Album: Jonathan Sings – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Review: Sounds  (unknown date)1984
Author: Bill Black

IT’S BEEN a long time since Jonathan Richman‘s last album, Back In Your Life, and apart from the release of some interesting Kim Fowley produced demos featuring the original Modern Lovers line-up (boasting future members of Talking Heads and The Cars), there’s been little for fans of this Boston boy with the asthmatic’s voice and the frail rock ‘n’ roll tunes to get their teeth into.

All the more frustrating then, that his first album in four years, Jonathan Sings, should take nearly nine months finding a home and release date in Britain. But trusty old Rough Trade do the business yet again and I suggest they have an out ‘n’ out winner on their hands.

Those of you who remember who enjoyed a brief flowering in the British charts towards the end of the Seventies with songs like ‘Egyptian Reggae’ are going to be surprised by Jonathan Sings, for whilst the debate over whether he is childlike or just plain childish – the Yanks’ answer to the puerile punkiness of John Otway – continues, Richman has got on with the job of refining his own interpretations of his first love, Fifties doo-wop and early rock ‘n’ roll music.

He is helped by a new-look Modern Lovers featuring two female backing vocalists. Admittedly more like the Roches than the Ronettes, their warm, answering (“tell us Jonathan…”) tones work wonderfully with Richman’s naturally nervous voice.

Better still is the sparse instrumentation. Upright bass, minimal drumming and Richman’s racey rhythm guitar connect in a thoroughly authentic way, giving songs like ‘This Kind Of Music’, ‘Stop this Car’ and ‘Those Conga Drums’ (a dead ringer for the Coasters) an unforced folky feel.

But most impressive is the tenor of Richman’s lyrics. “The Neighbors’, Not Yet Three’ (written from a baby’s perspective with the priceless line “I’m stronger than you/You’re simply bigger than me”) and even the seemingly serene ‘That Summer Feeling’ reveal partially concealed moods of anxiety and fear that have previously languished in the shadows of his, er, “wackier” work.

But there’s plenty of the old Richman too – the ‘let me out, I’d rather walk’ hilarity of ‘Stop This Car’ and the jokey jingle ‘Give Paris One More Chance’ – so you can safely say that this is the most satisfying Modern Lovers album of them all.

JC adds…….

I was too busy back in 1984 throwing shapes to indie music in student unions to pay any attention to Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. There was also the fact with so much good music was coming out of Glasgow and the wider environs, it was easy enough not to pay any attention to stuff that was coming out of America.

It was a few years later, thanks primarily to Jacques the Kipper including a few songs on mix tapes that I really paid some attention.  But even then, it didn’t lead me to buying much in the way of the back catalogue, preferring instead to pick up compilation efforts such as 23 Great Recordings By Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers (Castle Communications, 1993), and A Plea For Tenderness (Nectar Masters, 1995) both of which were cheaply acquired.

I’ve since picked up a couple of actual albums but not, as yet, Jonathan Sings, and given the prices being asked on-line for even a poor condition second-hand copy, I’m unlikely to. But, I’ve acquired some tracks from other music blogs in recent(ish) years:

mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling
mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – You’re The One For Me
mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – This Kind Of Music
mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Not Yet Three

And I’ve a different take on one of its songs, courtesy of it being re-recorded on as solo album, Jonathan Sings Country, released in 1990:-

mp3: Jonathan Richman – The Neighbors

He’s an acquired taste in many ways, but I like him.



Back in 1977, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers enjoyed a very substantial hit here in the UK with Egyptian Reggae.

By substantial, I mean it reached #5 and spent an astonishing 14 weeks on the chart, entering on 29 October 1977 and leaving on 28 January 1978. Ten of those weeks were spent in the Top 30, and the other four in positions 31-50; if the chart had been a Top 75 as it would expand to a few years later, then there’s every chance it could have spent the best part of six months hanging around.

I’ve no doubt that the UK public saw it as a novelty song above all else. It was an instrumental that sounded vaguely amusing, taking a piece of reggae and giving it something of an Arabic twist. The mid-late 70s were horrendously racist in many parts of the UK and I fear that many folk bought it for the sake of poking fun at one or more cultures rather than appreciating the work of The Modern Lovers.

It came on the back of Roadrunner being a hit in July 1977, but there hasn’t been a sniff of chart success ever since. The parent album from which Egyptian Reggae was lifted, Rock’n’Roll With The Modern Lovers spent three weeks in the charts but none of the subsequent releases have sold enough copies in the UK to crack the Top 100. I would hazard a guess and say that the vast majority of those who bought Egyptian Reggae wouldn’t have given Jonathan a further thought until they came across him in the 1998 film Something About Mary.

