Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mary Hopkin

This describes nostalgia very well to me. I think it's a really great song!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vinyl Purchase of the Day # 2 -Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

Bought on Sunday November 24th from the record stall on Newcastle Quayside Market on a day I spent with a great friend Kitty. £4.99. Ended up in The Crown Posada the finest pub in Newcastle.
Kitty at The Crown Posada
A slightly different record that I can recommend unreservedly right now!
The lyrics across the video may not be entirely a good idea.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The car, the radio, the night - and rock's most thrilling song


A heartfelt tribute to the beauty and romance of Roadrunner. One of the best music articles I've ever read, chanced upon while looking for something to say about The Modern Lovers.


'The car, the radio, the night - and rock's most thrilling song

It's been called the first punk record. The Sex Pistols used to cover it. And yet Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner is only a hymn to a suburban ringroad in Massachusetts. Laura Barton went to Boston in search of the romance of Route 128. to see the route itself
"I'm out exploring the modern world,
By the pine trees and the Howard Johnsons,
On Route 128 when it's late at night,
We're heading from the north shore to the south shore,
Well I see Route 3 in my sight and
I'm the Roadrunner."

Roadrunner (Thrice), by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

Dusk in a supermarket carpark in Natick, Massachusetts. Outside there is snow in the air and the wind is up. A shopping trolley whirls its way across the tarmac unaided and the cars of Route 9 rush by. I wind the window down. It's cold outside.

People make rock'n'roll pilgrimages to Chuck Berry's Route 66, to Bruce Springsteen's New Jersey Turnpike and Bob Dylan's Highway 61. They flock to Robert Johnson's crossroads, to Graceland, to the Chelsea Hotel, hoping to glean some insight into the music that moves them. In January this year, I made my own rock pilgrimage to the suburbs of Boston, to drive the routes described by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers in the song Roadrunner, a minor UK hit 30 years ago this week.
Roadrunner is one of the most magical songs in existence. It is a song about what it means to be young, and behind the wheel of an automobile, with the radio on and the night and the highway stretched out before you. It is a paean to the modern world, to the urban landscape, to the Plymouth Roadrunner car, to roadside restaurants, neon lights, suburbia, the highway, the darkness, pine trees and supermarkets. As Greil Marcus put it in his book Lipstick Traces: "Roadrunner was the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest."

One version of Roadrunner - Roadrunner (Twice) - reached No 11 in the UK charts, but the song's influence would extend much further. Its first incarnation, Roadrunner (Once), recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale, but not released until 1976, was described by film director Richard Linklater as "the first punk song"; he placed it on the soundtrack to his film School of Rock. As punk took shape in London, Roadrunner was one of the songs the Sex Pistols covered at their early rehearsals. Another 20 years on and Cornershop would cite it as the inspiration behind their No 1 single Brimful of Asha, and a few years later, Rolling Stone put it at 269 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Its impact would be felt in other ways, too: musicians playing on this song included keyboard player Jerry Harrison, who would later join Talking Heads, and drummer David Robinson, who went on to join the Cars. Its power was in the simplicity both of its music - a drone of guitar, organ, bass and drums around a simple two-chord structure - and of its message that it's great to be alive.

Maybe you don't know much about Jonathan Richman. Maybe you've heard the instrumental Egyptian Reggae, which hit No 5 in 1977 and earned him an appearance on Top of the Pops. Or perhaps you recall his cameo as the chorus in There's Something About Mary (the Farrelly brothers are dedicated fans). But if you want to know what Jonathan Richman was about, first think of the Velvet Underground, and then turn it inside out; imagine the Velvets cooked sunny side up. Imagine them singing not about drugs and darkness, but about all the simple beauty in the world.

What characterises Richman's work, and Roadrunner especially, is its unblighted optimism. "Richman's music did not sound quite sane," Greil Marcus wrote. "When I went to see him play in 1972, his band - the Modern Lovers, which is what he's always called whatever band he's played with - was on stage; nothing was happening. For some reason I noticed a pudgy boy with short hair wandering through the sparse crowd, dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt on which was printed, in pencil, 'I LOVE MY LIFE.' Then he climbed up and played the most shattering guitar I'd ever heard. 'I think this is great,' said the person next to me. 'Or is it terrible?'"

There are plenty of versions of Roadrunner. The Unofficial Jonathan Richman Chords website lists 10 discernibly different versions: seven given an official release and three bootlegs. Richman apparently wrote the song in around 1970. The 1972 John Cale version was a demo for Warner Brothers, and only saw the light when the Beserkley label in California collected the Modern Lovers' demos and put them out as the Modern Lovers album in 1976. Two more 1972 demo versions, produced by the notorious LA music svengali Kim Fowley, would be released in 1981 on a patchy album called The Original Modern Lovers, and a live version from 1973 would appear a quarter of a century later on the live record Precise Modern Lovers Order. In late 1974, Richman recorded a stripped-down version of the song for the Beserkley, which apparently took a little over two hours. This would be the Roadrunner (Twice), the most successful version. A further take, extended beyond eight minutes, and recorded live, was titled Roadrunner (Thrice) and released as a single B-side in 1977.

While every version of Roadrunner begins with the bawl of "One-two-three-four-five-six" and ends with the cry of "Bye bye!", each contains lyrical variations and deviations in the car journey Richman undertakes during the song's narrative, though it always begins on Route 128, the Boston ringroad that Richman uses to embody the wonders of existence. In one, he's heading out to western Massachusetts, and in another he's cruising around "where White City used to be" and to Grafton Street, to check out an old sporting store, observing: "Well they made many renovations in that part of town/ My grandpa used to be a dentist there." Over the course of the various recordings he refers to the Turnpike, the Industrial Park, the Howard Johnson, the North Shore, the South Shore, the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, Route 3, the Prudential Tower, Quincy, Deer Island, Boston harbour, Amherst, South Greenfield, the "college out there that rises up outta nuthin", Needham, Ashland, Palmerston, Lake Champlain, Route 495, the Sheraton Tower, Route 9, and the Stop & Shop.

My pilgrimage will take me to all of these places. For authenticity's sake I have chosen to make the trip in January, because, as Richman observes in Roadrunner (Thrice) on winding down his car window, "it's 20 degrees outside". Having consulted a weather website listing average temperatures for Boston and its environs, I find it is most likely to be 20 degrees at night-time in January. And, as in Roadrunner, I will drive these roads only at night, because "I'm in love with modern moonlight, 128 when it's dark outside."

