Iconic cult rocker Jonathan Richman will bring his wide-eyed, boyish-albeit-genius wit to Off Broadway Wednesday evening with longtime-drummer Tommy Larkin in tow. Of course you remember the two from their cameos in the Farrelly Brothers movies Kingpin and There's Something About Mary, but the beauty of Richman's songs cannot be understated. Here is a five-song Jonathan Richman primer to get you acquainted with one of the more under-appreciated songwriters of modern music.
Velvet Underground This song serves as the perfect starting point when diving into Richman's catalog. His early material, especially his work with Modern Lovers, was heavily influenced by the Velvets. The fact that he lived on the couch of Velvet Underground's manager, Steve Sesnick, in the late '60s probably had something to do with that.
Since She Started to Ride Since She Started to Ride is the opening track on Jonathan Goes Country (1990), Richman's nod to golden Nashville twang. What's particularly interesting about this song is the fact that it was recorded here in Missouri. Richman enlisted members of The Skeletons, Lou Whitney and D. Clinton Thompson, to perform on and produce the album at the legendary The Studio in Springfield. Richman is another name on the long list of notable artists who have recorded there (i.e. Wilco, The Bottle Rockets, The Urge, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin).
When I Dance This song was originally recorded with the Modern Lovers in 1986. Then in 1998, Richman tapped fellow Bostonian, Ric Ocasek, to produce the album I'm So Confused, which featured mostly new material and a couple revisitations of older Richman tunes. Ocasek's influence is noticeable right off the bat, as Richman's breezy strumming hovers over slithering, new wave synths.
Vincent Van Gogh Here Richman pays tribute to post-impressionist painter, Van Gogh. This makes sense, too, because you can often hear Van Gogh's influence on Richman's work. Richman is a master at creating coarse beauty with emotional honesty, the same way Van Gogh was able to convey these concepts with the colors in his paintings.
I Was Dancing at a Lesbian Bar This is perhaps the most entertaining song to watch Richman perform live. Richman tells a story of the joy of discovering how much fun it is to dance at a gay bar, and usually throws in some impressive dance moves for good measure. The story is funny and the beauty and hilarity of it all pulls the listener right into the bar and onto the dance floor with him. It's one of those songs that you hear for the first time and you are singing along with by the end.