Tuesday, March 7

Interview from Q Magazine (from back in 1993)

Part One...

Occupants of automobiles cruising the road betwixt the crumbling house of Margaret Mitchell (she who wrote Gone with the Wind) and the shiny tower of Ted Turner (he who invented CNN and married Jane Fonda) are peering from their shaded windows and wondering at a tall, stick like figure prancing upon the small park’s kempt grass. With his arms he performs the motions of excited windmills; his legs are doing things that wouldn’t look out of place on a puppet; or a horse; or a puppet-horse. And if they could but hear it, Atlanta’s drivers would notice that said figure is singing a little tune to himself, which goes something like “Whooo-whooo-shooo”.

What manner of loon is this? A released-into-the-community statistic or a performance artiste or what? It is very hard to say. But look a little closer: the big nose and the black hair and the strangely leering eyes, they all seem a little familiar. Yes, it is Jonathan Richman, the gawky “kid” from the Boston suburbs, the barmily “different” pop singer who was famous for some moments back in the days when all about him were New Wave and punks, and who isn’t famous any more. It is 1993 and Jonathan Richman is dancing in the park.

“Tom” he says to me in his deep and precise tones (which on occasion, adopt the attitude of a hostile growl), “Tom, I’m not dancing. I’m just working out. I’m just loosening up.”

“Why are you working out, loosening up, Jonathan?” I ask from my seat on a bench. He raises his left leg in the air – almost but not quite, balletic. “Because I hate sitting down. I always hated sitting down ever since I was a kid and they expected you to sit down. I just hate sitting down.”

Jonathan Richman is 41. It’s all of 30 years since he discovered rock’n’roll, stood up all day with the radio on, the transistor radio glued to his ear. In the past, much has been made of his childhood, of how he was, supposedly, a shy and useless youth who “started a group (The Modern Lovers) because I was lonely and figured that way I’d make friends” But these days, it seems, he doesn’t care to dwell upon the past, or talk of his lost youth.

“I’m not here to talk to you for a biography,” he says, somewhat tetchily, “My childhood was sometimes happy and sometimes sad. It covered a period of time from age zero to age 18 and I just can’t remember all the stuff that happened.”

Neither is The Modern Lovers, the incarnation (Richman, David Robinson, Jerry Harrison, Ernie Brooks) which recorded the “legendary” The Modern Lovers LP in the early 1970s, a subject fit for discussion. “I have respect for people and I don’t talk about any band. I never say bad things about any other people in print because it’s plain just not any other peoples business. Some people in interviews take the opportunity to say rude things, but if I’m going to say it, I’ll say it to the person in person and leave the press out of it. Anyone can fall out with people. That’s no mark of shame is it?”

to be continued...

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