Friday, April 28

Vintage pictures of rememberance

Here are some pictures which are like covers of albums with unreleased songs..

"Don't let our youth go to waste ", but already the fondness for striped shirts.
The white necklace seems a bit odd, not really the perfect taste even for this hairstyle. Speaking of which, the next pic is quite eloquent ...

"Cambridge clown" , were we really wearing our hair this way, ouzbeck helmet style ?
Notice again the striped shirt and the hairy chest

Wednesday, April 19

Jonathan and Damien

The smell of the air
and the wind on my face
makes me remember
other places
and other times
when I wasn't
in hell

-- Damien Echols

Another Fine Man Behind Bars
Jonathan Richman interviews Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three

Jonathan hasn't been touring lately but he has some public appearances in California lined up for May and June.

12 May: Reading poetry by Damien Echols at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Jonathan will be auctioning off one of his own artworks to help pay expenses for The West Memphis Three defense fund
16 May: Paradise Lost 2: Revelations Film Screening at The Attic in Santa Cruz. Jonathan will be speaking about his visit with Damien Echols on Death Row. Greg 'Curly' Keranen will be performing as João Dilberto (heads-up: Curly has Vincent Van Gogh mp3 on his website).
3 June: Benefit for The West Memphis Three at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on June 3 (see show info) with Mark Kozelek, Chuck Prophet, and Tommy Guerrero. June 3 is also The West Memphis Three Worldwide Awareness Day.

Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra and Jonathan Richman to Speak at "Skeleton Key" Art Auction Benefit for WM3

On May 12th at 6:00 PM, 111 Minna Gallery (111 Minna Street between New Montgomery & 2nd St.) hosts a reception for "Skeleton Key," an art exhibit featuring pieces by death row inmate Damien Echols and several other artists to benefit the WM3 Defense Fund. This one-night-only event includes music, speaking, and poetry readings by punk legends Henry Rollins and [tentatively] Jello Biafra, veteran rocker Jonathan Richman, Penelope Houston of the Avengers, Michale Graves (former singer of the Misfits), Jacob Pitts of Strangers With Candy, and former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. Richman will auction one of his own creations to help the defense fund prove Echols' innocence. The gallery showing opens at 12 PM, and includes works by Winston Smith, Shepard Fairey, and Jonathan Richman. Visit or call 415.974.1719 for more info. Donations will be accepted at the door.

more backstage
Thanks to Allan Hough for his help.

Monday, April 17

Favourite childhood songs...

The Janice Long Show – 1985

A UK radio interview from 1985. Jonathan’s talking about touring and some of his favourite childhood songs (all of which are included as MP3 downloads).

(In two parts – the second will follow)

The show opens with the single, ‘Roadrunner’, after which the interview begins…

Janice Long - (laughing) “I’ve had my own private performance there, you actually sang along to that, standing up, performing doing the whole bit. Welcome Jonathan Richman.”

Jonathan - “Hi.”

“That’s wonderful to see, because so many people, when you play their record no matter who, they just go, oh… and they sort of hide and shrivel up and things, you’re the first person I’ve ever seen actually enjoy their own thing.”

“Yeah, I like the good ones (laughing) and if you want to see me shrink you just play some of the bad ones.”

“But that particular song, I was saying to you before, people put it into a category and say it’s a summer record, but you didn’t in fact write it in the summer.”

“In the winter, and for those in the British Isles who understand Fahrenheit versus Centigrade and Celsius all, we’re talking negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and I don’t know how you say it except we’re almost talking like artic circle.”


“You know, so, what else would make me think of summer.”

“I thought of it, if anything, as a fall record too, coz when falls starting, that’s when you’re starting to miss summer, but in the middle of summer you don’t miss it coz it’s right there. So, I never saw it as a summer record myself”

“So do you have big bad winters in…? I mean is it Boston where you actually live”

“It was where I grew up, and Maine is heavier than Boston. I live with Gail and our two kids we live out in the west now. Partly coz, she grew up in Vermont, Gail did, which is just like Maine. In other words COLD, and she’d had enough”

“You’ve just come back from Madrid, haven’t you?”

“Just now.”

"What was that like?”


