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).
(Go here for part one)
Dee Dee Sharp - Gravy for my Mashed Potatos MP3
Janice Long - "Dee Dee Sharp and Gravy for my Mashed Potatos, I’m talking to Jonathan Richman, and quite frankly I was terrified of you."
Jonathan - "Because?"
"Because I’d heard all of these stories about you at a press conference… the other week, and I thought oh my god what’s this guy going to be like, is he going to be like really, really awkward and walk out in the middle of me chatting to him, but you’re not like that at all are you?"
"No, not at all!"
"So what happened?"
"No one asked any questions… I said, alright, let’s have some questions, there was out of thirty, there must have been, how many people would you say were there in that room? Thirty… three zero… journalists and folks of that nature, we got five… six questions out of thirty people! I said, okay, any more questions… going once (laughing) going twice… no one has a burning question?"
"Someone said it was because somebody from the NME wrote something about you that you didn’t like."
"No, oh, well what they did was make up a story that I could prove didn’t took place, I mean an interview… a fictitious interview. And... so that’s what I didn’t like, but I still gave that guy a chance. I said look, I’ll answer your question if you’ll answer mine… ‘Would you answer a question from a newspaper that made up a story about you that never took place? This ‘aint like a distortion, this is, and if so, why? Well, if he’d said ‘You know, I really wouldn’t’ or something like that ‘I would have said okay great!’but he didn’t he just said ‘well we can’t be responsible for inaccuracies…’ so I said ‘Oh, forget it…' or something like that."
"Do you like the press?"
"I like radio much better coz look you can hear the sound of my voice, you can hear when I’m kidding or when I’m not. Like for example someone can say, ‘He sighed’ or ‘he grunted’ you know, and the quote is the same but they can change it. I like this. I have better luck with people who like pop music rather than the more serious types they’re usually not on my wavelength, so to speak. So with them can I be nasty?… you bet!" (both laugh)
"I would imagine that you wouldn’t like people who were pretentious."
"I guess, I mean I could be accused of… I don’t know who, all I know is I don’t get along with people, who, er… I can’t think of the word for it. But, oh, am I always jovial? I must admit no. Do I have a bit of a temper… Yeah! Em, but I wasn’t trying to intimidate anyone - Honest folks!"
"Right, the Isley Brothers ‘Twist and Shout."
"Alright!… the mighty Isley Brothers. Nineteen sixty two, sixty one, it doesn’t matter, they’re rockin’, they’re loose, and they’re tough and bad…The Isley Brothers."
The Isley Brothers - Twist and Shout MP3
"We were just having a conversation there about the Beatles version of that, and I mean, no way is it good as the Isley Brothers."
"Well I ‘aint going to put down that version, I think those mighty Beatles did a terrific thing with that song."
"But I mean that one to me has got more sort of passion and feeling, and what have you, in it."
"Well that’s the original! Its usually hard to beat the original."
"You were saying that it sends shivers down your spine."
All this stuff were playing. If it was good in 62 its usually good in 85.
"What sort of music that’s around now actually makes you go… Oh yeah!"
"I like listening to American Indian drumming back in the states, the music of the Hopi’s, and some of that stuff, I hear some… the singing, there’s just singing and percussion, and I’ve gotten chills up my spine from that, like some open air, em, when you get, they call it inter-tribal, they’ll get different tribes from the different desert states, Colorado, New Mexico, they’ll get em all together, and I’ve heard them all… different groups of drummers and singers. And you hear that in the open air, with those voices, wailing like that and those drums… that’s modern music!"
"Is that quite passionate that music?"
"I guess, it sounds like it to me."
"Right, The Majors ‘A Wonderful Dream’…"
"Same year, 1962, I didn’t even realise how I’d done this… 1962, Yes, one of Jonathans formative year and ‘The Majors’ were there, The Majors, that had that swinging beat… here we go!"
"You’d make a great DJ."
(laughing) "You think so…"
The Majors - A Wonderful Dream MP3
"He gets up for everything… everything that we’ve played, you get up, you dance to, you know all the words."
"I’ve been sitting on a plane all day too you know."
"Well that’s perhaps why… The Majors and ‘A Wonderful Dream’, this is Jonathan Richman. Were the sixties the halcyon days for you? because you seem to have picked an awful lot of sixties stuff."
"I would have picked more fifties, but I figured some of them might have be a little too hard to find, up to about sixty five, sixty six, I start to get a little shaky around sixty seven."
"Would you like to have be performing in those times?"
"Well, would they have allowed someone with a voice like this on the stage back then? Things were pretty straight then, they didn’t… um, you know, I might have gotten a job sweeping floors better back then."
"But it’s funny that you, you actually talk the way you sing, or you sing the way you talk, there’s no difference is there?"
"No, and I don’t know how well it would have done back then. So I don’t want to go back in time, in fact I want to go more primitive than the stuff… my records are actually cruder than, I mean my new record has no bass on it. No bass guitar. Like this stuff, a lot of it was done with just a few guitars and percussion and voices. So I don’t want to go back… I want to go cruder."
