Wednesday, October 31

The delicate art of covers

First time I heard about Jonathan was when I was attending a John Cale concert in '75. Cale was covering "Pablo Picasso" and I thought "this is great, I have to find out about Jonathan Richman". Jon Cale, helped by Chris spedding on guitar, had delivered a great rendition of that song .

Covers are not an easy art, and I would say as for Jonathan it is even more "risqué", you have to be tuned to the man's mind to be able to cover his songs correctly. We all remember the embarrassing "Pablo Picasso" which Bowie did a couple of years ago.

The easiest way obviously is to emphasize the Velvet Underground component which is always present in Jonathan's influences. Look for instance at this cover of "She cracked" by a French band, the dum dum boys.

It is right to the point, though it is probably the most velvetish song from the Modern Lovers. Today the bass player is administrating a web group dedicated to the Flamin Groovies and happens to be a friend of mine.

Do you remember Ben from B for Brontosaurus (see interview #9 )? When interviewing him, I had the feeling this young chap had understood a lot about Jonathan. Now look at this cover of "I'm a little dinosaur", just pure Jonathan spirit, I love it.

There is the camp approach which can be quite interesting too, just watch this you will not believe it, a transvestite backed up by the Histrionics and covering "I'm straight". Jonathan visits cabaret, the drummer and the guitar player seem to really enjoy themselves and are the best part of the show.

I will conclude with "Pablo Picasso" performed unplugged by Iggy Pop, and this is a great set . Iggy cannot resist to move from Pablo to Paloma Picasso ... Again a winner cover.

Friday, October 19

Autumn 2007 European tour recap

Jonathan Richman at Debaser Medis in Stockholm ©2007 Manfred Svärd All Rights Reserved
Jonathan Richman at Debaser Medis in Stockholm ©2007 Manfred Svärd All Rights Reserved

From the inbox:

Sander: To my and my friends surprise you decided to quit after only 45 minutes of play, and never came back to give an encore. So, when will you return to Amsterdam and properly finish your concert?

with kind regards

Sorry, Sander! We sympathize but we cannot forward email to Jonathan Richman. Perhaps a Jojoblog reader will kindly pass this message along to him?

From commenters:

Birgit: Last night in Essen was a wonderful show. The mood was so happy, joyful and relaxed, I've never seen Jonathan like this before. His voice sounded so young and fresh and there were so many songs I've never heard before. There really should be a new album soon, I'd love to listen to them again. Tommy was great - as always.

Thank you for a wonderful evening, it will keep me happy for a long while.

Julia: The concert in Nuremberg was magical (as Jonathan's gigs always are), too. He and Tommy even came back half an hour after the end of the gig in order to play 5 more songs, saying that they both didn't wear watches and that they would not have realized if the set had been a little short...they needn't have bothered, the concert was great anyways, but it just shows how much they care for their fans. So all the people who were still there, about half of the audience, were the happy ones, receiving a really special treat from the two musicians!


Jonathan Richman in Ottersum

Oslo: That Summer Feeling

Tommy Larkins at Debaser Medis in Stockholm ©2007 Manfred Svärd All Rights Reserved
Tommy Larkins at Debaser Medis in Stockholm ©2007 Manfred Svärd All Rights Reserved

(schedule reposted for archives)


Wed 26 Sept Rotterdam (Rotown)
Thu 27 Sept Amsterdam (Melkweg)
Fri 28 Sept Ottersum (Cultureel podium Roepaen)
Sat 29 Sept Eindhoven (Effenaar)
more info


Mon 1 Oct Aarhus (Voxhall)


Wed 3 Oct Bergen, Norway (Garage)
Thu 4 Oct Oslo, Norway (John Dee)
Fri 5 Oct Gothenburg, Sweden (Trädgår'n)
Sat 6 Oct Stockholm, Sweden ( Debaser Medis )
Sun 7 Oct Malmö, Sweden (KB)
more info


Tue 9 Oct Oldenburg (Kulturetage)
Wed 10 Oct Hamburg (Turmzimmer- Uebel & Gefährlich)
Fri 12 Oct Essen (Grend)
Sun 14 Oct Ludwigshafen (
Mon 15 Oct Nürnberg (K4)