“I like Spain, played in Barcelona with the band. So me, Asa, and Andy who’s filling in for our usual drummer Michael, just played two nights in this great club, worked out wonderful.”

“What happens when you’re on tour, what about Gail and the children?”

“They came, Gail came last time, last year, but since we have a new baby who’s going to be three months, no good… she can’t travel now, so, another few days I’ll be back there”

“Obviously you must miss them when you’re on tour?”

“Yeah, especially when I learn how the baby’s growing.”

“So you’ll be looking forward to getting back?”

“Very much”

“Right let’s play your first choice of music, and its Little Eva, ‘Keep your hands off my baby’. Why do you like this?”

“Okay, when I was in sixth grade back in 1962, I would come back home from school, this was ’63 in fact. Well, it was the fall of ’62, and I guess I heard it once on the radio, I bought it, and I would just play it, I wouldn’t even each lunch, and I like to eat lunch. So, I would just play it 11 or 12 times in a row, that was all I needed, then I would go back to the sixth grade. It was just one of those ones that… my god.”

“Listen to those saxophones, listen to everything, sounds like a thunderstorm…”

Little Eva - Keep your hands off my Baby MP3

Janice – “For goodness sake (laughing) sit down… Little Eva and ‘Keep your hands off my Baby’, the first choice of Jonathan Richman. Are you hyperactive?”

Jonathan – “No, I just don’t like to sit down much.”

“You were really enjoying yourself there, and you knew every note and every beat and every bit of sax and everything didn’t you?”

“Oh Yeah, just about, and the guitar part.”

“Are you like that with all music?”

“No, only stuff that kills me”

“Can you remember the first record that you ever bought?”

“It was either one of two, either Beep Beep, like on roulette, an old novelty record, or…”

“Beep-Beep, Beep-Beep… that one?”

“Right, or it was either… it wasn’t ‘one eye, two horned, flying purple people eater’… it was,

‘I told the witch doctor he told me what to do,
Oh eh, oh, ah ah, ting tang, wallah wallah bing bang,’

Remember that? It was an old novelty record.”

“I don’t know that at all.”

“I was probably about seven, and my father bought it, that’s who bought it.”

Beep Beep MP3

Purple People Eater MP3

Witch Doctor MP3

“Were you a musical kid?”

“No, No one would have figured, check this voice, listen to what’s talking here, (laughing) this was the loudest voice in my class, but would not be picked as the most likely to become a professional singer, No.”

“So what did you want to do when you left school?”

“Baseball. Until when I was 13 or 14, and I got discouraged, coz, I stayed about 5ft 2 when I was 13.”

“You soon made up for it.”

“Yeah, but that didn’t happen ‘til I was 17, grew about 8 inches in 2 years, but when I was 15 or 16 I was still 5ft 2 or 3.”

“But by which time you’d stopped playing baseball presumably?”

“I’d got discouraged. Those other guys were already six feet tall, and eh, if I could do it over again I might have not got discouraged so easy.”

“Would you like to have been a baseball player still? I mean, do you think gosh that’s what I’d love to have done?”

“I’d rather do this, but still sometimes when I see those other guys that are a lot younger than me out on the diamond, that old feeling comes back…”

“The urge”

‘The Loving Spoonful’, now you’ve picked a John Sebastian song, which is ‘Do you believe in Magic’.”

“Loving Spoonful… well, me and my family were going down in the station wagon to New York City one time in 1965, on a sort of little trip, and that song would just come on the radio, and, like the Little Eva one, I would just play it over and over again…”

The Lovin Spoonful - Do you believe in Magic? MP3

Janice – “The Lovin’ Spoonful and ‘Do you Believe in Magic’. You actually saw them play didn’t you?”

Jonathan - “Yes, three times, first on March 5th 1966”

“You can remember that far back, the actual date?”

“Yes, and then was it July 31st, or was it July 30th 1966, and maybe February 7th or 8th in 1968” But then Zal had already… Zal Yanovsky left the band.”

“How can you remember such specific dates?”

“I’m good with numbers, not so good with names, but I’m great with numbers I can remember old phone numbers from the 3rd or 4th grade.”

“That’s incredible.”

“I know, I amaze my friends that way, and I don’t try.”

“You weren’t one of these dreadful people at school where you, that didn’t have to revise? You could just sort of look at something and remember it really quickly?”

“No ‘coz it only worked with numbers, and I wasn’t that good in math, coz I didn’t understand how to do things, I could remember numbers, but I wasn’t that great with math or anything.”

“Do you still go and see concerts and gigs and things?”

“No… Oh, I tell you who I saw the other night that killed me, we happened to be playing the same place as Desmond Decker. If he was playing tonight I’d go again and again.”

“You really enjoyed that?”

“No I hated it (laughing), that’s why I’d go and see him again and again.”

“Actually, I think I saw him once, It was about, must be about 8 years ago.”

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing Desmond Decker since about 1972, so he’s been one of my favourite singers, so I got to see Desmond Decker, and that’s one of the few shows I’ve seen in several months.”

“What do you think of Bruce Springsteen?”

“Very nice man, I’ve met him, nice fellow.”

“But I mean his following is absolutely incredible; and people are saying he’s the future of rock and roll, can you see that?”

“Well I don’t know, he’s doing pretty good in the present.”

“Dee Dee Sharp… ‘Gravy for my Mashed Potatoes’.

“Yeah, Dee Dee Sharp, check that voice, listen to that drummer, that Philadelphia sound…”

Dee Dee Sharp - Gravy for my Mashed Potatos MP3

go here for part 2

Sunday, April 16

Jonathan Richman: rebellious straight-man, Warhol fan, insect-lover, roadrunner (but not in jogging shoes)

songs are different ©2006 RB

How to get Jonathan Richman? You might ponder the introduction to his signature tune, Roadrunner, in which the singer starts off by counting to six. Or you could examine the irony of the fact that Richman, a gifted lyricist, has had only one hit record, Egyptian Reggae- an instrumental.

Usually, Richman shies away from offering answers. He is a reluctant interviewee, quite unsuited to self-analysis. And yet, on his DVD, Take Me To The Plaza, he is, if not exactly explaining his art, talking around it. At first, he explains that many of the printed interviews with him have been fictional. Interview magazine in the early 1970s: he never said half that stuff. The Kansas City Pitch: that interview never took place. NME, he says, printed interviews that never happened ...

-- Alastair McKay (thanks Alastair!)

go backstage to read the rest

via Alternatives to Valium

Monday, April 10

The Bostonians #11 : JJ Rassler

JJ Rassler is some garage rock veteran, he co-founded DMZ in the 70's, a band of too many talents which never got the right recognition though the cult status was always there. David Robinson, on leave from the disbanded Modern Lovers played with DMZ before joining the Cars. JJ had other bands , the Odds, the Queers and today he is leading Boston's most creative band The Downbeat 5. His sharp guitar playing cuts through well aimed licks and reverberates Jen D'Angora singing , these two play as if their lifes were in danger.
(see also the Bostonians #10 : Jen D'Angora)

JJ in action

- When was the first time you saw Jonathan Richman live and how was it ?

Jonathan used to appear on the Cambridge Common, a small park outside of Harvard Square. They used to feature bands playing for free on weekends. Usually local ones, sometimes a national act, but usually who ever they could get. Every now and then a young kid would get up by himself and sing with just his guitar. The songs are off-kilter and odd in many ways. Often witty, some just strange. This was not be be mistaken for any singer/songwriter of the kind that Boston was known for, the Tom Rush, James Tayplor type, not at all. This was very different, but unusually popular. The locals, as I was newly transplanted from hometown Phila. PA, all went nuts for him. My friends noticed the quizzical look of 'what the fuck..." and was quickly told, rather matter-of-factly, "that's just Jonathan, he's great, ya oughta see him with his band!" This was in 1970.

- What did you think of the Modern Lovers then, thinking that nowadays
they are considered as the godfathers of punk rock ?

Several weeks after seeing the Cambridge Common solo show, I did see Jonathan with the band, the Modern Lovers. I was instantly hooked. Very forceful in an unpolished, raw way. Primitive, but clearly on a mission. I had been in my own band in Philadelphia in the 60's and had seen many many shows by a wide range of rock acts, including The Velvet Underground. This music was fresh to me, but not at all foreign. I was clearly on a path to make myselff available to any local show the Modern Lovers were to play. I did see them about 6 or 7 times within the next couple years. I was very much into them and their sound. As ragged as it might have been on occasion, as quirky as some songs may have seemed, ther was something urgent and immediately identifiable to me.

