|Jonathan Richman, doing himself.|
This is where we get to the more esoteric part of my driving playlist. God bless one of our national musical treasures, Jonathan Richman. Perpetually, the standard bearer for Velvet Underground-worship and sometimes overly-earnest naive wisdom, no one could quite touch the noggin, the heart, and sometimes the funny bone, quite like Jonathan. Can anyone make music to rock anyone’s late 1990s Ford Escort’s sound system quite like Mr. Richman? Proof positive, you don’t need to turn any further than by listening to one of the greatest odes to blastin’ songs on the radio…none other than the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner”, the most muscular of all area men rock anthems. Then to prove himself as one of the most affectingly touching softies ever, he creates one of the most beautiful melancholy songs ever “That Summer Feeling”, rivaling the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, as one of the best plain-spoken layman pastoral songs to the end of summer.
Originally recorded in 1972, with original Velvet Underground member John Cale as producer, then released much later off their self-titled album released in 1976, “Roadrunner”, if you already don’t know, refashions the VU’s “Sister Ray” rhythm into this driving proto-punk rocker. Credit to Jonathan, this slightly earnest, normal guy from Massachusetts for doing something other bands like the Feelies, the dB’s, Television, CAN, Luna and countless others would try to tackle much later. He felt enough positive vibes in the VU’s music to flip the darkness on its head and send light towards the listener. As you listen to the song doesn’t its spirited acceptance of quotidian life move you? Man, for me, just hearing Jonathan sound so positively gun-ho about traveling to Mattapan and Rosindale, big uppin’ Massachusetts and the spirit of 1956, dropping by a Stop’n’Shop, as the rest of Modern Lovers start blurring the horizon sonically…faster..and faster just gets me pumped to get out and drive, somewhere — anywhere.Listen to Roadrunner at Grooveshark.
“That Summer Feeling”, now that is a perfect ode to summer ending and also the softie of the day. And how so! Jonathan reinterprets another VU track “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and sonically paints it with the most bittersweet of New England coastal sunsets. Originally released in 1983 on Jonathan Sings!, Jonathan reflects on who he is and what he feels as summer ends. On the face of it, this song appears to be speaking to enjoying some of the most innocent of summery things: driving with the top down, hanging out aimlessly with friends, looking back and realizing fourth grade wasn’t as bad as you remember etc.
However, as Jonathan intones how all these summer feelings together will come back and haunt you…he starts to speak to that part of us that kinda does wish summer would end already. I mean, even he knew that a lot of us tend to glorify a lot of summer occasions that, when taken separately, could have been done any other type of the year. For Jonathan, its more like carpe diem every single day of your life and don’t look towards the summer as an idyllic excuse to wait for to do some cool shit. What better time to do that, than any and every time you can…no matter the season. See? you gotta love this Jonathan Richman dude.
Bonus Track…just Jonathan being Jonathan on French tv in 1982 (a must see!):