the first thing we need to ask them is what flavor of ice cream they like the most? The vision of life on Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers is as unconventional, within the contexts of rock music, popular music in general, art, and life, as those of beloved eccentrics like Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart - and it's just as subversive and rebellious, perhaps even more so.

Read the rest at: