Friday, February 29

Jonathan's Haunts: Glen Canyon Park

We've had some nice early-spring weather here in San Francisco this February, so flowers are in bloom and the hiking's been good. I saw Jonathan walking his dogs in Glen Canyon the other day, and while it is clear Jojoblog does not traffic in paparazzi-style reportage, it occurred to me that some of the blog's readers might be interested in seeing where Jonathan hangs out. So I snapped a picture of the surroundings. Glen Canyon isn't the most pristine park in the area, but it's got forest, creeks, brush, wildflowers and rock outcroppings, and I've always kind of marveled at the fact that I can walk a few blocks through a densely populated urban neighborhood and suddenly find myself in a doggone canyon!

See Wikipedia entry for history, geology and aerial photography.

Wednesday, February 27

I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar- Live on Conan

From Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Some of you may recall that Jonathan Richman made 9 appearances on this show in the 1990s. If I remember correctly, Les Gripkey was in the audience during one of them, and was briefly on-camera wearing a Jonathan Richman tee shirt.

Tuesday, February 26

Cake's John McCrea on Jonathan Richman, Frank Sinatra, San Francisco and Day-Old Bread

In December, I interviewed Cake's John McCrea for The Onion. The piece was published in advance of the band's New Year's Eve show at San Francisco's Warfield. A couple days after that, my Volvo was demolished, RB saw my account of that ordeal, and invited me to help out with Jojoblog. Anyway, Jonathan Richman was discussed in the interview, and I wanted to share this excerpt. It mentions a new song that may or may not be a part of the new album, and since I'm Jojoblog's de facto San Francisco correspondent now, I'm including a bit where John talks about the politics and music scene in this fair city -- Jonathan's hometown.

Me: I saw your friend Jonathan Richman at the Great American Music Hall recently. As usual, fans were shouting requests all night, mostly for oldies like "Roadrunner" or "She Cracked". At one point, Jonathan delivered a bit of a rant about how, to him, those songs are like "day old bread", and why would we wanna hear day-old bread? This actually proved to be a segue into a new song with a chorus about day old bread. Thoughts?

John McCrea: I have a different view than him. I respect him tremendously, but I have a different view about it. People who don't play music every day, who are not completely absorbed in it, are not as tired of some of those songs as he is. Music being sort of a service occupation, now more than ever, i think it's honorable to play a song that people want to hear even if you've played it a lot. I think it's honorable to reinvent it and find a way to be thrilled with it again. That said, there's plenty of times when we don't play songs. Mostly it's because we don't use a set list, and we forget to play songs that were on the radio or whatever. People shout things at us, but generally we listen to what we feel like doing in order to provide a better experience for the audience. If we play something we can get into, we probably sound better. There's a real nobility to what I saw when I saw Frank Sinatra live. I saw it as really honorable, him playing songs to regular people. Maybe those people weren't in the music industry, didn't realize that was day-old bread, they just loved that song. They wanted to hear "Mack the Knife" by Frank Sinatra. Is that perspective so wrong? I don't think either side is wrong. Generally what we do is selfishly go through whatever songs we feel like playing, and there are certain songs we realize we probably should play, and a lot of times we remember to play them, and a lot of times we don't remember to play them. By keeping it loose, we've been able to keep ourselves alive inside.

John_McCrea, originally uploaded by rawman.

You headlined a show Jonathan was involved with a few years back. It was a benefit for San Francisco Green Party mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez. Matt lost to Gavin Newsom of course. What's your current take on local San Francisco politics?

There's something about our political system that is deeply flawed. There are some things that happened in San Francisco politics that could happen nowhere else in country. I'm grateful things are as progressive as they are. It's pretty amazing really. Compared to all the other cities that we visit in the United States, it's pretty remarkable. I know it's not perfect. People lambast us using catch phrases like "San Francisco values", but i just think values are shitty everywhere else... so live it up. That said, who can live in San Francisco anymore? All my friends have moved to Portland. It's like this little pristine jewel now, and I'm not sure if it's gonna be as livable without any musicians or degenerates. Over the last ten years, it's sort of emptied out. Sure there are lots of great musicians and bands, but they're musicians that happen to have jobs at Yahoo! or something.
So what do we think? Is Jonathan right to let day-old bread be? Or do we wish he'd play "Roadrunner" the way Sinatra always played "Mack the Knife" and Cake always plays "I Will Survive"?

Read the whole interview here.

For a fantastic 1997 Interview Magazine piece in which Jonathan interviews John, click here. I asked John about this experience, and he laughed but had very little recollection of it.