Richman was born in the suburb of Natick in the May of 1951. It was there that he learned to play clarinet and guitar, where he met some of his Modern Lovers. But that is not where I begin my journey. If you want to find out where Richman was really born, musically speaking, you have to head to a redbrick building in central Boston. On my first afternoon, as I prepare for my inaugural night drive, I pull up on Berkeley Street, within spitting distance of the Mass Pike, trying to find the original site of the Boston Tea Party, the venue where Richman first saw the Velvet Underground as a teenager.

Richman was infatuated with The Velvets, from the first moment he heard them on the radio in 1967. He met the band many times in his native Boston, opened for them in Springfield, and in 1969 even moved to New York, sleeping on their manager's sofa. Roadrunner owes its existence to the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray, though the three-chord riff has been pared back to two, just D and A.
A live recording from the Middle East Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, made in October 1995, has Richman introducing his song Velvet Underground with the recollection that he must have seen the band "about 60 times at the Boston Tea Party down there at 53 Berkeley Street". So along Berkeley Street I walk, counting down to number 53, the cold from the pavement soaking up through my boots, the air before me hanging in frosty white wreaths. The venue is gone now, and today it is a civilised-looking apartment block with no hint of the rock'n'roll about it save for a plaque announcing that Led Zeppelin and the Velvets, BB King and the J Geils Band all played here. It does not mention Jonathan Richman.

That evening I drive along Route 128 for the first time. I head up towards Gloucester, as the night drifts from rain to sleet to snow. All the way there, the road is quiet; the rush-hour traffic has thinned, and I drive behind a minibus emblazoned with the words Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center. The street lights peter out and at times I can barely see the road markings; by the time I reach the North Shore I am hunched over the steering wheel squinting at the road. In Gloucester, I draw into the carpark of Dunkin' Donuts. Cars swish by on Eastern Avenue, rain falls heavily. Inside, one lone figure in an anorak is buying Thursday night doughnuts. This is the very end of R128.
It feels exhilarating, alone out here in the darkness. I peer through the windscreen at the cosy houses of Gloucester, a seaside resort and home to 30,000 people. Televisions blink behind drawn curtains, and I think how cold and late it is and how by rights I should be indoors. But what matters right now is out here: the radio, and the dark and the night and this glorious strip of tarmac before me.
Route 128 was opened in 1951, and is also known as the Yankee Division Highway. It runs from Canton on the South Shore up here to Gloucester. At times it intertwines with I-95, the interstate highway that runs from Florida to the Canadian border. Route 128, and what it represents, is an important element in Roadrunner. Between 1953 and 1961, many businesses, employing thousands of people, moved to lie alongside Route 128, and the road became known as America's Technology Highway. During the 1950s and 1960s, Boston's suburbs spread along the road, and the businesses were joined by people, the residential population quadrupling in the 50s and then doubling again in the 60s. This was the world in which Richman grew up, a world that rejoiced in technology, that celebrated the suburbs and the opportunities offered by the highway.

In Tim Mitchell's biography There's Something About Jonathan, Richman's former next-door neighbour and founder member of the Modern Lovers, John Felice, recalls the excitement of driving that route with his buddy: "We used to get in the car and we would just drive up and down Route 128 and the turnpike. We'd come up over a hill and he'd see the radio towers, the beacons flashing, and he would get almost teary-eyed ... He'd see all this beauty in things where other people just wouldn't see it. We'd drive past an electric plant, a big power plant, with all kinds of electric wire and generators, and he'd get all choked up, he'd almost start crying. He found a lot of beauty in those things, and that was something he taught me. There was a real stark beauty to them and he put it into words in his songs."

Driving back towards Boston, past factories and blinking red lights, I head down to the South Shore, to Canton, where Route 128 becomes I-95, heading off towards Providence, Rhode Island, and way on down to Miami. Canton is the home of Reebok and Baskin Robbins, and I drive aimlessly through its dark streets before scooping back up to Quincy, where Howard Johnson's and Dunkin' Donuts began, and out along Quincy Shore Drive. I put on Roadrunner (Thrice), my favourite version of Roadrunner. "Well I can see Boston now," it goes. "I can see the Prudential Tower/ With the little red lights blinking on in the dark/ I'm by Quincy now/ I can see Deer Island/ I can see the whole Boston harbour from where I am, out on the rocks by Cohasset/ In the night."

The next day I head out to Natick. My mission is to see the suburban streets where Richman grew up, and to visit the Super Stop & Shop, on Worcester Street. The Stop & Shop is a supermarket chain founded in 1914 and which now boasts 360 stores, most of them in New England. The Stop & Shop is one of the key locations in Roadrunner, for it is where Richman makes a key discovery about the power of rock'n'roll radio: "I walked by the Stop & Shop/ Then I drove by the Stop & Shop/ I like that much better than walking by the Stop & Shop/ 'Cause I had the radio on."

The experiment is important. Richman states that having the radio on makes him feel both "in touch" and "in love" with "the modern world", and the presiding connection with modernity throughout Roadrunner - with the highway, with the car, with rock'n'roll, conveys Richman's delight at living entirely in the moment.

Natick Stop & Shop looks too modern to be the same store Richman walked past, then drove past. "How long has this Stop & Shop been here?" I ask the cashier. He is young and slightly built, a faint brush of hair on his top lip. "Uh, I dunno ... " he frowns. "Did you know there's a famous song that mentions the Stop & Shop?" I press on. "No." He looks at me, hairs twitching, and his colleague interrupts as she packs my bags: "Can I take my break?" she demands, squarely. Outside, I walk slowly past the Stop & Shop. Then I climb into my silver Saturn with its New Jersey plates and drive past the Stop & Shop, with the radio on for company. I feel in touch with the modern world.
Some hours later, having driven out along Interstate 90 - the Mass Pike - and down the 495, past Framingham and Ashland and Milford, I find myself in the Franklin Stop & Shop, standing at the Dunkin' Donuts counter. "Oh my gawd! We've almost run out of glazed!" cries one of the attendants. "The other day we sold one glazed all day!" "Mm-hmm," replies her colleague, in a world-weary tone. "Some day you sell none at all, other days they all just go." They are playing Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract in the cafe, and I sit there with my doughnut and my coffee and my map of Massachusetts, plotting my route out towards Amherst and the University of Massachusetts, and up to Greenfield, about two hours west. I love to think of Richman making this drive, about the "college out there that just rises up in the middle of nuthin'/ You've just got fields of snow and all of a sudden there's these modern buildings/ Right in the middle of nothing/ Under the stars." There is the glorious feeling of driving for driving's sake, away from the draw of Boston, away from the ocean, and delving deep into the heart of Massachusetts.