Tues 16 Oct Brussels (Ancienne Belgique AB-Club)

Tuesday, October 16

2007 performance update

Thu 1 Nov San Francisco CA (Palace of Fine Arts) opening for The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo

Friday, October 12

Great 71 recordings found

When we thought that all the existing live recordings of the Modern Lovers had been released, a new one just appears...
This is Stonehenge in Ipswich, Ma probably end of 71 beginning of 72 according to its finder, rock archaelogist Doug C. who was kind enough to share this treasure and uploaded it on Dimeadozen. Doug is well known to the members of the old Jonathan list to which he used to be a regular contributor.

This gem consists of a two set gig of the Modern Lovers:
First Set 1. Modern World 2. Ride Down on the Highway 3. Girlfriend 4. She Cracked 5. Womanhood 6. Old World

Second Set 1. Fly Into the Mystery 2. Dignified and Old 3. Pablo Picasso 4. Cambridge Clown 5. Astral Plane 6. Song of Remembrance for Old Girlfriends 7. Such Loneliness 8. I Grew Up in the Suburbs 9. A Plea for Tenderness (incomplete) 10. Roadrunner (cut)

The sound is very good compared to the other early live recordings and there are rare songs here like "Cambridge clown", "Song of remembrance" or totally unknown ones like "I grew up in the suburbs". This last one is another lost Jonathan classic tune, nervous velvet type guitar and landscape lyrics a la roadrunner : "I grew up in the suburbs, lived by the neon lights..".
Jonathan sketched his band on this flyer. Left to right are David Robinson, Jonathan, Ernie Brooks, John Felice and Jerry Harrison

You never heard "Pablo Picasso" delivered this drumming way, in the intro to the song Jonathan says that the drummer is going to switch to guitar, the guitar player to the organ and so on but he will stick to his singing part. "She cracked" seems to have different lyrics at some point.

There must be other sleeping beauties like this one and now we know that we just have to wait to see them getting awakened...

Tuesday, October 9

Interview #17 : Miles Montalbano

Miles Montalbano is a talented young director whose film "Revolution Summer" première happened last month in San Francisco as explained previously in our BLog.

He is part of the new generation of indie film makers, influenced by perfect mentors like Godard, Antonioni or Cassavetes. His first attempt at filming was the Jonathan concert "Take me to the Plaza". Actually Jonathan composed the soundtrack of "Revolution Summer" and as Miles will explain he got really involved in the making of the film.

Miles is a very nice person, he made sure I got his answers even though he is very busy lately promoting his film, and in passing he happens to be Jonathan's brother in law.

- You were in a punk band called Sister Double Happiness, you were a bass player then.
Did you enjoy the life on the road, the touring over to Europe, just as Jonathan has been doing for ever?

I wouldn’t call us a punk band, although we all came out of that scene and I still carry a lot of the ethos with me. Maybe post-punk blues band would be a better description. One of the best parts of being in the band for me was touring, especially Europe. I hope that filmmaking will offer similar opportunities. I would love to tour with the film.

- Had you heard about Jonathan and the Modern Lovers at that time and possibly seen them live ? If so, how was it ?
I knew of Jonathan originally from the Modern Lovers, but I didn’t see him live until about ten years ago, and he knocked me out, which is when I started to catch up with what he had been doing since.

- I have not seen "Revolution Summer" as I am in Europe, but I have read reviews and comments about the film. I hope they are accurate enough. How werethe film and Jonathan's performance received at the Roxie for the Opening?
The film received a lot of great press for the San Francisco run and was well reviewed. Reaction to the film is usually polarized. People either really seem respond to, and get what we were trying to do, or they really hate the film. Which is great. I think films should try and find something truthful to say. I would hate to make a film that everyone thought was “nice” or “entertaining”. I try to stay away from the middle of the road.
It was really exciting to have Jonathan play after the opening night screening. He played a rare electric set with Tommy, doing music from the soundtrack. Of course it was great.