- Were you familiar with the members of the Modern Lovers as local musicians ?

I saw the drummer, David Robinson, around before we actually met. There was a club called the Grog that alot of the more rock and roll bands hung at. Cambridge was rather parochial in their tastes. Blues or folk reigned supreme. Boston had fewer clubs that catered to non-commerical bands, but some, like the Grog and the Catacombs, were haunts. When their 1st LP was finally released, which seemed to take forever, the local scene had evolved more. The tune, "Roadrunner", was a local fave on the radio station (WBCN) where I worked, and was a kind of anthem for a lot of the crowd I ran with. By then, there several more bands around town that had a leaning towards NYC and UK sounds rather than Boston's common fare.

- Did they influence your band, DMZ in the same sense as the New York Dolls ?

Well, it's difficult to to say we were'nt. Of course we were, but not as a design or pattern. "Roadrunner" like I say, was rather anthematic and a call-to-arms in many ways, as was "Mass.Ave", by Willie "Loco" Alexander. Both of those tunes we (Peter Greenberg and myself; DMZ's founders) felt were very much akin to the music we wanted to create. The Dolls of coursed influenced us as well. I'd seen them a dozen times or so, and their straight ahead approach to real rock and roll and blues ala Stones, with the over-the-top on and off stage mentality hit straight home with us. This was at a time when the Clockwork Orange framework of the Droogs was transfering itself into bands. We were caught up in that. Jonathan and Willie on the homefront and the Dolls and Dictators in NY were all influential on us. This was 1975 heading into 1976. In Dec 1975, Greenburg and I went to see Patti Smith, one of her first shows outside of New York. That sealed the deal. We'd talked for months about a forming a band and that week started what was to become DMZ. All of those elements had their effect. In May of 1976 I ran into David Robinson who stopped by and asked if I was in DMZ. "Yes" I said and he proceeded to tell me how much he liked us and asked, "how's it going?". I told him we were lookin for a new drummer, and asked him what was up. Said he'd left the Modern Lovers and his LA band called POP, and was now back in Boston looking for a band. He joined DMZ right away.
By then of course, we were playing frequently with the Real Kids, whose leader, John Felice had also been in the Lovers. When DMZ signed to Sire, we ran into Jerry Harrison a bit. So, I don;t know if it was influences as much as connections and coincidences.
DMZ : JJ is top left, in front Monoman
- What do you think of Jonathan evolution when he changed his style ?

Well, many artists go through their changes and sometimes the audience can go with them or say they want the old "so-and-so" back. Look at Dylan in 65. Or the changes in Bowie, or Bolan throughout their careers. Or countless others, some drastic, some not so. Some continuously change. I think Jonathan had balls for taking such sharp turns in his career, and had strength of character to sustain it.

- You are working with Rounder Records, was Jonathan considered when he was on that label ?

Jonathan recorded several albums for Rounder records, the label where I've worked for close to 20 years. Each one had it's own character and personality. I was glad that Rounder offered him the room to be himself. We were a much smaller label then, and our promotional and marketing teams were stills years away from a reality. If those were in place when Jonathan was with us, we may have been able to go alot further together.

- What is your favourite Jonathan song ? favourite album ?

Probably "She Cracked" from the first Modern Lovers LP

- Have you been to his recent concerts ?

Yes a few.

- Do you think Jonathan has still some influence on Boston present scene or has he been forgotten there ?

I don't think he's been forgotten here in any way. As far as a continuing influence, I'm sure, on some. As his many different personas have reached different audiences, of course he has different effects on different people.

- Which Jonathan song can you imagine your present band, the Downbeat 5, covering ?

I've always wanted the Downbeat 5 to cover "Modern World"

The Downbeat 5 RULE !!

- any anecdote related to Jonathan ?

I remember when I was in my band, The Odds, we played on a harbor booze cruise with a band called the Bones. Joe Harvard who'd worked with the Real Kids and an old pal of mine from the early 70's was in the Bones. Dave Bone from Texas' answer to the Dolls, Sons of Hercules, was also in that band. Well we were all gathered at the pier waiting to cast off, a rainy chilly night, and the Bones drummer didn't make it, and Jonathan was there. The Bones wound up having Jonathan drum for them and jam with us all for the night. It was a cold but drunken blast. This was about 1983.