It is late when I get home. After staying a couple of nights at a hotel overlooking the harbour I have moved to the Howard Johnson, out by Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. It is a low-rise hotel across from a McDonald's, inside it is filled with a weary light and the stale smells of the Chinese restaurant attached. In its heyday, Howard Johnson's was a hugely successful chain of motor hotels and restaurants, famous for its 28 flavours of ice cream. Richman loved the Howard Johnson's chain, devoting an entire song to it in his early days, in which he declared happily: "I see the restaurant/ It is my friend." At one point, Tim Mitchell writes, Richman personalised his Stratocaster guitar by cutting out a piece of it, spraying it the recognisable greeny-blue of the Howard Johnson logo and then reinserting it. Today, there are only a couple of Howard Johnson's restaurants in existence, none of them in Massachusetts, and the logo lives on only as part of a budget hotel chain.

Outside the hotel tonight the snow is deep; it piles up around wheel arches and lies thickly across bonnets and windscreens. I haven't really spoken to anyone for days, and my firmest friend has become the radio. I'm tuned to AM, in homage to Roadrunner, with its gleeful shouts of: "I got the AM!/ Got the power!/ Got the radio on!" Tonight in the neon glow of the carpark, I flick through stations broadcasting only in Spanish, music shows, adverts for dating websites, custom replacement windows, car loans, Dr Kennedy's prayer show, until they blur into one long rush of song and speech and advertisement ", for $29.99 you get one free, You wouldn't stay away as much as you do/ I know that I wouldn't be this blue/ If you would only love me half as much as I love you."

For my final night's drive it is snowing heavily. I decide to cover every single geographical point on the Roadrunner map in one long drive, setting out shortly after nine o'clock for Gloucester. It is a beautiful night, the roads empty, the snow falling onto my windscreen in great beautiful plumes, I put my hand outside the window and the flakes float gently, coldly on to my fingers. I drive past the Stop & Shop, I drive out towards Amherst, to south Greenfield. I take in Route 128, the Mass Pike, Route 3, from R9 I loop down to R495, down towards Quincy, I head out to Cohasset, to the rocks. And as I spiral about the snowy landscape I feel like a skater, pirouetting across the ice.

I drive for hours. "But I'm hypnotised," as Roadrunner (Thrice) puts it. And it is a funny thing, driving alone, late at night; pretty soon you come to feel at one with the car, with the road, with the dark and the landscape. This is one of the themes that rises up out of Roadrunner, that feeling that "the highway is my only girlfriend" that here, loneliness is a thing to be cherished. "Now I'm in love with my own loneliness," he sings. "It doesn't bother me to feel so alone/ At least I'm not staying alone at home/ I'm out exploring the modern world."

It is the early hours of the morning. I am tired. My mouth is thick with coffee and my throat dry from the car heater. As I loop back towards Route 128 for the final time I turn off the radio and put on Roadrunner (Thrice): "One-two-three-four-five-six!" Suddenly there is a lump in my throat. I pull over and wind the window down, let the cold night air rush in, and through the falling snow I watch all the lights of the modern world, blinking out over Boston.
"Well you might say I feel lonely
But I wouldn't say I feel lonely
I would say that I feel alive
All alone
'Cause I like this feeling
Of roaming around in the dark
And even though I'm alone out there
I don't mind
'Cause I'm in love with the world." '

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Iggy Pop

A picture of Iggy Pop and a friend

#15 The Modern Lovers -The Modern Lovers

                                                          One two three four five six...
    I was quite effected when Lou Reed died two or three weeks back. The depth of my emotions puzzled me. A friend of similar tastes said maybe it was because he had always been there. It might be because it was impossible to imagine rock and roll, culture and even modern life without him. He influenced things to a degree it's difficult to measure, he pushed things on, changed people who went on to change other people resonated throughout cultures and it all made things better. All those words, thoughts and ideas impressed themselves on me, made me understand and appreciate and love the world in a deeper, more profound way. Thanks Lou!
One person he and his band changed was Jonathan Richman. Brian Eno famously commented that the Velvets album only sold 30,000 copies but that  "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band." Jonathan was one of the very first who did so. He had attended the Velvets reasonably regular Boston Tea Party dates in the late 60s and got to know the band.

'At the age when identity is a problem, some people join rock'n'roll bands and perform for other people who share the same difficulties.' Lou Reed

Jonathan was deeply changed by the impact of watching the Velvets play, said on this album's release 'if it weren't for Iggy and Lou Reed this record wouldn't have existed.' But like all great artists he took that influence and empowerment completely his own way. The Modern Lovers as much as any record before or since is about the absolute central importance of individualism and the individual statement. Jonathan went on from here to make a series of records, alone and with various assemblies of The Modern Lovers that are absolutely, unmistakeably his voice.

'Jonathan had picked up on the beauty that the Velvet's were driving at both in words and in the pure sound of their music. A sound and even a look that was stripped down, stark yet powerful and dignified, as he would later explain in his tribute song to their influence, "Velvet Underground." He studied how the Velvet's used simple sounds and rhythm to build excitement and to communicate complex emotions. How through just two guitars, bass and drums and the occasional organ they were able to create a huge moving sound (see Jonathan's breakdown of the Velvet's different equipment from year to year and how it effected their sound in the Malanga/Bockris Uptight book for more evidence of how deeply he studied their sound). Jonathan took from the Velvet Underground this idea of capturing in song a feeling of clarity or transcendence and communicating it so clearly and directly that the audience would be forced to acknowledge it, forced to feel something, if only uncomfortable. And both bands encountered derision, condescension and spite for daring to examine and report on life so honestly courtesy of some of the self-appointed intelligentsia of the burgeoning counter culture. It was anything but cool.'