The Bostonians #20: Asa Brebner

Asa Brebner was the guitarist who replaced Curly on bass for the first Jonathan European tour.

He is a Modern Lover. He kept on playing with Jonathan through the years recording on the "back in your Life" and "now it's time for Jonathan Richman .." albums. Asa has also had his own band, the Mezz and was part of Robin Lane's Chartbusters. His talent has become more and more apparent through the years specially on his solo work and his guitar playing is just amazing to me. He is one of those hidden Boston magicians who deserve to get a recognition which is late to come. Those of us who saw him on stage backing Jonathan know all about it. Asa has a web page, the link is on the right column. He has kindly agreed to answer my questions and I would like to thank him here .

(photo: Shaun Wolf Wortis)

- Did you ever see the Original Modern Lovers on stage ? If you had that luck, what are the memories you keep from that time ?
I never saw the original modern lovers. I was travelling in South America. I was 19 years old. I got arrested in Ecuador and did 6 months jail time.

- You are the guy who started to play at the Rat, a mythic place of all, with your band the Mezz. When did Leroy Radcliffe join your band ?
Leroy joined the Mezz after my first few tours with Jonathan. He produced a single for co-pilot records for I think a French guy named Jean Touitou(I am sure I am not spelling that correctly) and an older partner named Gilles They were somehow involved in the French fashion industry.
(Jean Touitou is still directing APC a French fashion company and he is a true Jonathan fan, released the "Mustapha" sessions)

Jonathan and Asa (courtesy of Joe Harvard)

- You became part of the Modern Lovers #2 before the 79 European tour to replace Greg “Curly” Keranen who could not make it. How did Jonathan pick you up ?

When I was released from jail, I worked in a health food store that Jonathan frequented. We began a friendship then and I began auditioning for his first European tour.

Do you remember how was that first European tour. I read that you had often to confront puzzled audiences which were expecting a more rock sound, in the “roadrunner “ vein when Jonathan was singing “Affection” ?
Audiences who had only heard Roadrunner were very perplexed by Jonathan's "new" sound. He is very good at winning people over in a live situation although it was a little difficult on some occasions

- You got involved in the “Back in your life” album. How come this album recorded with different musicians and different sessions still sounded coherent ?
Back in your life was produced by Kenny Laguna who went on to manage Joan Jett -He kept the production cohesive.

- You took also part of other tours in Europe. Would you remember the 1985 one where you were paired with Andy Paley to back Jonathan ? What did you think of this reduced format, which eventually has reduced to a drummer since 15 years ?
I used to play bass for Jonathan then switched to guitar in the eighties. I prefer the old style format but I appreciate Jonathan for doing things "his way"

Jonathan, Andy Paley and Asa in Reims (courtesy of JC Brochard)

- Any particular memories of the gig in Reims set by the local radio station ? JC, one of the organisers of the event is one of our friends.
I don't remember Reims specifically but along with Bordeaux, they were the 2 places in France where the audience had rythym and clapped in time. Very magical shows

I like very much Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. You played in that band too and reconnected with Leroy Radcliffe in the band. Would you consider Robin as a female Jonathan Richman ? Personnally I have this feeling when I am listening to her music, but you were actually in the band so…

Robin is definitely different than Jonathan- I think Leroy and I saw her as a really "commercial" possibility. She had a classic folk song singer voice but could belt out tunes rock style. I think we just hoped to make millions. and we tried. Leroy and Robin had a kid together. who is all grown up now.

Second LP cover for Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Asa is on the left and Leroy is second right.

- What would be your favourite Jonathan song ?
My fave Jonathan song is "The Ancient Long Ago"

- I have seen this video clip where you are playing with Joe Howard and covering the Velvets’ “I am sticking with you” which was also covered on a single by Jonathan and Moe Tucker. What Jonathan songs would you think to cover ?
I cover "Roadrunner" and "Someone I care About"

Speaking of the Velvet Underground, did you seem them when they were playing at the Boston Tea Party ? Some souvenirs ?
I never saw the Velvets but I listened to them a lot.

- You have done your own records, and you are considered as a crucial singer/guitar player. How would you define your music and is Boston, the city, some kind of influence ? After all you did this song “I walk the streets”, and Jonathan had “walkin’ up the streets”. This town fascinates me as well as its musical scene.
Boston has a lot of old world magic(Not as much as France) but it is rapidly disappearing. I am sure I was inspired by a lot of the same streets as Jonathan.