Here’s the two sides of the single:-

mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Egyptian Reggae
mp3: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Rollercoaster By The Sea

The b-side is a fun listen. Almost makes for a decent short story!

The a-side came from this:-

mp3: Earl Zero – None Shall Escape The Judgment

Earl Zero (born Earl Anthony Johnson) is a Jamaican reggae singer and while he wrote this track, it remained unknown until another singer from Kingston recorded his version:-

mp3: Johnny Clarke – None Shall Escape The Judgment

Rather cheekily (and that’s me being polite……), the writing credit for Egyptian Reggae was given solely to Jonathan Richman.



A few days back I was flicking through You Tube looking for a vintage Jonathan Richman clip from a Whistle Test appearance when I found this:-

TOTP 2 was a show that used to fill up time on the schedules of BBC2. It was basically clips of old Top of the Pops shows from the 70s and 80s with the occasional new song thrown in. The fact that they showed a clip of Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers performing New England in April 1978 baffles me. The song never made the Top 75 and yet seems to have been recorded and aired. Unless of course the recording was made while the band happened to be in London and kept for use in case the song did become a hit. I was an avid viewer of the show in the 70s as it was just about the only music shown on TV in those days of just three channels and I don’t remember seeing the clip before finding it on t’internet. Does anyone recall differently?

Anyways, I love this particular song. There’s something utterly joyful about its sentiments and the tune matches it perfectly. I don’t own a copy of the single but both it and its b-side can be found on the Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers LP from 1977.

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – New England
mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Here Come The Martian Martians

Great fun.

Oh and I did also find the clip I was hunting for. It was shown on Whistle Test at some point in the 80s and captures perfectly the sheer enthusiasm of Jonathan as a performer.



The rather wonderful picture for today’s piece was taken by Mike from Manic Pop Thrills during a performance back in 2014 by BMX Bandits at a now-closed tiny pub in Glasgow called the Bowler’s Bar. It was part of an event, curated by Adam Ross of Randolph’s Leap, which itself was part of an extended music/arts festival associated with Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Click here for gig review.

I’ve waxed lyrically before about the regal status in Scottish indie-pop that has rightly been bestowed upon Duglas T Stewart. Thought I’d throw up a few of the covers versions his band have recorded over the years, along with some of the originals (you’ll hopefully understand why I balked at the last of them).

mp3 : Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – After I Made Love To You
mp3 : BMX Bandits – After I Made Love To You

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling
mp3 : BMX Bandits – That Summer Feeling

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us
mp3 : BMX Bandits – Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Hopelessly Devoted To You




Just spent two or so hours browsing round Across The Kitchen Table. I did so as part of my efforts to catch up with everyone’s work over the past four months as I’ve been unable to find enough time to read what others are saying while keeping this place going and dealing with work etc. That’s three of the blogs down but many more to go.

Drew is one of the best bloggers out there in terms of the breadth of music on offer. You might not be the biggest fan of the songs he posts one day but rest assured he’ll be along very soon with an absolute belter. He wrote rather wonderfully the other day about this single from 1984:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling

It came out in the UK on Rough Trade Records.

I later picked up an alternative, longer and even more languid version of the song courtesy of its inclusion on a sort of best-of compilation:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling (alt)

I veer towards the single version in terms of a personal preference but there’s something rather lovely and laidback about the alt version.

Oh and yesterday’s featured Scottish act did a rather lovely cover. There’s a lovely backing vocal courtesy of Norman Blake:-

mp3 : BMX Bandits – That Summer Feeling




This is the story of the song Roadrunner. It’s a bit confusing but stay with me.

Roadrunner was first recorded in April 1972. The producer was John Cale of The Velvet Underground fame. However the song did not see light of day until its release as a single in the USA in 1975. But before its release, it had been re-recorded with Matthew King Kaufman in the producer’s chair, and this new version, which was first made available on a budget compilation album, was released around the same time as the Cale-produced original first saw light of day.

Then in 1976, the Cale-produced version appeared on a much delayed debut LP while the Kaufman produced version was released as a single, first of all in the USA and then later on in the UK, where it’s b-side was……….the Cale version as recorded in 1972!! To confuse things further, the UK single saw the Kaufman version given the title Roadrunner (Once) and attributed to a solo Jonathan Richman while the Cale version was given the title Roadrunner (Twice) and attributed to The Modern Lovers despite the latter being the original by a few tears…..

You following all this??? Good….cos I’m about to confuse things further.