Modern Lovers - compare the hair!
Ahead of his time and probably his band
'Feted and fated, The Modern Lovers coulda been contenders. Their demo sessions were produced by John Cale and Kim Fowley, they were courted by major labels such as A&M and Warner Bros. and counted Gram Parsons as a friend. Their line up included idiosyncratic singer/guitarist/songwriter Jonathan Richman and future Talking Head keyboardist Jerry Harrison, yet they imploded before releasing an album. When this eponymous collection of remixed demos was released in 1976 its guileless simplicity saw it adopted by the nascent punk movement.'
That's a great potted history of the early incarnation of the group. Like most of the great American pioneer bands that paved the way for punk and the CBGBs scene, (the Velvets, MC5, Stooges, The New York Dolls), theirs was a story of thwarted, unrealised ambition and ability. It's extraordinary to listen to this album imagining how out of place it must have sounded in 1972 when  it was initially recorded. All of the bands fellow travellers, the groups mentioned above plus Roxy, Bowie and the more inventive British bands, remarkable as they all were, fitted in some ways within the confines of glam. The rest of the Modern Lovers had the hair to vaguely do so but Richman was not about to conform to anyone else's script.
His was a very specific manifesto. '(Pere Ubu's) Peter Laughner later recalled that as soon as he could play guitar, Richman would stalk through the parks of Cambridge, declaiming his songs to anyone within earshot, yelling things like 'I'm not a hippie! I'm not stoned!'
There were things that Modern Lovers shared with contemporaries though. It's interesting to listen to music from this era again and notice how nostalgic it is. Mott the Hoople, New York Dolls, Bowie, Roxy all look back to some golden age even though they were all to some degree cutting edge artists when they made their key releases. Almost all of Richman's career output does the same but to an even greater extent and he heads right back to the birth of rock and roll and most particularly doo wop. When it was all in its purest, most distilled, essential form.
That's not so evident yet on this record. The Velvet Underground are surely there as its guiding influence. The guitars rattle, the drums thump and the organ drones much like a primitive, little brother version of Loaded. They're a pretty fine garage band. But within that framework it's Richman's voice, personality and lyrics that make the record so distinctive and give it such an edge.
This is one of my favourite record sleeves in my collection. The cover design is simple and iconic. The writing on the back cartoony American pop art lettering framing the classic image of the band posted above. Blue, black and white. The vinyl sleeve unlike almost all of the other records in my collection is plain yellow (is that a Berserkley records characteristic?) rather than the dull white of virtually every other album. Then there's the classic Bersekley logo on the record itself. Classically beautiful American Rock and Roll. So I think we're just about ready to go. Count us in Jonathan...

'Roadrunner is one of the most magical songs in existence. It is a song about what it means to be young, and behind the wheel of an automobile, with the radio on and the night and the highway stretched out before you. It is a paean to the modern world, to the urban landscape, to the Plymouth Roadrunner car, to roadside restaurants, neon lights, suburbia, the highway, the darkness, pine trees and supermarkets. As Greil Marcus put it in his book Lipstick Traces: "Roadrunner was the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest."'

It may be a mixed blessing to open your first record by making your absolute, definitive statement. It's difficult to think of anybody who did this as notably as Richman. He had plenty of other glorious moments but this is the song he will be remembered for by those who were not devotees. It's strange to imagine what it must have been like for him year in year out with the catcalls for 'Roadrunner' between songs every night at gigs. He never seemed to complain, at least to my knowledge. That's no slur whatsoever on his back catalogue. Roadrunner is one of the finest moments in all of Rock and Roll. It's as good as anything else by anyone.
 I have a memory of it. A party that I put on in halls with a few of my friends in my first year at university. We booked a hall and rented an oil bubble machine in some naïve attempt to replicate the Exploding Plastic Inevitable experience. We got people dancing with some classic soul tracks. Tried to keep the momentum going slightly less successfully with R.E.M and Husker Du. But Roadrunner worked. I particularly remember one guy who hadn't danced previously moving onto the floor and dancing away in his own space for its duration. Roadrunner will do this every time if the people you're with have the remotest sense.
I feel alone. I feel alive. I feel a love.
 Writing this blog can be an absolute joy. It gives you the licence to delve and dream, do a little research and work out why you love the things you've loved for so many years instinctively, without conscious thought, without really knowing why. The briefest internet exploration on the subject of Roadrunner this morning unearthed a host of things I was unaware of which located and fleshed this wonderful song out into physical territory. 
Richman wrote the song by 1970 and began performing it in public when he was just 19.
'In Tim Mitchell's biography There's Something About Jonathan, Richman's former next-door neighbour and founder member of the Modern Lovers, John Felice, recalls the excitement of driving that route with his buddy: "We used to get in the car and we would just drive up and down Route 128 and the turnpike. We'd come up over a hill and he'd see the radio towers, the beacons flashing, and he would get almost teary-eyed ... He'd see all this beauty in things where other people just wouldn't see it. We'd drive past an electric plant, a big power plant, with all kinds of electric wire and generators, and he'd get all choked up, he'd almost start crying. He found a lot of beauty in those things, and that was something he taught me. There was a real stark beauty to them and he put it into words in his songs."
It's a geographical love song
Richman, here, as almost always throughout his career, writes about his passions, on this album almost from his diaries. There's a simplicity to the lyrical momentum that keeps it barrelling forward. It is what it describes, a youthful, youth-filled drive down Route 128. It's geographically locked in its time and space. It's been called the first punk song by Richard Linklater, (though you'd have to ask 'what about the Stooges?'). I don't think this is doing it any favours. Not many 'punk' songs approach it. John Lydon, might always be labelled 'the' punk, but in my eyes is a really admirable, uncontainable figure. He has said it's his favourite song which raises him higher still in my estimation.
Read through the lyrics. It's such a pared down wonderful expression of experience, emotion and landscape. He's got the radio on as the tyres eat up a road enclosed in nature and modern moonlight. He's establishing a new kind of poetry. A mythology.
'Said hello to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to '57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by so quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven(thunder)
And I say roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I'm in love with rock & roll and I'll be out all night
That's right'

