Thursday, November 24

Reno Reno Reno

That line about Reno
Reno Gazette-Journal

Even the country-music challenged can probably anticipate the "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" line in Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Here are some other songs that name-check Reno. The trend is that most of them are unflattering.

Bruce Springsteen: "Reno." The song about time spent with a prostitute doesn't mention our city in the lyrics.

Grateful Dead: "Friend of the Devil," has the line "lit out from Reno, I was trailed by 20 hounds."

Beck: "Loser." "Baby's in Reno with the vitamin D," the line says.

Woody Guthrie: "Philadelphia Lawyer," with the line "Way out in Reno, Nevada, where romance blooms and fades, a great Philadelphia lawyer was in love with a Hollywood maid."

R.E.M.: "All the Way to Reno," about an aspiring celebrity.

Hank Snow: "I've Been Everywhere," which name-checks dozens of cities, including Reno. Johnny Cash covered this song.

Doug Supernaw: "Reno," with the line "lady's a lot like Reno, she ain't got a heart and she don't care when you're down." Ouch.

Jonathan Richman: "Reno," with the repeated line "Reno, Reno, Reno, honey, Reno."

Fairport Convention: "Reno, Nevada"

Too Much Joy: "Thanksgiving in Reno," with the line "at the $5.99 buffet, in Reno on Thanksgiving Day, nobody seemed to care why anyone else was there."

... and then there's former attorney general Janet Reno, and that Mike Reno guy from Loverboy, but he never actually sang about the Biggest Little City.
I Eat with Gusto, Damn! You Bet

Tuesday, November 15

Folk-Punk Chesnutt Spins On Music

Vic Chesnutt claims he would need to release somewhere around four albums a year to truly satisfy his songwriting jones. He says he's always either at the piano, with the guitar or whittling down lyrics. The 41-year-old has even taken to recording songs on his computer while in transit from one tour stop to the next.

"It's something that I've been doing since I was a kid . . . at any time I'm dying to put out a new record," Chesnutt said over the phone from Minnesota, where he just wrapped up a stint with Jonathan Richman the night before. "I realize, though, that's just not the way things work."

Chesnutt is a Southern-reared folk punk with a wicked wit and profound vision.

There's a stoic - almost didactic - quality to his music, which flows through a variety of channels. He's just as at home delivering moody stripped-down numbers that sound like they were recorded on a four-track in a bedroom as he is playing with a string and horn section.

His most recent effort, March's "Ghetto Bells," features jazz icon Bill Frisell helming guitar duties and multi-instrumentalist Van Dyke Parks on everything from accordion to piano.

"With that record, I really went into the studio with the mind-set of just trying to be a player in the band," said Chesnutt, who's been in a wheelchair since a car accident paralyzed him when he was 18. "When you're with musicians as good as those guys, you just want to let them do whatever they feel is best for the song."

However, at the heart of all of his songwriting - grandiose arrangement or sparse - is a sense of melancholy and introspection. Though he says he's often been accused of being a stream-of-consciousness writer, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ever the craftsman, Chesnutt admits he pores over songs time and time again until he feels the lyrics convey exactly what he wants. He says his rural upbringing plays a large part in the imagery behind his phrasing, but inspiration can strike from anywhere.

Whether it be one line that he's trying to build around or a specific topic he wants to touch upon, his songs are weighty and below the surface. The listeners might completely miss his point upon first listen, but that's part of the fun.

"In a short song, you've only got so many words to work with, so I try to make sure that every single one of them is loaded," he said. "The goal is to make the songs dense enough to last forever. . . . There's got to be some kind of hidden second meaning that might not be apparent until it's been heard on several occasions."

Chesnutt will play solo during his upcoming Southern California appearances at the request of tourmate, mercurial songbird Rickie Lee Jones.

"I love playing solo; it's a completely different experience to playing a band," he said. "It doesn't matter to me if I've recorded the songs with a complete arrangement, they all started off with just me."


