Wednesday, September 20

The Bostonians #12 : Barry Marshall

I don't think I need to introduce Jonathan fans to Barry Marshall, he has been playing music and singing since 1975. I always had a special affection for the "family"band , the Marshalls.
Barry has been a record producer for many artists through the years. Although he is a very busy man, (he is a Professor at the New England Institute of Art, and teaches also in colleges), he kindly agreed to answer my questions.

> - First, before going on topics, do the Marshalls still exist and play as a band ? And is your sister Ellie still singing ?

Yes - to both questions. The Marshalls exist a bit loosely, we play about 10-20 gigs a year, and we still play some of our original songs from the late 70's. I put together a cd of the stuff from 1977-81. It's available on my website: barrykmarshall.com




> - when did you first hear/see Jonathan Richman ? Was it with the original Modern Lovers ? and if it is the case of was it ?

I first saw Jonathan at a Cambridge Common show walking around singing with an unplugged electric. I remember thinking he uniquely stood out in a crowd of people, many of whom were trying hard to be "different", but I didn't know who he was or anything. I figured it out later when I met him with my friend Andy Paley. Andy's band The Sidewinders were kind of friendly rivals with The Modern Lovers and I saw them together at a show.

> - what was your first impression facing Jonathan's music ?

I was absoluteley knocked out by "Roadrunner" and I did think that the original Modern Lovers were almost a genre of their own. I liked The Sidewinders even better though. They were the two best bands in Boston in that early 70s period and both influenced a ton of the later Punk and New Wave bands, both in Bosotn and New York.

> - You have been part from the Boston scene from its very beginning and have been involved in many interlinked projects with different musicians as can be seen on some compilation LPs ("the Boston Incest album") , Jonathan Richman never seemed to be part of this as if he always acted on his own.. how do you explain this ?

Well, yes and no about acting alone. He was always his own thing and about as individualistic as anyone can be in show business, but he was friendly and hung with bands and played with other bands sitting-in wise etc. He played guitar on an early Marshalls tune in the studio and sat in on some great gigs with the band (I particularly remember a high school dance where he put on an amazing show). I also saw him sit in with plenty of other bands. I think you might have that impression because he was playing and living in other places than Boston I think through most of the mid to late 70s

> - What do you think of Jonathan music's evolution through the decades ? and which is your favourite period ?

I like some stuff from almost every period, but probably my favorites are the the early "Roadrunner"/ "Gov. Center" period and then the stuff from (I think it's called) "Rock N' Roll with The Modern Lovers" - "Egyptian Reggae" and "Morning of Our Lives".

> - You have produced many records of famous artists through the years> with people as different as Aimee Mann, Peter Wolf and you specially took care of Lavern Baker. Would you enjoy working on a Jonathan album ? What would you do to his sound ?

I couldn't imagine what I would do other than to make It happen for him in any way he needed to make it happen. Jonathan certainly doesn't need any artist development!

> - What is your favourite Jonathan album ?

From a professional standpoint, "Jonathan Sings!" because my sister Ellie and my girlfriend Beth were in the band and I was sort of a fly on the wall for the whole process of the development of the songs, the tours leading up to the album, the recording, etc. I also think that "Summer Feeling" from that record is one of the greatest songs ever written.

> - As a scholar in music, are you mentionning the Modern Lovers in the lectures you are giving in the colleges where you are teaching ?

Occasionally, if I get into stuff about the development of the music scene of Boston or even of Punk Rock. Of course when you are a "college professor" you get to throw in jargon like "Jonathan invented a new paradigm, a modality through which..." Just kidding.

> - How would you rate Jonathan's influence on today's music in Boston and elsewhere ?

Huge. Every band at The Rat and CBGBs of the later 70s period was influenced by him. And they all still influence bands today. I also think he influences a lot of folkies even now.

> - What Jonathan song would you enjoy to cover and what would be the composition of the band you would look for to do this ?

The Marshalls did a few of Jonathan's songs over the years: both "New Teller" and "Government Center" (we still do that one and sometimes do it together with "I Think We're Alone Now"). I also played "Egyptian Reggae" in Belly Dancing shows! I always thought that "Morning of Our Lives" would be a great song to do with the right singer; I almost did it with LaVern. I am also thinking about "Summer Feeling". If I ruled the world, I'd cut Van Morrison on it. Who knows?

> - Finally, any anecdote related to Jonathan ?

He recorded some stuff with my sister several years back at my school. Some of the students knew who he was, but the look on their faces when he started doing pushups in the studio was priceless!

Barry attached to his answers the draft of an article he wrote about the Boston scene and which was edited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia after several cuts. This very interesting study will be available on the backstage blog soon...

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