Thursday, June 7

The Bostonians # 16 : Cheryl Eagan-Donovan

Cheryl Eagan-Donovan is a writer she is also a film director. "All kindsa girls", a documentary about the Real Kids is a project she started in 2001, shown in different film festivals and due to be released soon as a DVD. The film has lots of interviews with musicians from Boston involved in the Renaissance of the local scene in the late seventies, including Jonathan.
Cheryl is more than familiar with the Boston scene, she belongs to it. She used to be involved with bands, managing and promoting them during the 80's and the 90's. She saw all those bands rising in 1976 and was close to Lou Miami and Human sexual response and later to the Real Kids. Of course she is fascinated by John Felice who is a genuine novel character.
She did not hesitate to answer my questions about Jonathan, I would like to thank her here for her kindness and wish her the best for her upcoming project "Nothing is truer than truth", a film about Edward de Vere.

- You stated somewhere that the Real Kids were the beginning of some golden age for rock music in the Boston area. Many bands bloomed following their tracks, it was 1977 and the music went on better and better for the next 5 years. Don't you think that the Modern Lovers were actually the catalyst which triggered this all by the magic of their unpredictable sound ?

>I think the Modern Lovers were certainly part of the seed capital - the connection between the folk rock scene in Harvard Square - Jonathan playing on the Cambridge Common - and the New York scene in early seventies. Definitely, the exposure John Felice had to the NY scene through his part in the Modern Lovers was the catalyst for what became the Real Kids sound. The early stuff that he was doing with his first band The Kids is totally influenced by the Velvet Underground.

The Kids ...

It was not until he teamed up Alpo and Howie and Billy Borgioli that he found his own voice, the distinctive sound of the Real Kids and later Boston garage/punk rock. For example, Dinosaur Junior's new record has a song where J. Mascis does a little guitar flourish - very uncharacteristic for him - that is direct homage to Felice the guitarist.

- You were involved in managing bands , can you tell us if you were aware of some Modern Lovers influence then ?

>It was part of the history, the collective unconscious as it were of the Boston rock scene. Willie Alexander was a major force on the scene then, and his connection to the VU was quite clear. He also made the connection to Patrick Mathe, telling him about all the great the bands in Boston.

- And what is your opinion today, is there an influence after all ?
does it still exist ?

>Absolutely. It exists in all of Felice's songs, in The Cars' music, in The Talking Heads, in all the original band members' later projects.

- Did you ever see the original Modern Lovers live ? If so, how was it ?

> I did see bands playing live on the Cambridge Common in the early seventies and may have seen them but I was too young to know who they were. My dad was very hip - had seen Janis Joplin at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, etc., and he would bring us to the free concerts in Harvard Square on Sundays.

- Have you seen Jonathan live later and today ? What do you think of his evolution ?

I have seen Jonathan many times in Cambridge and Boston, and took my son to see him several times already, beginning he was about 3 years old - he is 10 years old now. Jonathan always put on great show. Every show is different but he is an extraordinarily talented musician and songwriter.

- In your documentary "All kindsa girls" about the Real Kids and John Felice, you interviewed the crucial people involved in the scene. How did it go with Jonathan ? Was he easy to interview ?

>Jonathan does not usually do interviews so I had to be very persistent. I have to thank his assistant at the time, Daisy Dailey, for putting me in touch with him. Once he agreed to the interview, everything went okay until he arrived in Boston on a Sunday night and I did not have a camera crew ready to shoot at his hotel as he requested. I had hoped to do the interview on the Cambridge Common. He graciously agreed to do the interview the next day before his show at the Somerville Theatre. He would not allow me to film any of his rehearsal, and the entire interview lasted eight minutes. As Patrick Mathe said to me about the Real Kids in France in 1983, "What should I say and what should I not say ?

- What does he think about the Real Kids, I know he liked the Classic
Ruins lead by another of his friends, Frank Rowe, but I cannot imagine him listening to the Real Kids.

>He says in the film "I'm a Felice fan." I think he is disappointed with the trajectory of John's career, especially since he was like an older brother to him. He didn't say that but John seemed to feel that. I know he has tremendous respect for John as a writer and musician. I'm sure that's the only reason he agreed to the do interview.

- You visited Natick, John Felice's and Jonathan's hometown. Is there something in the air in that place that inspired these two talented musicians ? Or is the landscape so boring that one has to find a way to escape and move on Route 128 ?

>I think there may have been a bit of suburban angst fueling the music. John certainly had strong feelings about the need to get out of Natick. It's interesting that there were these pockets of musical creativity, in Natick and on the North Shore, where Alpo and Billy and Jeff Wilkerson and Wille were playing, and it was Jonathan who brought them together.
The classic Real Kids line-up circa 1976, L-R Billy, Alpo, John and Howie

- You told me that you might help on the production of a film about the Modern Lovers, can you comment about that project ?

> I just offered to help on a film being written and directed by a Harvard film student, Katharina Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg. I have not been hired as producer yet! I only met with her once. She was referred to me by the Harvard Film Archives, who suggested that I might be able to assist her on the project. I hope to hear more from her soon about the project and will let you know the status.

- Did you like the Rockin Robins line up of the Modern Lovers with Beth and Ellie ?

>I am most familiar with the original line up.

- Do you know them ? Beth is a film director as you today, it is a small world.

> I know Beth - I saw her documentary THE BLINKING MADONNA when it first played here in Boston. She is very talented. She is a past President of Women in Film & Video New England and I am now Treasurer of the same non-profit organization.

- What is your favourite song of all the songs you heard from Jonathan ?

> I have lots of favorites : Girlfriend, Fly into the Mystery, Pablo Picasso, Rooming House on Venice Beach, That Summer Feeling.

- What is it according to you that makes Jonathan concerts different ?

>Jonathan is totally original and a consummate performer, not unlike Sammy Davis Jr., or John Lydon, or Paul McCartney, or David Johansen.

- When back in Boston, did Jonathan change ? Has California modified him after all these years ?

>My husband met him years ago flying out to California. I don't know if he's changed. I think he will always be Jonathan.

- Any anecdote related to Jonathan ?

>We did a screening of ALL KINDSA GIRLS in San Fransisco in 2005. It was a fantastic crowd - two soldout s hows with over 350 people at each show - at an abandoned warehouse - with the Flakes playing live - they did an excellent cover of ALL KINDSA GIRLS - anyway, Jonathan's wife came and introduced herself while we standing in line for the ladies room, and said that Jonathan had wanted to come but was at a Bar Mitzvah in Hawaii. So, unfortunately, he missed one of the best screenings of the film. I promised to send him a DVD as soon as it is available. I hope he likes it.

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