Sunday, April 9

Interview from Q Magazine - 1993 (continued)

Part 2...

I’d been warned, of course. Back in the 1970s, Jonathan Richman had been dismissed by all but the aficionados as just a nutter much given to crawling about stages on all fours singing nursery-rhyme-type songs about little dinosaurs and songs about bees going buzz-buzz, about ice cram men coming down the street with their chimes, about abominable snowmen and, hey, little insects and (here come the) Marian Martians and rock’n’roll leprechauns. Richman was a child – a Pee Wee Herman figure before Pee Wee had been created – and a lunatic and when, in the 1980s, he wasn’t famous anymore, the legend continued along Syd Barrett/Arthur Lee lines. He’d been incarcerated in the bin. He never gave interviews. When he did give interviews, he’d say absolutely nothing and you’d be lucky if you escaped one of his karate chops (for as well as being a raving lunatic, he was also a martial arts expert). Little or none of this is true, but he is a rather challenging interviewee. He won’t sit down – twirl, twirl go the arms as he hops about the park – and he is reluctant to answer the questions he hears. So lets try talking about music.

Jonathan Richman, awkward teenager, was obsessed with the Velvet Underground, hung around at the group’s shows, pestered Lou Reed (even got John Cale to produce demos that turned up on the Modern Lovers album). Will he confirm this?

“Well, yeah, I loved the Velvet Underground because there was magic there… and also the Kinks and The Rolling Stones and The Lovin’ Spoonful and you know that song Roadrunner? Well, that probably wouldn’t have been written without Big Brother and the Holding Company, you know, the D-D-A part – that is a song Big Brother and the Holding Company did on one of their first albums. I forget the name of it. It goes ‘whooo-whooo-whooo’. I stole that.”

How casually he mentions it: “You know that song Roadrunner?” Roadrunner, which reached number 11 in the British charts in 1977 and made Richman famous for a bit, has been described as the definitive highway cruising anthem: for some of us, it said more about mixed-up teenagers in motor cars than Bruce Springsteen ever managed to do. (Come to think of it, for some of us, it said more about Richman’s home state than the Bee Gees’ “and the lights went down in Massachusetts” ever managed to do, too.)

Roadrunner was first recorded by the original Modern Lovers – along with songs like Hospital and She Cracked, songs that spurred rock critic Lester Bangs to write: “Only one in 20,000 has the nervy genius of Jonathan of the Modern Lovers and is willing to sing about his adolescent hang-ups in a manner so painfully honest as to embarrass the piss out of half the audience” – in 1972. In 1974 before the first LP was released, the original Modern Lovers split up. Jerry Harrison, subsequently of Talking Heads, said it was all Richmans fault because Jonathan was into astrology and all weird. Richman tells me “Tom, I’ve told you, this is not a biography, it’s not that sort of interview.” He makes it plain that he is setting the agenda, so there’s no point in asking what happened between splitting up the first group and signing to the independent label Beserkley in 1976. The legend has it that Jonathan took a guitar around children’s wards in hospitals and cheering the sick by being the infant in all of us, that he’d turn up in clubs with backing bands armed only with rolled-up newspapers which they’d slap upon thighs as accompaniment to Jonathan’s increasingly loony tunes…

It has long been suggested that you are a “loony”, Jonathan.

“That’s for you to decide,” he says, looping about the park. The eyes of the drivers peering dangerously from the road to consider these antics.

So you’re not a loony?

“A loony? It’s horseshit. You’re talking to Jonathan here and Jonathan says it’s horseshit.”

Well there was a rumour going round in about 1985 that you’d been sent away and committed to a mental institution.

Jonathan stops his gyrations for a moment to consider. And then he laughs.