Wednesday, November 9

Les Etoiles


(click on the song's name on the site to play)

Friday, November 4

Revolution Summer & Love and the Monster

Jonathan's involved with writing the music for a new film, Revolution Summer by Miles Montalbano, which is in post production right now.

This'll be the second time that Jonathan has assisted this director; apparently a couple of years ago he wrote the score for an 11 minute black comedy... 'Love and the Monster'.

The Bostonians #7: Nancy Neon & Billy Borgioli

It is a true pleasure for me to introduce you to two true
modern artists who played and/or interacted up to today
in Boston's music scene.
Nancy Neon is an impeccable editor. reviewer, journalist
she contributes regularly to "the NOISE" , the alternative
Boston mag. I have always appreciated her flawless taste
and her witty remarks. Like me she is a die hard Lyres and
Zombies fan. And she is Billy's muse. Nancy gets mentionned
in Kenne Highland's cult song "Pundjabi daba".

Nancy and Billy (courtesy of BGN)

Billy Borgioli was in the Real Kids first line-up and his
contribution to the sound of the band was essential.

The Real Kids: John Felice, Alpo and Billy (Billy B. collection)

Billy later co-lead the Classic Ruins with Franck Rowe
and eventually both of them duetted on their vintage
Les paul guitars in the awesome Varmints.
I highly recommend the CD "Assorted Varmints
1989-1997" , it is the genuine missing link between the first
and the second Real Kids albums. There is this perfect line
in the opening song which goes "I don't wanna die like Elvis.."
Billy nowadays is also doing painting.

- What was the first Jonathan song you ever
heard? when was it?

Billy Borgioli:I first heard "Roadrunner" on the radio
in Boston when it first came out.
Nancy Neon:I ordered BESERKLEY CHARTBUSTERS because of a
write up in CREEM in 1975. It had a hard rock band called Earthquake,
a pop combo called the Rubinoos, and future pop star of "Jeopardy"
fame,Greg Kihn. Much more to my liking were the 4 Richman cuts
"It Will Stand","New Teller", "Government Center", and "Road Runner".
I must admit I had never seen or heard anything like Richman,
a short haired, clean cut rebel who sang like he had some adenoid
condition. I liked the whole dichotomy of nostalgia for the
old world and romanticism of the new world. He was clearly cut
from a one-of-a-kind mold and I was pleased to find that he also
had a kick ass lil rock'n'roll combo as MODERN LOVERS on the same
label paid accurate testimony.

- Did you ever see the original Modern Lovers on stage ?

Billy:I never saw them live.
Nancy:I would have loved to have seen them before he decided
David Robinson should bang on a pot or whatever as opposed to
playing drums. I was in high school in NC when they were playing
the Cambridge Common and that sort of thing. Are there any good
videos of some early, rockin' shows I'd like to know.

- Your favourite album and favourite songs ?

Billy:"She Cracked" off the John Cale produced MODERN LOVERS
on Berserkley.
Nancy:In my mind,there isn't a flaw in this rock 'n' roll
treasure trove-MODERN LOVERS on Berserkley. "Roadrunner" is
a brilliant rock 'n' roll love song to the Boston area. Since
he's from Natick, it's probably about the excitement of driving
into Boston or Cambridge from his home in the suburbs,Natick.
"Astral Plane" is great,too,a different deeper sort of love song
where you meet your soulmate in another dimension.
"Old World" and "New World" show Richman's love for antiquity
and modernity(?)."Pablo Picasso" has one of the funniest lines/rhymes
in music "Some people like to pick up girls and get called asshole/
But that never happened to Pablo Picasso."

(Jacques : one of my favourite lines in that album will always be :
"I go to bakeries all day long/there's a lack of sweetness in my life")
"She Cracked" is the wildest rocker of the bunch. "Hospital" has
some of the most moving lines and Richman really uses that nasally
vocal to underscore the depth of his emotion
"I don't care what you do.. I'm in love with you eyes"
"Someone I Care About" combines rock and romance. Though I dig
"Girlfriend",he's let the goofy element start to slip out.
But overall,this album is grade A all the way.