- I have seen this film you shot of Jonathan playing live ("Take me to the plaza"). It was different from the usual concerts DVDs I had seen before. Did you have a special way in filming Jonathan ? Had you something in mind ?
The only thing was to try and do as truthful and straightforward representation of Jonathan’s performance that night as possible. We talked at one point about the possibility of doing a music video, but Jonathan doesn’t like to do them. He was open to doing a live documentary, so I feel lucky that we got to capture the evening. Of course, it is not the definitive document, as Jonathan is always changing and evolving, but as a snapshot of a moment I think it came out really well.

- "Revolution Summer" has been compared to Antonioni's "Zabriskie point", it is about rebellion against conservatism and narrow minded society if I dare summarize quickly. I think the film is really looking towards Antonioni, I might be biased as he is my favourite director, but how did Jonathan consider your project, it is rather different from "..something about Mary" ?
I love Antonioni also, and I was definitely thinking about a lot of his films while working on Revolution Summer, also Godard, Fassbinder and Cassavetes. We were definitely looking toward a certain type of cinema, what used to be called the ‘art film’, for lack of a better definition.
I think “Mary” has been sort of a double edged sword for Jonathan because in Hollywood you get pigeonholed very quickly. But he is a brilliant composer and I would love to see him do more film score work, and I know he is interested in doing more if there is something he responds to in the film project. Fortunately for us, he responded to the script and the ideas for Revolution Summer.

Interview with Miles about "Revolution Summer"

- What do you think then about "there's something about Mary" ?

I am not really interested in those types of films, but I did finally watch it, and it was fun watching Jonathan and Tommy.

- I understand that with "Revolution Summer" you are trying to awaken the citizens mind towards reality, using real life images. This is quite similar to the French "Nouvelle Vague " attitude during the 60's. Could you comment on that ?
The film was definitely inspired by the French New Wave movement, and also the American underground, and the Dogme 95 stuff. I think all of those movements shared similar goals and aesthetics as a way of trying to capture some sort of truthfulness in the reflection of life in film.

- In a close way, Jonathan was singing "Not in my name" right after the first US soldiers landed in Irak. I read you were working together on the editing and final cutting of the film , living together. What was Jonathan's contribution to your film apart from the soundtrack ?
Besides doing the score for the film, Jonathan was one of the first supporters of the project and really was a big factor in helping get the film off of the ground in the first place. He gave support, advice, and inspiration through all aspects of the film from beginning to end.

- Which brings me to sounds.. A friend of mine, the actor and film director Jean-François Stévenin told me once that the sound engineer is the crucial person in the making of a movie. You have to master your sounds and play with them to enhance the intensity of the images. What is your opinion ?
Yes, of course, sound is half of the equation and is extremely important and can really shape the film. And of course bad sound can ruin a film. Of course, music fits in there. When we first started talking about music for the film, I had an idea that I wanted the music to inform the film as much as the film informed the music. Jonathan had read the script and we had conversations about the mood and the themes of the film. He would come to the set and watch some of the scenes being filmed and tray and catch the vibe of what we were doing, then would go into the studio and record. When we were done shooting I had all of this music that I was able to immediately start playing with during the editing. He instinctually understood exactly what I was looking for musically and the music fit perfectly and really helped shape the film. I loved it so much that my first cut of the film was almost wall to wall music, but we ultimately ended up using it a lot more sparingly to better effect. But I am so glad that Vapor decided to release the soundtrack because I think that the music can really stand on its own also.

- Do you know why the soundtrack CD is so desperately short (28 minutes), some of the pieces seem to have been cut before the end.. ?
Jonathan made the track list and the length of the CD was not really a consideration. He wanted it to move a certain way and that is just how long the CD ended up wanting to be. I think it’s great. There is no filler on there. Just because you can fit 70 minute of music onto a CD doesn’t necessarily mean you should. As far as tracks being cut off, I’m not sure what you mean...

- What do you think about John Cassavetes ? I have the impression you have quite a few things in common concerning cinema.

