He is the guy who musically narrated the Farrelly brothers’ Something About Mary and I figured he must have been an American folk singer. A review in Vice remarked on how Dan Sartain vs the Serpeintes sounded like the bastard son of Jonathan Richman and Johnny Cash so I bought Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love, the first album I could find, his most recent and nothing like the estranged father of Dan Sartain. He was in a band called The Modern Lovers who recorded a song about Pablo Picasso never being called an asshole, which I heard on Alex Cox’s Repo Man. I saw that movie when I was about 13. The Modern Lovers originally recorded Roadrunner, the song the Pistols cover at the beginning of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, I had presumed that it was a generic 1950s rock-n-roll number by Bo Diddley. A record I stole off a mate included The Modern Lovers’ Pablo Picasso amongst tracks that inspired The Strokes, I only really played that track.
Despite associations Jonathan Richman existed long before punk and was in fact inspired himself by The Velvet Underground, explaining why Roadrunner sounds like Sister Ray. The original Modern Lovers split up in 1974 before they actually released their, John Cale produced, first album. Instead it was released in 1976 by someone who thought it fitted in with punk and hence sounds nothing like the rest of Jonathan Richman’s back catalogue, where he takes centre stage ahead of an ever changing Modern Lovers line-up. I bought a few records at the same time but mostly ended up listening to one in particular, Rock n Roll With The Modern Lovers, which I think was recorded in a bathroom. Rock n Roll has some shit songs on it that are exquisitely lovable, especially Ice Cream Man, and Egyptian Reggae which is now used on a Weetabix advert. I went to Boston and came home to find out that he was from Massachusetts. I still felt that bit closer to the music and was desperate to see him live when he played a one-off gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire. He was great with just long serving drummer Tommy Larkins, full of Spanish guitar, twisted solo dance routines, multilingual encores and a polite manner declining to play requests for a baying crowd of middle-aged men.
It was there that I realised I knew nothing about Jonathan Richman although I’ve been told he is 56 and he clearly has terrible dress sense.