- Are the former Modern Lovers still in touch with each other ?
I think all of the M.L. alumni are in touch in some way or another. I went out with John Felice to see Irma Thomas just the other night

- Would you have any anecdote related to Jonathan to share with us?
Once in Germany he took his shoes and socks off on stage to dig at a splinter on front of a hostile audience who yelled abuse at us.

He said "Wait a minute, I've got a splinter!"

He won them over after that but I thought we were about to be lynched. It's funny now.

Monday, February 25

impression: Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild

From the ether: I got to hear a preview of his new album, Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild, a couple of days ago and I was immediately drawn in by the rawness of the whole thing. Richman uses the sparseness of the record to bring his singing to the front of the mix and has an intensely live feeling. I guess, in retrospect, it's really not too far off of what he was doing with the Modern Lovers back in the seventies. (via shoes are for work)

Sunday, February 24

my baby love love loves me

from Take Me to the Plaza DVD starring Jonathan Richman, featuring Tommy Larkins on drums (directed by Miles Montalbano, who was recently interviewed by Jacques)

Friday, February 22

Our Party Will Be on the Beach Tonight

Jonathan Richman's song "Our Party Will Be on the Beach Tonight" is from the forthcoming CD, Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild. It's being played on WUOG 90.5 fm (University of Georgia college radio).

Thanks Jerry!

Update from Jerry: They just played the new single for me on the Athens radio station. Very different sounding JR. The title would suggest a happy upbeat song but the music suggests a dark brooding feeling, with some very jazz-like piano sounds. Not what I was expecting. It reminds me very much of the song "Salvador Dali" from JR's last album. I only heard it once, so this is an initial first impression which could change with repeated listenings.

Saturday, February 16

Winter 2007 USA tour recap

Tommy Larkins and Jonathan Richman by Ken Duffy

See photos of the December 2007 show at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with the Rubinoos

Thanks Ken!

Your World is Beautiful... I'll Take The Subway to Your Suburb Some Time

Despite the fact that I was dead tired on Friday night (and had for some crazy reason agreed to pick up a shift at the restuarant where I used to work the next morning) I went out to Safari Sam's because I knew that I was in for something great. I did not realize that I was in for what might be the best show I have ever seen. Listening to live Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers live albums gave the impression that the songs would be great, the stage banter would be top notch, and I would be thoroughly charmed. However, nothing could prepare me for what it's like to actually be there. The line up was simply Tommy Larkins on the drums, and Jonathan alternating between the guitar, and the sleigh bells. The sleigh bell segments had him showing off some very fun dance moves, but then again so did many of the guitar segments. He sang effortlessly in four different languages (English, Spanish, French, and Italian.) During the first Spanish song he translated almost every line after he sung them, during the Italian song he translated one word teasingly commenting afterwards, "And that's all you get." You can tell that he enjoys interacting with his audience, and it was clear that nearly everyone in attendance felt the same way towards him. It was the highest level of respect for an artist that I have ever seen from a crowd. Regardless of the slightly uncomfortable atmosphere (a packed room with no air conditioning) everyone stood and watched attentively not wanting to miss a thing. Except for the couples who were slow dancing. Something tells me that any future Jonathan Richman show that I attend will not seem complete without couples slow dancing. I wish that I could offer more to describe how amazing a show it actually was, but I think it's something you just have to see for yourself. [via]

Thanks Marion!


JoJo a Go-Go at SoHo

So it's come to this--you go to a concert and the most brilliant performance artist shows up instead. That's the case with Jonathan Richman's show at SoHo Wednesday night. For as much as he sings his sweet-silly songs, as much as he does his sly hip-sway dance steps, as much as he picks a fancy acoustic guitar (he even buried fave "I was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar" in the instrumental intro to the second half of his set), he also makes the audience roar with laughter. Who is this man on stage? With his seeming stoner stare and paeans to love he often seems a bit simple, some kind of rock and roll rube. But then there's the song about Vermeer. Or a version of "Let Here Go into the Darkness" in which he shows us the troubles with love not just in English but in French, Italian, and even Hebrew. It's a great bit--men and women are at each other everywhere--but it's a better bit because of who delivers it. The man who seemed the mayor of simpleton just went all Berlitz on the audience, and did it with differing male and female accents, even. At some speed.