- When was your first Jonathan concert ?

Billy:I haven't seen any of his shows.
Nancy:I'd go see him if I could jump into ye olde
WAYBACK MACHINE and see them in the Cambridge Common.
when it was David Robinson, Ernie Brooks, Jerry Harrison
with Jonathan Richman. I'd also like to see Richman when
he was playing with John Felice .

- Are you familiar with his recent CDs ?
Do you like the way his music has evolved?

Billy:I'm not familar with his recent CDS.
Nancy:Yeah,I haven't followed Richman's career,but as far
as the cool,vintage stuff there's a wonderful bootleg called
SONGS OF REMEMBRANCE. The choice of songs are top notch and
the performances, from several venues and dates ,are blazing!!!
Highly recommended if you can dig it up somewhere.

- any comments about his cameo appearance
in "Something about Mary" ?

Billy: I thought it came across as goofy. I thought it was
pretty funny when he got shot out of the tree.
(Billy's memories are confused as it is at the end of the movie nearby the sea that
Jonathan is shot)
Nancy: Well, old Jo Jo has certainly aged well-it must be
all that clean living he sung about and from what I've heard
he is the real thing. Straight edge before straight edge!!
Richman still has that odd charisma that comes through even
in that cameo. If he comes across like that live, I'd be
interested in seeing a current show.

- As you are close to the Boston rock scene how do
you judge Jonathan influence on the local musicians ?

Billy:It is hard to say because the music scene here is so
diverse and so the bands' influences are also extremely diverse.
Nancy: I'm sure that Richman inspired a lot of people to put
a band together for the first time in a similar way that Lou Reed
made kids want to write and play music. There's a realness and
honesty to Richman's work that is inspiring. As far as influencing
the sound of the bands' music, that is more subtle. I can see where
the rock'n'roll bands around here seem more directly influenced by
the New York Dolls and the Stooges.

- In his songs, Jonathan often refers to Boston,
do you recognize that Boston or do you think
that Jonathan memories are only fed by nostalgia
for a city which does not exist anymore ?

Billy:The things that Richman writes and sings about still exist
because Boston still exists.
Nancy:Hey,Jacques,that is an excellent question. Firstly while on
one level, I agree with Billy that the Boston of Richman's songs
still exists. People still drive into the city from the suburbs on
Route 128. People still drive past the Stop And Shop.(One of the
first things I did when I moved to Boston was to apply for a
Stop and Shop discount card!) The Government Center is still here.
People still enjoy Impressionist art like Cezanne at the Museum Of
Fine Art. Yet, the way you ask the question lets me know that you
already know the answer and that is to a certain extent the Boston
of Richman's music exists in his heart and mind. This may not be
the best analogy,but one I think is somewhat accurate. You know
the Manhattan of Woody Allen movies. Well,the Manhattan of
Woody Allen movies on one level really exists. On a deeper level,
the Manhattan of Allen's movies is his own creation. When you love
something like Richman loves Boston, you paint it with a certain
patina that a photograph could not capture. Richman's Boston
is a romanticized version in my opinion. And this is the Boston
I fell in love with when I first visited here in 1976.

- Have you got any anecdote related to
Jonathan to tell us ?

Billy:The drummer of the Nervous Eaters,Jeff Wilkinson(RIP)
knew Jonathan Richman.