“That’s funny. That’s cute. I was in an institution? That is classic. Well I’m sorry to disappoint all the people who believe in those kind of rumours but maybe they should be in institutions and not me, because in ’85 I was playing more than ever. I was still recording. Nothing had changed. The only difference was that in 1977 people wrote about me and in 1980 they didn’t, because the press suddenly decided I wasn’t worth their time any more. Roadrunner was a hit and Egyptian Reggae (a biffy instrumental based on a Chantays-type motif, a disc which could be described accurately as a novelty) was a big hit. (number 5 in 1977) The next record was not a hit. It’s that simple. I am explaining to you, you dig? So they declared me on vacation. I knew they were wrong. If I was in a mental institute in 1985, how is it that all the people who were coming to see me in clubs in Los Angeles and the Midwest and wherever weren’t wearing white coats? There’s been no vacation in 20 years.”

go back to part 1

To be continued...

Thursday, April 6

The Bostonians #10 : Jen D'Angora from the Downbeat 5

For #10 in this series I am very glad to have the first female rock musician interviewed and who else could it be but Jennifer D'Angora the dramatically attractive singer/guitar player in the Downbeat 5 and in the Dents .

From the very start of my contributions in this JojoBlog I had wished to speak about Jonathan with members of the Downbeat 5 because to me this "rock'n roll quartet" today is giving the Boston area the new fuel to revive the scene in the same way as the Modern Lovers did in the 70's. The Downbeat 5 has two CDs out, "ism" and "Victory Motel", which have become already instantaneous classics. Listen to Jen's voice, added to those guitar licks from JJ Rassler .. they will make you understand why I am having great hopes for this awesome band. They rule !
My next interview to be will feature JJ from that same band.
You can get info on their webpage :
Jen kindly agreed to answer my questions about Jonathan...

> - When was the first time you saw Jonathan live on
> stage ? how was it ?
I've never seen Jonathan Richman live, as odd as it
may seem. I always mean to, and something always
comes up. I know it sounds lame, but there are a lot
of people I love who I've never seen live.

> - What is your favourite period of his career from
> the Modern Lovers to
> nowadays ?
To me, the original lineup and the first album beats

> - When he comes to Boston do you go and attend his
> concerts ?
Like I said, something else (like a gig) is either
going on, or I find out too late. Being in two bands
with a full time job, it's really hard to keep track
of all the shows. I rehearse twice a week and play
really often, and I've got a demanding job that I also
travel for.

> - Do you think he is still an influence on the local
> scene or is he a part
> of the past, drowned in the elephant cemetery ?
He's totally still an influence. Anytime you hear
that "I don't care" tone of voice over a very simple,
guitar driven beat, that's his influence.

> - What did you think of the Modern Lovers line up
> with Beth and Ellie ?
I liked it. I love his lyrics and his musical
personality so much, however, that it doesn't really
matter what other sounds are around, though.

> - Could you imagine yourself doing this kind of
> singing with Jonathan,
> though I know it is not your usual style ?
No, he seems really particular, first of all, from
what I've read. So I don't know why I would be part
of the equation. Hypothetically, I like to think that
I could compliment anyone's style, but that would be
up to him.

> - What is your favourite Jonathan song, album ?
"She Cracked" is my ultimate favorite song. Besides
the first album, I love "I, Jonathan."

> - What song of Jonathan's can you imagine yourself
> covering with the
> DownBeat 5 ? and with the Dents ?
"She Cracked" with The Downbeat 5, "I Was Dancing in
the Lesbian Bar" with The Dents (because it would be

> - I have the feeling that today with a band like the
> Downbeat 5 , the Boston
> music scene is starting again to get inventive as
> was the case with the
> Modern Lovers in the 70's , what do you think ?
The Downbeat 5 definitely try to keep things moving
and changing, we don't like to beat one sound to
death. Inventive is a very good word. Lots of other
bands are definitely doing the same thing. It's a
shame more bands out of Boston aren't breaking out
nationally, because there's some great music coming
out of here.

> - Any anecdote related to Jonathan ?
I met him once, when I was working at Rounder Records.
I was wearing a striped shirt that day - I thought it
was kismet or something. Anyway, someone took him
around the office to show him around, and he told me
he liked the diagram of "How to Mambo" that was
hanging on the wall of my cubicle. I'll never forget
that, it made me REALLY happy!

> Thank you again Jen, and keep on rockin' , you are a
> star !
Thanks Jacques - I hope that was helpful in some way.
I feel lame compared to other stories you've probably
collected, but I did my best! YOU are a star for
making me feel like a star!