What can I possibly add to that? Isn't it clear? It's talking about and establishing a kind of freedom. There's a very beautiful Guardian article where the writer visits Route 128 and tries to reclaim the song and post it up there with Bob Dylan's Highway 61, Chuck Berry's Route 66 and Bruce Springsteen's New Jersey as essential landmarks embedded into America's psychic highway.
 For me the glow of Richman's vision diminishes all of the others because it's the most real. The most suburban. That's where I'm from. It's the idea I can identify with most.  He's just a teenage boy who wants a girlfriend and is imagining her out there somewhere in the night. In the meantime he has this vivid, utterly real communing with 50,000 watts of power with nature and neon 'when it's cold outside'. It's an epiphany. He's caught and lost within an essential rolling moment.
Read Laura Barton's article above for the full backstory of the glorious romance of this song. I could go on and on but her article's so good that she says pretty most of what I'd try to say and she's travelled down Route 128 in pilgrimage so I'm completely trumped. 'Bye bye' to the open road and hello to the Astral Plane.
'These two gentlemen from Boston kept turning up and saying 'this is Jonathan Richman'. I had no idea that Jonathan and I had met many years before. But what was interesting about the tapes that were presented was that they were very, very slender. They were not aggressive. They were very weak. There was a definitive weakness about the music. And this weakness kept on developing and developing until it was (Richman interjects 'full fledged anaemia' Cale smiles). It's a prime example of how you turn weakness into strength.' John Cale interviewed with Richman on Australian television in the '70s.
Jonathan Richman seems to me to have no clear forebears in Rock history. I can think of no such vulnerable figures who precede him, Certainly not Lou Reed who was a much tougher proposition. But Richman is the precursor, the icon of a raft of willowy, sensitive wallflowers who followed over the next fifteen years. Pete Shelley (ok not willowy), Vic Godard, Jilted John, Feargal Sharkey, Julian Cope, Robert Forster, Edwyn Collins and yes, the inevitable end of the line as so often Morrissey. All interestingly (with the exception of Forster), British. America's clear heirs to Richman were The Talking Heads who took Jerry Harrison amongst much else from the original Modern Lovers. It's difficult to conceive of David Byrne without Jonathan.
 'Tonight I'm all alone in my room
I'll go insane, if you won't sleep with me
I'll still be with you
I'm gonna meet you on the astral plane
The astral plane for dark at night
The astral plane or I'll go insane.'
Initially I wondered whether this is a hymn to the power of the imagination or the glory of onanism. Perhaps my mind's rather grubby. In fact having done a bit of research I've discovered I was doing Jonathon an enormous disservice and should hang my head. It's genuinely about psychic projection through the subconscious. In any case Astral Plane transcends such tawdry concerns to rattle along merrily for just around three minutes making a virtue from what sounds to me like flat rejection. It has the bass line of Nuggets garage bands, the organ hum and drone of a woozy Doors.
Musically, it seems slightly more conventional now than it would have done at the time. It's Richman's warble that really stays in the mind. Was anybody else willing to be so gangly and awkward, so self consciously flat in terms of vocal delivery to get their message across? He maintains single notes droned remarkably across entire lines. It's almost a self-conscious reverse take on The Doors Soul Kitchen where Morrison leaves no doubt that he is getting the girl in every sense.
Richman's lyrics prefigure so much that lies ahead. It's quite difficult to see him for how he must have appeared in 1972 given the inspiration he offered to others who came after. Not just the tall, jerky adolescent figure draped around microphone stands where he pretty much set the template for so much that followed but also the self consciousness of the writing. The wit of it. The irony of knowing that you're a ninety eight pound weakling and making it your winning, selling point.
Natick, Massachusetts
The counter-culture strangely must have been a quite comforting prospect to American students of the late 60s. The taking on of a whole set of rules and behaviour to make a stand against the parental set of values that you were in the process of rejecting. A new set of rules and behaviour ironically and ultimately just as restrictive and defining.
Richman, like no one else at the time except perhaps for Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine in New York was going about a process of self-construction grounded in the real. It was clearly a struggle. Partly perhaps because unlike Hell and Verlaine he hadn't made a complete break from the past. He was still there. In Boston. Richman is renowned for his positivity but he hasn't got to this place yet. These recordings often sound like angst-filled growing pains to me.
Another point of joy in writing and compiling this blog is the chance to listen properly to individual tracks on albums that you've always loved as a whole but have passed you by as specific individualised songs. Such is the case with Old World. Song 3 Side 1 of The Modern Lovers. My new, very favourite song. At least for the next day or two.

