Sunday, July 16, 2006


It's summer, 1981, at the UC Berkeley campus and Jonathan Richman, to a crowd keeping the beat with handclaps, crawls across the ground wiggling his snake-hipped frame to I'm A Little Dinosaur. With barely a respite, he straps on his acoustic guitar and launches into The New Teller, one of pop's great, pocketsize unrequited love melodramas.

He's often accused of being childish, but it's this childlike quality that touches us all: "When I was still with Ernie, David and Jerry, I had some time off while we were waiting to record. I called up hospitals because I wanted to do something. I entertained all these retarded 'children' - they were aged eight to sixty - and I realised they understood me far better than the so-called unretarded people. If they liked you, you knew they liked you. And I realised that I wanted to get away from the direction that my music was headed."

The Sex Pistols, who covered Roadrunner (which Johnny Rotten described as his favourite song), were, along with the Clash, at the Hammersmith Odeon gig in 1977 which saw Jonathan crawling over the drumkit during I'm A Little Dinosaur to the distaste of those attendees more used to spitting equating daring.

You can keep your Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall (and Bob Dylan for that matter) and all of those legendary gigs of yore - with the possible exception of Bill Withers at Carnegie Hall in 1972; give me time travel and I'll sit in the Californian sun and be part of that day of joy when Jonathan was king.

Jonathan Richman--Sproul Plaza, Berkeley, Summer 1981

If you're at home and want to dance along, or offer your own interpretative dance to the pop gods, I'll share with you the experience of the Lucksmiths' Mr Mark Monnone, at FET HQ last night, who lubricated himself with two cans of Red Stripe and ten press-ups. Sadly, I did not have a video to record him shaking a loose foot - and very entertaining it was, too - but until there is technology that can transfer my memories to video, these images will remain in my mind. Which is just as well, as I've also seen some terrible things in my time (Toploader for a start) which you don't want to see.

1 comment:

ally. said...

thanks evers so for the beautiful video - i've recently fallen in love with jonathan all over again, mainly because the mrs loves "vincent van goch".
couldn't agree more about the important? gigs too - bill withers is untouchably fabulous but jonathan in a funny little club in bristol around 1986ish with two guitarists and a guitar case drummer was magical.
thanks again