Jeff Wilkinson

He introduced Alpo and me to Richman.
When we were talking to him we mentioned we didn't want to do
covers anymore,but between Alpo and I ,we didn't have that many
originals. He said he knew a songwriter who was looking for a band .
Richman introduced us to John Felice and we started the Real Kids
with the original drummer Kevin Glasheen.
Nancy:My anecdote also involves the great,departed drummer,
Jeff Wilkinson. I heard that when Jeff was married to Gail,Richman
fell in love with Jeff's wife and used to camp out in their front yard.
I heard Jeff turned the garden hose on Jo Jo!! Better than a cold shower,
but evidently it didn't cool Richman off for long. He ended up
stealing Gail and eventually marrying her. He even has a song
"Gail Loves Me". I must say that Richman sunk in my estimation
when I heard this especially in the light of how well loved
Jeff was and what an interloper Richman came across as.
By the way,.Jeff's son,Jason,I think it is, has a band now and
is also a drummer. Check them out on the internet, the Lonely Kings,
I've gotta double check this.

- What cover of a Jonathan song would you like
to be performed by a Boston band today
(I can imagine Mr Airplane man covering
"astral plane" , but I am not sure that Mr Airplane man
still exists)

Billy:I prefer bands to do their own songs.
Nancy: For comedic effect,I'd like to hear Little Hippie
Johnny Felice sing "I'm straight".

Thursday, November 3

Elsa Dorfman

copyright elsa dorfman 2005 all rights reserved
copyright elsa dorfman 2005 all rights reserved

Elsa's Portraits of Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins (and others!)

Wednesday, November 2

The Bostonians #6 : Bob Colby - part 2 -

Following the first part,
the link to which being listed below thanks to R_b,

here we find Bob confronted to Jonathan twice and
learning from him about attitudes and little insects...

Bob and friend

- Have you got any anecdote related to Jonathan to
tell us ?

I never got to know Jonathan all that well on a
personal level, but I do have two little stories.

One day (this must have been around '72 or '73)
I tagged along with John Felice on a visit to Jonathan.
All I remember about the location was that it was
somewhere on Beacon Hill.
As someone who had recently began to outgrow hippiedom,
I had developed a bit of an attitude.
That day, Jonathan fixed all that.
I noticed that he had this gospel album out (I think it
may have been a Jamaican gospel group, but I'm not
sure), and I opined that
they looked a bit, well, lame.

Jonathan responded with
"yeah, not like real *tough guys* like *you*".
And you just had to be there to hear how he said that.
It was about two weeks before I could feel more than
two feet tall.
So if you ran into me a few years later and thought
I was somewhat less attitudinal than your
average punk fan, you may have
Jonathan to thank for that!

Now we go forward to mid-75.
I was briefly (about a month) roommates with Felice that year,
and this time it was Jonathan who paid a visit.

Let me say right here that I don't share Jonathan's
warm feelings toward little insects (or big ones
either). We were having problems with some flying
ones, and I'd put up a pest strip, this sticky thing
that hung from the ceiling and that the bugs were
supposed to fly into and get stuck.
Jonathan was having none of this.
He picked up the pest strip and carried it downstairs,
all the while making up a little song
about how he was going to get rid of nerve gas
(my memory tells me that he was playing his guitar
while he was doing this, but perhaps my subconscious
is just over-elaborating).
After disposing of it, he walked back upstairs
singing about how he had just*gotten* rid of nerve gas.
I was too dumbstruck to say a damn thing.
(to be continued .. yes... )

love that dirty water*

I know this is a little late but I wanted to point you to Modern Kicks again to listen to songs by some Bostonians, Willie Alexander and The Lyres. MK, besides being in the teensy state of Rhode Island, and in the ultra-cool town of Providence, likes all the things we like, including art and philosophy, food and poetry, cats and New England, music and beer.

Our very own Jacques has been assembling a fine series on The Bostonians. If you're new to Jojoblog, or want to read them again, here they are:

The Bostonians #1: Willie "loco" Alexander

The Bostonians #2: Jeff Conolly (The Lyres)

The Bostonians #3: Alex Piandes

The Bostonians #4: Brett Milano

The Bostonians #5: Blowfish

The Bostonians #6: Bob Colby

Jacques' remarkable Modern Lovers Tree traces the relationships between the Bostonians and the Modern Lovers:


PS. Buena Día de los Muertos

(link via Five Branch Tree)

*Dirty Water Lyrics