More than pretty much all the records that I can think of at this point, Richman was aware of the adolescent transition with all it's complications that he was experiencing. He loved his parents and wasn't afraid to say so. He liked old buildings. He understood the contradictions of youth, embraced them, expressed them. Just listen to Dignified and Old (compare and contrast with 'hope I die before I get old'. Which makes more sense? They were both written by people of similar ages). Or listen to this.
The understanding of everything that made the Velvet Underground work is pretty ingrained in this song. The way that thought through sound and space can open up the opportunity to transmit ideas that work on a different level from the conventional. Musically the sound is pretty much a variation on the Velvet's Rock and Roll from Loaded. The sentiments are untouchable.
'Well I see a '50's apartment house
Bleak in the morning sun
But I still love the '50's
And I still love the old world
I wanna keep my place in the old world
Keep my place in the arcane
'Cause I still love my parents and I still love the old world
Alright indeed. There's a moment halfway through the song when guitar and organ pick up the same motif and play it through together note for note. It's remarkable. Richman has been called innocent, childlike and naïve on so many occasions that you begin to despair for the art of journalism. Were these people ever children themselves and if so, why couldn't they understand the experience. If they didn't, why did they go into journalism? Just call him ahead of his time and an artist and be done with it. He actually flirted with becoming a proper artist (using paint that is), before he saw the Velvets and decided to operate in music instead. Rock and roll's gain. The art world's loss. Though to compensate he did write three great tributes to Cezanne, Picasso and Van Gogh.
One of them's coming up now.  The girls would turn the colour of avocado when he would drive down their street in his El Dorado.He was only five foot three but girls could not resist to stare.  Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole. Oh well be not schmuck, be not obnoxious, be not bellbottom bummer or asshole. Remember the story of Pablo Picasso.
There are the girls. The thing to aspire to. There are the boys. Long haired, drug smoking fools. And there is the artist. If you want to get the girl don't follow the herd. On a jerky, lolloping riff that sounds as if Waiting For The Man has been dismantled and put back together wrong, Pablo Picasso is one of rock and roll's strangest, funniest achievements. A parable.
Picasso was a simple artist. If he had been playing rock and roll he wouldn't have been doing long guitar solos or sculpting prog rock. He'd have left that to Dali. No, he'd have been down with Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground and The Modern Lovers trying to make out with girls. Transposed to New York he's realised here as the ultimate hipster.
So that's Side One. It's pretty complete. It could have been longer given the great repertoire of songs the band had by now but what's there is peerless. On to Side 2.
'Me and Jonathan, as close as we were, you know, I was like a punk, I was a wise-ass kid. I liked to do a lot of drugs, I liked to drink, and Jonathan was like this wide-eyed, no-drugs, ate nothing but health food..' John Felice (original Modern Lover future Real Kid)
She Cracked is more committed to the dark alternative, underground idea of Rock and Roll than anything else Jonathan Richman ever did. At least on the surface. There's a lot of irony about the Modern Lovers take on things though. Listening to them is quite different from listening to The Velvets, Stooges, The MC5 or The Dolls.
But She Cracked is the most New York song on this record. So much of this album is a dialogue between New York and Boston. Richman spent some time on VU manager Steve Sesnick's living room couch in 1969. You can hear it here.
She was sensitive. She understood me.
She understood the European things. From 1943.
She Cracked is a pretty good song title. The song is just fine too. It has all the glacial tension and suspense of  proper rock and roll. It tips a hat to The Velvets and The Stooges whilst retaining an identity of its own. It crackles along, rickety on the rails like a hijacked subway train. 
Richman moans and grumbles throughout but maintains his distance, keeping his dysfunctional New York girl at arms length. Remaining strangely dispassionate about her fate. This is not the girlfriend that Jonathan really had in mind. He's not meant for Steve Sesnick's couch or unhinged New York girls. Boston is little more than a couple of hours away on the train at most. This after all is truly an album of suburban sensibilities from someone who doesn't really want to leave them much as he loves The Velvet Underground. A strangely beautifully dualistic song about an emotional detached relationship between different cities, mindsets and genders. 
'Well she cracked, I won't
She did things that I don't
She'd eat garbage, eat shit, get stoned
I stay alone, eat health food at home.'
From there on to another tale of feminine distress and one of the best tracks on this or pretty much any other album. Hospital. I remember Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens singing this song's praises in a Melody Maker article some time in the 80s that I sadly can't track down. This song points a finger in the direction and development of that quite remarkable band. Here's something Forster said about Richman anyway.
'A breakthrough was listening to Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, and to an extent, Lou Reed. David Byrne from Talking Heads, who showed that you didn’t have to write about this exotic, ’60s subject matter. You could write about the street, your family. You could write about the fact that you haven’t lived an exciting life. You could write about the everyday, which people in the ’60s weren’t really doing. People in the ’60s were writing about a fantastic world, an exploding world. Bowie was writing ‘Ziggy Stardust’’ and that sort of stuff, and so when I made the realisation that I didn’t have to write ‘Ziggy Stardust’, I didn’t have to write ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. That was a big jump to make when you’re 19, that I could write about ‘Karen’, which was all about being in a library at the University Of Queensland. When I made that jump – and it was through Jonathan Richman, it was through David Byrne – that was a big jump. That’s when I started to write songs..'
Hospital is a liberating song about the everyday and the strange, uneasy tangle of emotions that swim under its mundane surface. This is pretty much a defined, finished short story in itself. Cheever or Carver would have been more than proud. It's also a very distinct song structure. It doesn't particularly remind me of anything that's gone before. Not even The Velvets who are generally this album's shaping, guiding influence.
I grew up in the suburbs. Richmond, Kew, Teddington, Twickenham, Kingston, Hampton, Petersham. To me it's still the most beautiful pocket of London's hinterland. I've got a diary from when I was 17 that takes me back there. I can't bring myself to look at it very often. I would walk to and from college, to and from bus stops, with beautiful, unobtainable girls. In my imaginings though they were always about to swoon into my arms. This gave me a feeling of strength, aloofness. 
You can find this assured, self contained detachment in The Catcher in the Rye which was my bible for a while as with many clichéd teenage histories. I also got it from Scott Fitzgerald at the time. You can hear it in Hospital. Like with many great short stories its emotional power lies in what remains unsaid. We're never told why the girl is in hospital or what exactly her relationship with the narrator is and what if anything has gone on between them. That's how it resonates.
'I go to bakeries all day long
There's a lack of sweetness in my life
And there is pain inside
You can see it in my eyes'
You don't imagine as a teenager that the emotions you're undergoing will ever end and they're transient and probably shallow and self-regarding. This isn't meant to diminish them. It's a unique phase in life. Hospital, more than any other song on the album is a hymn to suburban  teenage experience. Other songs have Jonathan venturing into Boston or out on Route 128 or spending time in New York. This is a retreat to the streets of his youth. It's plain but profound.
'Now your world is beautiful
I'll take the subway to your suburb sometime
I'll seek out the things that must've been magic to your little girl mind
Now as a little girl you must've been magic
I still get jealous of your old boyfriends in the suburbs sometimes
And when I walk down your street
There'll probably be tears in my eyes'
Way to go Jonathan.
'As it neared midnight, the five of us headed into the Center's small theatre, which seated about 200. No sign of The Dolls yet (who stood out from their peers partly by combining glitter chic with thrift shop funk and partly by being The Dolls). Midnight arrived, largely ignored or unnoticed. I noticed Dolls lead guitarist Johnny Thunders near the stage. A support band started setting up. A short-haired guy, incongruously attired in chinos and loafers, tuned gaudy Doll Johnny's plexiglass guitar; Thunders nodded thankfully and grabbed the ax. Then a scenester took the stage and announced:
"Please welcome the Modern Lovers!"

The guitar tuner took center stage, a hale young fellow in a yellow dress shirt with a turned-up collar: Jonathan Richman, lead singer. His band, comprised of keyboardist Jerry Harrison, bassist Ernie Brooks, guitarist John Felice, and drummer David Robinson, looked rather ordinary in shag ‘dos and jeans, except John Felice, who wore a silver glitter suit that clashed with his buck teeth and Clark Kent glasses. 
They lunged into a dramatic opening chord, quelled by Jonathan's spread arms.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he proclaimed in a congested, juvenile voice. "We don't want just a girl to ball!"
Another big chord and: "We're the Modern Lovers from Boston, Massachusetts! We don't want a girl to just ball--we want a girl we can care about!" ' 