For in 1978, a completely different version saw light of day as a live b-side – and it was given the title Roadrunner (Thrice) …….and attributed to Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers!!

Now for years I had the Thrice version on a cassette tape – it came from me getting a copy of the song from a friend’s older brother who was the first serious muso I ever knew. My copy of ‘thrice’ snapped years ago and I thought my chances of hearing it ever again were minimal given the single was, to the best of my knowledge, only ever released in the USA and didn’t sell in any huge numbers, so I reckoned the chances of anyone owning a copy and then making it available on line were remote. But now thanks to folk putting things up on the likes of youtube and the existence of converter tools, things have changed:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman – Roadrunner (Once)
mp3 : The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (Twice)
mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (Thrice) (Live)

Every one of these versions are quite wonderful dontcha think??

Oh and in a 2003 re-issue of the debut LP, yet another version of Roadrunner was made available. This had been recorded later in 1972 with Kim Fowley in the producer’s chair…..seemingly the band weren’t sure at the time whether to go with Cale or Fowley as the producer of the debut…….(I don’t have a copy of this version otherwise I would have included it in this posting).



sd048_450Triggered off in part by that XTC posting the other day featuring a photo of a concert ticket from 1979….here’s a re-post of a rant from August 2009, together with the various comments folk left behind…..


I’m guessing almost everyone who read this blog likes going along to see live music, in all its shapes and forms, whether it is unknown, unsigned bands in tiny sweaty venues or the weekend-long music festivals that dominate the summer months (or what passes for summer these years in the UK) and all points in between.

Sadly, there are certain companies we have to deal with when trying to get our hands on many of these valuable bits of paper that will gain us admission to the venue. Its changed entirely from my early concert going days in the late 70s and early 80s where you basically went along to the box office at the venue, handed over cash and got a ticket in return. The amount you handed handed over was the price on the ticket.

Nowadays, its usually over the internet or at a centralised booking office and it never reflects the price of the actual gig.

Music fans – and indeed fans wanting tickets for the theatre or sports events – have been getting robbed by these faceless tossers for years, and other than actually taking the drastic action of not going to the gigs at all, there’s very little we can do. If you google the word ‘Ticketbastard’ you’ll quickly get hours of horror stories to cast your eye over.

In the end, its not been an outrageous mark-up that’s got me pissed off, but instead something so small and insignificant that I almost didn’t notice. But when I thought of how many times this small difference would add up to a huge profit, I thought it worth mentioning.

Now, we all know that the ticket agencies levy their service charges somewhat in proportion to the price of the tickets. So, for a sports event later this year at £67.50 a ticket, the service charge is £6.08 per ticket, while a gig ticket at £18.50 gets hit with £2.25 service, and a £9 ticket gets £1.25 (interesting that the music levy is more than 10% of the face value while the sport ticket is marginally below it).

But….there is also a processing fee on top of this…..and it was the amount charged for the music gigs that annoyed me.

On 10th October 2009, I’m off with Mrs Villain to see Jonathan Richman at the Oran Mor in Glasgow, while exactly one month later, we’re off the see Airborne Toxic Event at the ABC in the same city. It was £18.50 per brief for the former, and £9 per brief for the latter, plus that service charges I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Both sets of tickets were ordered the same day, using the same credit card and over the same PC with the same email address. Both sets of tickets were posted out on the same day, and both arrived on the same day, in identical envelopes and with identical packing.

And yet…..the Jonathan Richman tickets cost 65 pence more to process.

Why? Anyone out there know the reason???

OK, its only 65p, but as I said earlier, add up all the 65 pences and you soon get a fair whack of money for fuck all. And there’s no logic….my Morrissey tickets earlier this year were a whacking £32.50 each, with £4.50 service charge on top. But the processing fee was less than that applied to the Jonathan Richman tix.

Feel free to use the comments section to vent your own frustration.

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (Twice)
mp3 : The Airborne Toxic Event – Does This Mean You’re Moving On?

I’ve a funny feeling this posting might just end up with a dmca notice….so I hope you’re onto this quickly swissadam. Thanks for asking for it yesterday:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Ghost Rider

Happy bitchin’.


