Monday, April 16, 2007
By the time Sire decided to take a chance on him, Jonathan Richman was pretty much the way we know him now -- the goofy ageless Gallant, who enthusiastically belts nursery rhymes bare-chested and acts, or seems to be acting, like someone flickering awfully close to mental illness. In spite of Richman's undeniable charm he hasn't come across as anything close to real for decades, except in extremely brief flashes. A music journalist I knew managed to get one of the few interviews granted anyone on the tour in support of this, and the scene he described was bizarre, with Richman repeatedly breaking down into tears at any question of his motives, no matter how gentle. So I guess you have to take him at face value. Me, I got a good deal of pleasure from his appearance in There's Something About Mary; any time he essays rock 'n' roll (as in Chuck Berry covers) it's worth pausing to appreciate; and for all the acutely winsome folderol about mean bugs and jolly Martians throughout his solo career, he's still capable of stunners like "That Summer Feeling." I mean, take a listen to that one and just try to deny that it hurts.