I'm coming to realise now as I listen through to the album properly, maybe for the first time, that there is no filler, nothing that needs to be thrown away. Someone I Care About was previously a song I hardly noticed, the upbeat one between Hospital and Girlfriend (which is probably needed). It's not just that. It's another great moment in itself. Its sentiments have a touching sincerity.
'Well I don't want some cocaine sniffing triumph in the bar
Well I don't want a triumph in the car
I don't want to make a rich girl crawl
What I want is a girl that I care about
Or I want no one at all
Alright indeed!
'Jonathan had a message that went against the grain of the times. To me he captured a certain kind of teen frustration practically better than anything that's ever been written.' Jerry Harrison.
Every song on this album is a statement. Heartfelt statements that go utterly against the accepted version of events already set in stone by hippie counterculture. Dignity, being straight, rejection of drug culture, dressing straight, beauty, sincerity, love for the past, love for parents, love for the idea of being in love, even love for America. In many ways it's unprecedented. Out of step even with the bands most obvious antecedents The Velvets and The Stooges.
Jonathan's projected vision of what will happen to bands and scenes. Drawn for Vibration magazine in relation to an article he wrote for them about The Velvet Underground in 1967.
'To me Rock and Roll was about stuff that was natural anyway. It wasn't about drugs and space. It was about sex and boyfriends and girlfriends and stuff. See I used to walk to The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And I used to go to the room where they would keep the paintings by Cezanne see. Not cos I could understand anything about the paintings of Cezanne. That was where all the girls from B.U. would hang out. B.U. Boston University. They had the big suede boots coming up to here and they had the Gauloise cigarettes. And they had the long hair and the brown suede jacket. Ooh and I was very impressed. So I just hung around there. And I figured boy if I had a girlfriend then I could understand these paintings. I could see right through them.' Jonathan Richman
Girlfriend is everything stripped down to its absolute essence. The Modern Lovers first album is forever seen as prefiguring and laying down the paving stones for punk. This way of reading things makes no sense when listening to this particular song. It's surely one of the key songs on this record and points the way towards where Richman veered off the road away from electrified noise towards his own way of doing things. All you need in your teenage years is one true relationship to help you focus and understand the world. Richman wrote this song, probably before he had one of his own  and the band delivered it beautifully. It's a gorgeous, fragile object. One of two great pop songs about Paul Cezanne. Here's the other.
The last track Modern World is a great opening or closing song to any album. In many ways it sounds conventional in terms of rock and roll lineage, at least musically, in a way most of the other songs on the album don't entirely. It runs along the same tracks as MC5 and Stones songs of round about the same time. Jonathan in the meantime is intoning his well worn mantra like a man with an eternal head cold who knows he's right. 'the modern world is not so bad. Not like the students say. Drop out of B.U. Stop all this weak stuff. Put down your cigarette and share the modern world....with me!' Who can really argue with that?
Richman parted from this way of thinking pretty much directly after these demos were recorded though there were more tentative tracks recorded by Kim Fowley the following year which stand up on their own behalf. They disbanded shortly afterwards and the rest of the group splintered towards Talking Heads, The Cars, Real Kids and David Johansson as backing players and pretty much established the bedrock of American New Wave in the late Seventies.
Richman meanwhile gave birth to and followed his own vision inviting clichéd journalistic and audience responses, mentioning childlike naievity and innocence at each and every turn. I can't do justice to this part of his career here. I need to explore it more myself. The set of recordings he made with the first incarnation of The Modern Lovers are pretty much unique in all of Rock and Roll in terms of what they say and do. I direct you towards them wholeheartedly. They exist in their own space.


The Diary of Black Francis

By Black Francis during The Pixies' 1989 tour
Melody Maker, December 1989.

Last year, The Pixies' album Surfer Rosa won the Maker critics' poll. This year, their LP Doolittle crashed into the national Top 10 and the band played over 150 dates on their world tour. Here we present edited highlights from Black Francis' diary of the frenetic last 12 months.