Cassavetes is an inspiration, not only his films but his passion and philosophy on filmmaking. He made films for himself and never lost sight of his art no matter what the critics and the money people said. He made films because he had to.

- Maybe you know that song "John Cassavetes" by Angel Corpus Christi (she is from the Bay area too). It would be funny if Jonathan would compose some song about you and your films.
I don’t know it. The band Le Tigre did a song about Cassavetes also.

- When I read your name the 1st time, it rang a bell, I remembered it was the name of a famous character in Italian detective novels, police officer Montalbano. He lives in Sicily, likes the good food, women and has a good sense of humor even fronting ugly cases. Maybe you know those books by Andrea Camillieri, otherwise try to find one of them , I think it would be great if one day you would direct an "Inspector Montalbano" movie
My sister has one of the books, but I haven’t read it yet.

- Any opinion about the Flamin' Groovies , (they were my fave band from the Bay area)?

They’re cool.

- How would you define Jonathan's music ?
That is such a hard question. Definitions are limiting and often mis-informative, and for me Jonathan’s music spans a wide range, so I wouldn’t even try. I do like how one reviewer described the soundtrack music as “haunting instrumental music with shades of Dick Dale, Velvet Underground and Django Reinhardt.”

- Is there a particular song of his you prefer ?

I just heard the new album the whole thing is great. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

- When do you think we will get a chance to see "Revolution Summer" in Europe ?
Well, if you live near Valencia, Spain it is playing the Mostra de Valencia, Friday October 18. Otherwise, if anyone has any suggestions on venues let us know, we would love to come over a show it!

- Thanks a lot Miles, I wish you lots of success !!
Thank You!

Saturday, October 6

Hilly Kristal

from Alternatives to Valium:

Easter of 1974, I went in there with Lenny Kaye to see this band, not knowing what to expect, ’cause what was CBGBs? It was this crappy little place with a bar and a stage, and there was about nine people there, (CBGBs’ founder) Hilly Kristal bein’ one of them, me and Lenny bein’ two of them. I saw Television. And I said: that’s it. This is what we are doing. This is present-future. (read more)

-- Patti Smith, on Hilly Kristal, founder of CBGBs

Thanks Alastair!

CBGB Online- In Memorium to Hilly Kristal 1931-2007


Friday, October 5

Oslo: That Summer Feeling

from Your Way to Norway:

If you're ever asked to pick between Jonathan Richman playing acoustic guitar and a world-class symphony playing Joseph Brahms, choose Jonathan Richman. I saw both last night, and, while the symphony was enjoyable, Jonathan Richman will surely be one of the highlights of this Norwegian Adventure.

Despite being trapped in an absolutely packed room, with my glasses constantly fogging over due to the heat and humidity, watching Jonathan Richman sing his 'fun' songs in up to five different languages while periodically dancing to a beat provided by his drumming friend, Tommy Larkins, was something I truly enjoyed. Despite being in his 50s, he seemed almost ageless - he has an excited youthful energy that combines with his years of 'life experience' to produce a show that had everyone in the audience listening...
(more here)

Thanks Brian!

Thursday, October 4

Tuesday, October 2

Jonathan Richman in Ottersum (Netherlands)

From Frans de Waard:

Obviously I could bore you with tales of Rotterdam and that Zebra was in great shape, but that was something that couldn't be said from the installation. So the example how things could be done was presented to the Plinkity Plonk A&R team (alcohol and restaurants) on friday night when Freek and I headed out to Cultureel Centrum Roepaen in the middle of a black hole, but still in The Netherlands, to see the man who made that great 7" in 1977 for which I headed out to buy my first record: Jonathan Richman, without the Modern Lovers but with a drummer. What a great concert, Richman on the acoustic guitar, singing is part sad part joyful tunes, with that twinkle in his eye. It's been a while since I enjoyed myself this much. Freek and I headed out to the dressing room to get my 7" and Freek's LP signed. Jonathan came out with a note that the docter ordered him not to talk post-concert, but kindly signed the stuff and we took the picture above, without saying a word... (more here)

Thanks Frans!