Jonathan Richman is forever lost in a fantasy world located in suburbia, usa circa 1960-1965, filled with prom nights, tight striped t-shirts, cute girls in long skirts and butterflies. When talking about Ivy's Apartment Life, Barbara said that pop could make you feel really bad when you were depressed. It doesn't work that way with Jonathan Richman, well, excepted if it's rainy.
I like Jonathan Richman because he struggles to stay and sound innocent. This album, his first without the Modern Lovers, his first without an ugly cover, is brilliant. Each copy contains : two classic 50s instrumentals (Blue Moon, Sleepwalk), an instrumental with a Spanish title (Malagueña de Jojo), a song sung in French with a Spanish accent (Charles Trenet's Que Reste t-il de Nos Amours), a song sung twice, once in English (Closer), once in Spanish (Cerca), a poem (I Eat with Gusto, Damn! You Bet) and great songs about guitars (Fender Stratocaster), clothes (Everyday Clothes) and love (the other ones).
Jonathan Richman is a tongue-in-cheek, vintage rock & roll Chet Baker. He's a cute minimalist who will go on singing naive songs about love and changes of weather 'til the end (his latest album, Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow is amazingly good and still sounding innocent no matter what). I love him for is sincere naiveté and never-ending freshness.
I found this album in a thrift shop somewhere between San Francisco and Mexico, during my 1990 west coast trip (which was appropriately named afterwards "the Ghetto Blaster tour"). I don't know if you remember 1990 but at the time if you were not jaded you were not cool. I can't remember where I bought it but I remember when I first listened to it. It was after one of the last Jane's Addiction shows (with Eric Avery) and I was hanging out with a couple of girls and guys, goths and freaks with piercings (that was before Aerosmith's Get a Grip, piercings were quite underground then) and tatoos. We drove all the way to the Beach and lit a fire there with gasoline and clothes. Everybody was high and playing/singing (we had guitars and black bandanas, we were cool) Jane's Addiction songs. It was a great night. I kissed that girl who looked like Traci Lords (her real name was Vanessa but everybody called her Traci) and we all ended up falling asleep by the fire. I woke up hungover and in a bad mood. Hungover goths are funny. Especially in the sun. So, I said goodbye to all the crowd and decided to walk back to the city, after a quick bath in the Pacific Ocean. I had a ghetto blaster at the time, I think I still have it somewhere. And since I was through with all that Californian scene I decided to put on the Jonathan Richman tape I had bought some time ago. The music was so naive and old fashioned it ended up being touching. It made me think a lot about the fake cocaine-high rock scene (Poison were still together at the time), about the poses, the attitudes, double-necked guitars, glitters, nude girls in cages and the people listening to the music. I ended up thinking about myself, with the long dyed black hair, the bandana, the lipstick and the eye-liner. I decided to spend the last 500 bucks I had stolen from Axl Rose (I was their official drug dealer during the Use Your Illusion tour) to get some clean clothes and a haircut. A few days later I was the happy and proud owner of a weapon building company making 2+ billions a year.
I wish I could have remained innocent, but I was not meant for innocence. Jonathan Richman was a role model for me during these few days, but then I turned 21 and got swallowed whole by the machinery of this blood thirsty economy. Listening to Jonathan Richman nowadays feels like entering a dreamy world in which everything is vintage and cool, where peace exists and where people like me don't belong. In my fiercest dreams I wish that world were real, in my fiercest dreams I wish this was not true.
/sept 15th 2002/