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

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