Richman gapes with innocent enthusiasm at his loves, and that doesn’t mean just girls, with whom his songs rarely get to second base. Indeed, what I think is a new tune nostalgically laments the 14 year old but looking 12 Jonathan hoping against hope that a 15 year old girl means something when she smiles at him. She doesn't, but he etches his teen ardor so finely, it suddenly seems the song isn't inspired by his life but James Joyce's "Araby." Of course the great love of his life isn’t a female, it’s rock and roll. And luckily he had stalwart, ever inventive Tommy Larkins along on drums. Still, Richman has been at it 35 long years, meaning his cult is pretty much a religion celebrating the missing link between Chuck Berry and “Sister Ray."

His genius is to do all he does with a gee whiz air of a kid pointing out something cool to his pals. That we get to be his pals is our luck, or if you’re into rock-as-cult, our natural superiority. [via]

Thanks George!

I'm Not One to Blog, But

Winter 2007 USA tour schedule reposted for archives:

Sun 21 Oct San Francisco CA (Bird & Beckett Books and Records)
Thu 1 Nov San Francisco CA (Palace of Fine Arts) opening for The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo
Fri/Sat 2-3 Nov San Francisco CA (Making Impressions); reception for Three North Beach Artists -more info
Fri 30 Nov Hollywood CA (Safari Sam's)
Sat 1 Dec Long Beach CA ({open})
Sun 2 Dec Costa Mesa CA (Detroit Bar) with Molly Jenson
Mon 3 Dec Solana Beach CA (Belly Up)
Wed 5 Dec Santa Barbara CA (Soho)
Thu 6 Dec San Francisco CA (Great American Music Hall) with The Rubinoos
Fri 7 Dec Santa Cruz CA (Veterans Memorial Building)
Sat 8 Dec Petaluma CA (Mystic Theatre)
Sun 9 Dec Redwood City CA (Little Fox)
Tue 11 Dec Winters CA (Palms)
Fri 14 Dec Chico CA (Chico Women's Club)

Thursday, February 14

Jonathan Sings! (in London)

Jonathan is performing at the Shepherds Bush Empire, London, on Friday the 9th of May.

Tickets will be going on sale soon via Gigs and (at £17.50, plus booking fee?)

No other UK dates known so far... (a couple of Irish dates have already been announced - info about these in one of the posts below).

Wednesday, February 13

James O'Brien

The lovely Jojoblog header art was created by James O'Brien. Have a look at his studio website and illustration blog!

James O'Brien

James O'Brien illustration blog

Thursday, February 7

Tuesday, February 5

cosi veloce: so fast

Migpartit from Spain asked for the lyrics to Jonathan Richman's "Cosi Veloce" (from Not So Much to be Loved as to Love):

così veloce così veloce così veloce
così veloce così veloce così veloce

la mia mente così veloce così veloce
la mia mente che salta qua e là
ma io dico basta alla mente
va abbastanza bene, abbastanza va

dobbiamo pensare tutti quanti
dobbiamo pensare qua e là
ma io dico basta alla mente
va abbastanza bene, abbastanza va

abbastanza bene io dico alla mente
grazie a lei ma va abbastanza bene

abbastanza bene abbastanza bene abbastanza bene
così veloce così veloce così veloce
tutti quanti tutti quanti tutti quanti
abbastanza va abbastanza va abbastanza va

la mia mente così veloce così veloce
la mia mente che salta qua e là
ma io dico basta alla mente
va abbastanza bene, abbastanza va

dobbiamo pensare tutti quanti
dobbiamo pensare qua e là
ma io dico basta alla mente
va abbastanza bene, abbastanza va

abbastanza bene io dico alla mente
grazie a lei ma va abbastanza bene

abbastanza bene abbastanza bene abbastanza bene
così veloce così veloce così veloce
tutti quanti tutti quanti tutti quanti
abbastanza va abbastanza va abbastanza va

Thanks, anonymous!

Ramon's lyrics site has these chords:

Verse goes G7 D7 G7 D7
Chorus C7 G7 D7 C7 G7

We'll try to post an English translation from the original Italian soon


So fast, so fast,
so fast, so fast

my mind, so fast, so fast
my mind which jumps here and there,
but I tell my mind that it's enough,
it's going well enough, well enough

we have to think about everything
we have to think about this and that
but I tell my mind that it's enough,
it's going well enough, well enough

well enough, I tell my mind,
thank you very much, but it's going well enough

(and the rest repeats the theme again)

Thanks Birgit!

Vic Chesnutt at the 40 Watt last Saturday

Vic Chesnutt by Mike White (

Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins will be touring with Vic Chesnutt for part of February and March. They're old friends and have toured together several times before.

