Monday, August 8

Lost Song: Boston Boston USA

I would like to present a truly rare "lost song" from very early on in Jonathan Richman's career: "Boston Boston USA".

This was sparked by a comment left on a blog post a few months ago.
Back in the mid-70's Jonathan had done a pre-announced radio appearance on either WBCN or WBUR.
A song from this performance stood out to the commenter and he reached out to see if anyone else knew of it.

This song is an ode to Boston in the musical spirit of "Willie and the Hand Jive".
I could see this fitting in on an album like "Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers" which came out roughly two years later in 1976. Kind of like a sister to "Back in the USA" or "New England", as it has a primal, anthemic feel.

There is a mention of this song in the book "There's Something About Jonathan" starting at chapter 4 which I used for most of the information below.

In 1973, the Modern Lovers were busy recording for their tumultuous 1st album and had driven out to California. (This was after the infamous Bermuda trip). Ernie Brooks recalls them feeling very out of place there (too "sophisticated" for the west coast!), especially Jonathan who was not adjusting to the weather well.

I wonder if that is when (and the context by which) Jonathan wrote this song.

They played some shows on this trip, one of them at the Long Branch Saloon (they had played there previously, I'm not referring to this show) with a set-list that still included most of the old "punk" songs, but with a tamer sound.
As an opening song, accompanied only by bass (Ernie Brooks), "Boston, Boston, USA" was performed.

If a copy of this show exists (as the text from the book seems to indicate with it's detail), please let me know!

A few months later, on February 23 1974, back in Boston, at the "Boston Center For The Arts" the song was performed again, this time with a full band accompaniment.

A recording of this show exists but the sound quality is very poor.
To try to share a more audible copy of the song, I made an edited version using the Audacity software.
I increased the volume, and with the "EQ" tool I increased the "highs" a bunch, and slightly lowered the "lows".

Here is the recording:

I also tried scribing the lyrics down. It was quite a chore due to the sound quality of the recording!
Here's the best I could do, please comment if you have any corrections!

Well I know a girl from Mattapan
I go up the hills and down again
Well I like to walk up Blue Hill Ave
and run all around with the legs that I have

Ok, what you say, modern dance floor

Boston, USA (oh, yeah, yeah)
Boston, USA

I know a girl from Roslindale
Said Boston winters get cold as hell
I love to ride on the MBTA
Gonna run around Boston, USA

All right, here we go now

Boston, USA (oh, one more time)
Boston, USA

Well, now, Cleveland Circle, Mattapan
Norwood, Newton, Framingham,
Allston, Saugus, Jamaica Plain
I love Boston USA

(need help with this verse)
I know a girl from Cambridge, Mass
Make good sense from a place like that(?)
I want to fly in the open street (?)

Boston, USA
Boston, USA (one more time)
Boston, USA