Mona Says:

August 6, 2009 at 5:39 am
Indeed all those early morning hikes to the (Glasgow) Apollo to get in line back in the 70’s, I was invariably the first but at least I would get a ticket! we have the same shit out here in Australia and what exactly is all this money for…the recent gigs by I think it was The Police had the front seats auctioned off by the promoter, which is just scalping under a different name…I could go on…Regards/
Ed Says:

August 6, 2009 at 7:54 am
When it’s people who do it as a small business (see Ripping Records in Edinburgh, for instance) I’m sympathetic for a couple of quid, but Ticketmaster are just ripping us off left, right and centre. Another of my rants wuold be tix going on sale at times that mean you can’t get there; it’s one thing skiving school if you are a student (that that I condone this) BUT if you work for living like most of us do, then you may not be able to access the internet site from work or spend a small fortune on your mobile trying to get through…GRRR!
Coop Says:

August 6, 2009 at 8:24 am
A new development that really cheeses me off is that some venues/companies now ask you to print the tickets of yourself and charge you a fee still for the pleasure off wasting your own fucking ink. Unbelievable!
JC Says:

August 6, 2009 at 8:51 am
Ed, Like you, I have no problems with Ripping Records or other small shops in cities and towns who sell the tickets incl the booking fee. Its the big boys with their hidden and inconsistent charges that really get to me.
swissadam Says:

August 6, 2009 at 10:23 am
Thanks for the Paul Haig re-post. Agree completely about tickets- extortionate and booking fee system makes little sense. What pisses me off is tickets go on sale at say 9.00 am, 2 mins later all sold out, then re-appear on ticket selling websites, double price and upwards. When the Specials sold tickets for the Manchester Apollo gigs back in June standing tickets immediately jumped to £65, within minutes of them selling out.
condemnedtorocknroll Says:

August 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm
I have had my fair share of ticket problems (mainly to do with tickets selling out superhumanly fast and then reappearing for crazy prices on auction sites, or selling out because apparently everyone but me had some pre-sale code). And I agree that we are all being burned being slaves to the Ticketmaster. I miss the old days of lining up and first come, first serve. Thankfully, quite a few of the bands I see just aren’t popular enough to sell out quickly. I dread to think what would happen if I wanted to see David Bowie live again – I’m thinking I won’t get third row again.
Jim Says:

August 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm
That’s one thing that really pisses me off about King Tut’s. If you want to get a ticket online, you need to go through Ticketmaster. A recent gig I’d planned on going to was only a fiver, by the time Ticketmaster added their booking fee and a bonus charge for me picking up the ticket at the bar, the price had nearly doubled. I’m off to see Beerjacket in Tut’s on Saturday and he is so pissed off at Ticketmaster – apparently he’ll see no money from any tickets sold through them – he’s been arranging to meet people and sell them tickets himself, for the proper price. That’s great for me, not a problem to go meet him and get some tickets, but sucks for both people who are buying online and then for him when he doesn’t even get their cash.As Coop said, the new trend for charging you an extra couple of quid to print the ticket yourself – and I’ve seen a few times where this has been the ONLY option – is another kick in the nuts.Booking fees really get my goat. And I don’t even have a goat!
a Tart Says:

August 7, 2009 at 1:48 am
I live literally less than 10 blocks from the venue where Yo La Tengo will play and I cannot get tickets other than by online via TicketBastard who will take a $23 dollar ticket and after all their fucking service charges and fees end up taking $38 off me! That’s FIFTEEN FUCKING dollars of FUCKING FEES!!!! I am literally screaming at my computer and my wife is looking at me rather horrified even after I’ve explained why. Yes, welcome to ‘merica, land of the free to rape you in every way we possibly can. /rantthank you sir, for the space, love as always, xoxo
Agnes Says:

August 7, 2009 at 6:17 am
I’m with Mona, here in Oz ticket prices are scandalous. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re so bloody far away from everywhere else and it costs more to get here, but if that’s the case then I object! That’s a geographical fee that is, and it’s not our fault we’re at the end of the bloody world! Rubbish.Example ticket cost: $83 AUS to see Sigur Ros at Festival Hall which is basically a big barn with plastic seats and old wooden floors. Hardly a palace. That reminds me of merchandise costs too – $45 for a shirt as well! The sad thing is that I write this and I’m still thinking to myself “yeah but it was worth it”. That’s how they get us in the end.
Mona Says:

August 7, 2009 at 10:16 am
Indeed how do they justify these prices, upcoming Ry Cooder + Nick lowe @ Palais in Melb $140, that is 70 quid and that is before the extra’s. pearl Jam advertised as a value for money $99!!!Regards/
Ah Fong Says:

August 10, 2009 at 8:21 pm
whats with the same fee to pick up at the venue OR have them posted? and does anyone remember buying at the door with no booking fee? or am i just an auld bastart?do venues/promoters get cash from these companies, or does it just relieve them of the hassle(?!) of printing and selling themselves?ticketmaster are the ryanair of music.any chance of richmans ‘into the mystery’?