Southern Shelter has recordings of Vic Chesnutt's performance on 2 February, playing with friends at the Ted Hafer Rock Show at the Forty Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. The late Ted Hafer was a member of the 80s-90s Athens band Porn Orchard, and beloved owner/chef/cookbook author of the beloved Athens vegetarian eatery, The Grit.

Vic Chesnutt
Southern Shelter
Porn Orchard
The Grit

Friday, February 1

The Modern Lovers 2007

The classic recording The Modern Lovers has been released lots of times, lining pockets of record labels but not The Modern Lovers. In 2005, Jonathan Richman et al sued Sanctuary Records:

Charging that they have not been paid in 30 years for the punk rock classics "Roadrunner" and "Pablo Picasso," along with 83 other recordings, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers are suing Sanctuary Records, Bomp Records and producer Kim Fowley for the rights to the band's recordings.

Richman and his original bandmates -- Jerry Harrison, David Robinson and Ernie Brooks -- are also seeking restitution of the defendants' gains and profits. Lawsuit was filed in Superior Court of California in L.A.

Suit charges that Sanctuary has issued three albums, licensed the music to another record company for another album as well as film and TV but never paid any royalties or supplied royalty statements.

Sanctuary, a U.K. company with U.S. offices, took ownership of the original recordings of Richman and the Modern Lovers in 2000.

-- Phil Gallo Variety

In 2007 Castle Music (owned by Sanctuary Records Group) re-released The Modern Lovers (02182-36294-2). Here's a review:
Excellent reissue of a kick-ass classic. Only thing better would be seeing this on vinyl. But for a CD version, Castle Music superbly re-creates this masterpiece, keeping the original song order intact and the bonus pieces at the back--unlike the late-1980s Rhino CD. The bonus cuts are all well-chosen, too. Appearing again is the original cover (the heart around the words "The Modern Lovers"), sans that ugly blow-dried-haircut photo Rhino slapped on their cover. The cover is a weird purple, and this has been problematic for the album's reissues all along--nobody seems to want to recreate the original Beserkley cover intact, meaning the simple heart cover in plain black and the concert poster on the back cover. Your best bet for a near replica is the 2000 gatefold Get Back Records LP reissue, which, though a gatefold while the original was not, nevertheless replicates the poster inside the gatefold--though oddly, Get Back's single-fold version does not include the poster copy on its back cover. Welcome to the strange world of reprints. In any case, Castle does a superb job here, including a huge foldout CD packet with more history on the Modern Lovers than we have a right to expect. Of the bonus cuts, Dignified & Old, and I'm Straight, would not seem out of place on the original issue, but Government Center forecasts the goofier Modern Lovers that fills Richman's catalog after this one-hit wonder. The remaining bonus cuts range from forgettable (Dance with Me, and I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms) to jitteringly fascinating alternate verisons of key original LP cuts--Roadrunner, Modern World, and Someone I Care About.

This is the fifth copy of this lovely gem I've owned, including my "disappeared" original Beserkley LP purchased for a mere 8 bucks in a Minneapolis Wax Trax in 1980, the ugly Rhino CD that was stolen from my home, and the two recent Get Back reprints. If any of those versions of this great work of art has ever gotten under your skin, you'll understand the compulsion to add yet another incarnation to your collection. If you've not yet been smitten by the Lovers, there's a big juicy kiss waiting for you in this jewel case. Pucker up! And join the modern world, with me.

-- Gary Kuhlmann (originally posted here)

Thanks Gary!

The Modern Lovers Castle Reissue 2007

The Modern Lovers

Jojo and Patrick

What ! Almost 5 years since I last saw Jonathan on tour, when I saw him a lot during the 80's and 90's. Please come back on tour in France soon, Jonathan.

Anyway, here's a pix of Jojo and me in Evreux, great show, with a Jojo talking a lot about war (being against it, of course).

Jonathan and Tommy kindly dedicate my tix and I chated with them after the show. I said to Jonathan that it was a pity that he never sold a lot of albums - he answered "yep, but who cares, Eminen sells a lot, he deserves it ...". I said, ok, but what I mean is that it's a matter of business / promotion too, like Bruce Springsteen and Elliott Murphy with CBS, who needed a "new" Dylan. Jojo answered, I don't agree with you : for Bruce it was a matter of life or death when Elliott will have a job apart waiting for "success" (which Elliott denied - see Jacques' interview, end of year 2006).

I love this Jojo guy since i saw him crying on stage while singing "I'm A little Dinosaur" at the end of the 70's, and will forever like him.

All the best to you all.