"Is performing your first love? Do you actually like being on the stage in front of the audience?"
"You have a wonderful rapport with the audience."
"When I do, I do, yeah."
"I read somewhere that you actually generate love when you’re performing, and people actually feel love for you."
"Yeah, they’re right (laughing) you read the truth! (more laughter) Of course, like eh, lets not get carried away, to me, all music, like the music we’ve been playing, to me that, what we’ve been listening to, that generates love in me."
"But is that because you’re never false? I mean you’re just You; that people can relate to that more, rather than putting on this great act and coming on as some sort of showman."
"The funny thing’s I’m kind of a showman too… erm, you know just the way I clown around before records and…"
"But in a gentle way."
"Yeah, if I generate love it’s, sure, coz I’m sincere. But that’s also what’s in the singing and playing and the old rock and roll too."
"Right 'The Marvelettes'. Now you love the Marvelettes don’t you?"
"Eh,Yes. Why more than the Supremes Jonathan? More than Marvin Gaye?… These are great acts on that Motown label… I don’t know ladies and gentlemen, but when I hear that drum… they had this piano player, listen to these piano lines that this guy does that you don’t hear on those Supremes’. "
"Listen to the Marvelettes and decide why for yourselves coz we have the mighty Marvelettes…"
"Which one did I choose? Did I choose ‘Mister Postman’? or did I choose…"
"I must have, then… that leaves… PLAYBOY!!!"
The Marvelettes - Playboy MP3
"The Marvelettes and Playboy. I think the thing that… what? what are you looking at there?"
"Oh, he was asking me my favourite records from my first LP."
"And what are they?"
"Oh, ‘Important in your Life’, ‘Lonely Financial Zone’, ‘New England’ I would say, maybe… I don’t know. ‘Hi Dear’ came out pretty good! Look at this… that ‘aint a bad version of ‘Springtime or ‘Amazing Grace’ that’s a pretty good record! (laughing) I didn’t realise how good that thing was!"
"Actually we didn’t realise you made so many albums, we found eight in the office."
"Yeah, then neither did I coz some of them are probably by liars and cut throats."
(laughing) "Ow, I just banged my knee! Oh gosh, that didn’t half hurt! You’re still a fan of music aren’t you? ‘cos some people when they get really engrossed in what they’re doing themselves they forget about everybody else’s music."
"No, In fact I just got, picked up at Rough Trade office a bunch of tapes of their African stuff they put out. I listen to music from all over the world."
"Yes… China, Caribbean stuff, South American. I go record store, I see what’s going and I just buy a Brazilian package or something just to check out, you know, things I don’t know in Brazil."
"So you must have this incredible collection at home?"
"No, I don’t collect this stuff, I just listen to stuff and if I don’t like it I give it away, so I don’t like to keep too many things around. So, I don’t know, I’ve got maybe… oh, hundred, fifty…a hundred records, seventy five records or something."
"Does Gail have similar tastes?"
"Sometime… eh, we both like Marty Robins a lot too, she likes Tammy Wynette more than I do, we both LOVE Marty Robins."
"Do you really?"
"Right. So you’re back in the states tomorrow?"
"Are you working when you get back?"
"Pretty soon, Yeah, little short trips for a while just around California, but then we go back east, and up to Toronto, Canada. Then rest for a month and then off to Australia…"
"It never stops."
"No, but it might. Coz if people, don’t… you know how it could stop? Seriously."
"Okay, suppose people don’t stop cutting down trees."
"People are losing soil all over. I’m told, for example, that in Britain you’ve got an acre of pavement in this nation for every acre of soil. That means you’re losing the soil you’ve got, because the pavement acre sucks up moisture from the rest."
"You might actually start to get arid country where you had forest. Well, then you’re gonna start… people are going to start, getting more… searching for water."
"Well we’re going to be running out of water in twenty five years time anyway."
"Well I’m saying it looks like it’s going to happen sooner, because people are cutting the last rain forests as we speak, when this happens you’re not going to have much oxygen. And I mean I’m not talking twenty years… I’m learning new stuff, it may happen in the next few. So, if that happens then I won’t be doing much travelling because there won’t be any airplanes, coz if the pilot’s dying of thirst you can’t convince him half to get off the ground, you know!"
(laughing) - "Are you a conservation addict? I mean are you…are you into?"
"Well that doesn’t go far enough! I want this stuff to end – right now!" (laughter)
"Well it’s been lovely talking with you, and I’m glad you’re nice!"
"I’m glad I’m okay!"
(handing Jonathan a package) – "And before you go, this I from me and Mike, a present."
"That was if you were nice, if you were horrible you weren’t going to get it!"
"And would I have deserved it? No!"
"No! And the final track is your next single… ‘I’m Just Beginning To Live’."
"Which just states the bold facts of the matter… “Do not call me thirty four because I’m just beginning to live – right now!”