Jonathan Richman

1995 Tour with the Rattle Kings

The legendary Jonathan Richman rolled through town to play for a small group of loyal fans at a horrendously unadvertised gig on the 14th. Supporting him were the Rattle Kings who are a rather impressive country rockabilly band, except they don't have much to do with what Jonathan Richman does.

Since 1968 (no lie) before the Milkmen died, before They might have been Giants, before the Ladies got Barenaked , Jonathan Richman (at times with the Modern Lovers) has been writing and performing songs to make people laugh. They have titles like "Abominable Snowman in the Market," "Dodge Veg-a-Matic," "Ice Cream Man," and "Here Come the Martian Martians." His lyrics are even better. Check out "Vampire Girl" about females in black with white make up: "Does she cook beans, does she cook rice, does she perform ritual sacrifice? Is she in heaven, is she in hell, is she a sex industry professional?"

His years of performing show through. Between verses of the first few songs in his set he tells the sound guy exactly what knobs to turn to get exactly what he wants. His guitar playing at this point is flawless. With no backup except for his drummer, Jonathan and his material can stand on their own.

When asked what's kept him going for all these years, he says, "Fun. As soon as it stops being fun I'll hang it up." There seems to be little chance of that happening though, because he really enjoys himself on stage. Every song has a guitar solo with his classic heavy metal posturing and hip wiggling. He's very personable and talks to the audience a lot during his set. After the show at the Zephyr he sat down at a table next to the stage to sign autographs, shake some hands, and talk to fans. Jonathan Richman is the ultimate Non Rock Star. I think he's my idol. You can get some of his great music by calling Round Records at 1 800 44 DISCS or by writing to Les Gripkey, P.O. Box 8024, Santa Cruz, CA 95061.

Dave Robbins
© 1995, Rational Alternative Digital