This day hardly registers. I laze around a lot and yet I have no time for time. My last watch was 10 years ago and it played "Swan Lake" when you pressed a button. It broke and now time in watch-form is unappealing. I like calendars for pictures, especially rock photos! And girls! Ee-hah!
My honey and I cruised to California on a sleeper train. The food reeked of government subsidy, but had lots o' wine. The cabins are narrow - she slept on the bottom, I slept on the top. Hubba hubba. But it scares me sometimes. Fatty and skinny went to bed Fatty rolled over and skinny was dead. But she kicked my ass in chess.
L.A. JAN 22
Rented a car and went to Disneyland. I had been many times when I was growin' up in LA's mean streets, so I could really show her the ropes. Mass murderer Ted Bundy was killed in the electric chair that morning and Jean, my honey, showed off her endurance against electric current on the "Test Your Strength" machine. Lunched on Mexican (Mundy was rumored to have had a burrito for his last meal) and drove off into the night for Arizona.
We're right in the middle of fucking nowhere with no towns for miles. We're playing this trucker tape with "Convoy" on it, when suddenly on the other side of the highway, there's this black guy with hair teased up like the guy from "Eraserhead". He was riding a tricycle with bits of bright cloth and trinkets attached to the spokes and a cart at the back. He looked just like the candyman with a big grin on his face. Seemed to come from nowhere and was certainly going nowhere. What the hell was he doing there? It was one big cinematic joke. Still driving. Snowflakes on the Grand Canyon (each one is different ya know), deer photos and Jean stood on the icy edge of the canyon just for a joke.
My third time in this cheese-oriented city on the last day of my European Press tour. Honey and I snapped pictures of the Louvre (featuring the I.M. PEI Pyramid) and Eiffel tower, when the camera broke. But who gives a shit....Fuckin' yellow headlights.
Record "Monkey Gone To Heaven" on a top-notch TV arts program. Later that night, that guy from Sonic Youth and that guy from Pere Ubu booted our video on "Night Network" because Joey made a thumbs-up sign.
Our first gig and we played so fuckin' great it was unbelievable. I suppose I could have sucked, but what do crazy kids know?
Much joy after hearing "Doolittle" has entered the British National Charts at Number Eight. I've been reading "The Wicked Ways Of Malcom McLaren" and just got up to the part where The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind The Bollocks" entered the British charts at Number 11. Three places below could make me grin. John Lydon can suck my dick any time.
Busted my acoustic in Joey's room and sliced my strumming midgets wide open. The nurse at the delightful Manchester infirmary gaily administers a bandage, but plays real dumb when it comes to removing the fiberglass shards from my flesh. She tells me she's a girlfriend of a Stone Rose and I wonder if the indie charts have become an amoral battleground. At least I got to see a guy who had his ear bitten off in a pub fight. A boxing surgeon came to the show in Liverpool and shows me kindness.
Played Glasgow and Edinburgh, And I have seen, My quarry cousins in Aberdeen. Scots are tip-top, even if they do cook their pizza in a fryolater. Pizza supper? Give me a break. Head down south again.
English pop stardom has its perks and our Mancunian tour manager gets us in to see Tom Jones and his unfeasible large testicles at the Manchester Apollo. The man is a professional, no matter who says what.
German festival in the mountains in the spring on the shores of the most beautiful dead river I've ever seen. Someone in the audience throws an iron bar on stage. Later we're told it could be a German sign of affection. Hope it affects someone else next time. Lots of good bands like those Sugarcubes. The other half of the PA gets turned on when The Cure hit the stage, but what the heck. They sold the tickets and it sounds great. Afterwards, the promoter gives all the bands a rock encased in plastic that has "The Cure'" printed on it. Someone also gives me one of those reversible Morrissey tour jackets. I look rained on and trodden, yet sharp. I would duet with that guy in a second. No lie.
The "Pinkpop" festival. The Pixies mingle with the stars - R.E.M. watch our show from the side of the stage and have dinner with us. Then The Pixies give their lungs a break from that harsh English hash and pump some good ol' green bud. Sometimes Dutch socialism frickin' rules.
Vacation on Marathonas beach with plenty of Germans. We rent mopeds and erode the countryside with rubber burning pop - a wheeling American noise. Kim falls off three times and is finally run off the road.
Joey and I decide to visit the Acropolis. We end up in a sidewalk cafe, drinking their delicious wine. Tried to get a cab, but no one taught us Greek taxi etiquette. You don't stand in the street flagging, they just try and run you over. You scream where you're going through the window as they drive past and if they happen to be going that way, they nod and you can jump in while the cab's still moving. Several bloody and unsuccessful attempts at this and we decide it's back to bed.
Saw some tanks. The venue we play has no stage, just gaffa tape separating The Pixies from the Slavs.
Strange. Bought strawberries off a gypsy. Cheap, too.
Met several dozen members of Laibach.
Ted Mico came down for the some rock interview stuff. Did one show and canceled the rest because the organization was so f***ing out of control. We got showed some muscle and drove to Nice real fast. In Nice they drill a hole down a baguette and stick a hot dog in it. Frickin' great.
Disappointment. After years of waiting, Spanish tapas is no big fuckin' deal. Wrote my first song ever "one the road". I'm such a professional. I have dreams of recording it in Berlin at Hansa, just like David Bowie (pronounced Bowee). Gil Norton, the hepcat that produced "Doolittle", is at the gig and promises to fly in for the sessions. It's gonna be great. Hot.
The rock shows are before dinner. All the guys wear cowboy boots. All the headlights are still yellow.
My brother Errol shows up for our German tour. And, with my cousin Mark, the guitar roadie, it's a f***in' Thompson family reunion! Oh yeah, we laid down that hot track. It's still hot.
It was great, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, due to logistics, we had to cancel the talented Swedish band The Nomads. The Swedish rock press got very sensitive about it and tore us apart. Whoopdeedoo. I flipped 'em the bird.
The Tourhout festival. I could talk about all the stars I met, or the fact we went on stage at 10.30 in the morning, but I saw Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for the first time today and I never liked music so much. Joey and I went for a pizza afterwards. Cave and Harvey joined us. Then we took in a movie in Brussels and I was creamin' my drawers.
Flew home to Boston. Just. I decided I hated flying. It was a terrible flight. I only feel safe on Lufthansa.
Supposed to fly to Seattle to meet up with the Very Happy Mondays and start the American "Fuck Or Fight" tour. My honey and I then hear about the United Airlines crash on the car radio. Got out of the car, into the pay phone, rung the manager and told him flying is history. I cancel Seattle and take a Greyhound to San Francisco. All goes well past Chicago. Then I ate a bad ham and cheese sandwich in Nevada and shat water the rest of the way. I nearly die of gastric somethingorother and get asphyxiated by the blue, perfumed toilet disinfectant they use in the toilets.
Forgot my passport or driving license or ID and can't prove I'm over 21, so the ex-Angels security staff at the door won't let me in. They say they understand I'm 24 and headlining tonight, but I still can't get in. Finally, reason arrives, but I'm still the only person who's ever been barred from their own gig.
After the show, I get to meet David Bowie (pronounced Bowee) and fuckin' loved it. I was so completely impressed and continue to tell all my acquaintances about the historic meeting. We had our own corner of the room and everything. Talked about shit you wouldn't believe. We also had corona beer.
Was this the gig where we played to 50 Cure-heads and Robert Smith in the wings? No, that was another Toronto. Arrived at the gig to find there were no security barriers in the place and the stage was only about six inches off the ground. The crowd just kept pressing forward, getting closer and closer to us. Right in front me, there was one really shifty guy who kept getting really hyper. One guy next to him told him to calm down, so he punched the shit out him. He was six feet away from me and counting, staring at me with pupils as big as the moon. He kept darting his hand inside his coat. I kept thinking he was going to whip out a gun. The crowd started to pull on the overhead sprinkler system in order to catch The Pixies on stage. Wires came down, water came down and everything sparked. I walked off halfway through. A while ago, my grandmother tried to give me a pair of drumsticks (I used to be a drummer) owned by a cousin who was a jazz drummer. He died in the famous Boston Coconut Grove fire in the forties along with 500 other people. Those Canadians are rowdy. They don't even realize that they're part of the United States.
Supported The Cure at Dodger stadium. Played to scattered enclaves of Cure-heads eating Dodger dogs and pancakes melting in the sun.
This was the club where I walked off (again) because I was getting electrocuted. Everyone thinks I'm a wimp and even my own bad hate me. Oh well, I guess I'll flip 'em the bird.
Rudeness is dawning. I used to be so polite. Now it's, "Who the fuck are you and what are you doing within a mile of my dressing room, man?" It's probably due to the fact that the combined IQ of the bozos backstage is below room temperature.
I used to think that I didn't matter what a Pixies audience was like as long as there was an audience. Now I'm changing my mind. There's so many bozos, their lameness irritates me. The stage diving is atrocious. It takes them about five minutes to get to the stage and then they do a little jig and then fall back into the crowd. The Yugoslavs were better at stage-diving and there wasn't even a stage.
I went to the French quarter and had cajun red beans and rice. Whoopee ding. Stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe and showed 'em my tour laminate for a little VIP treatment. I got my own corner table and I let everyone look at my pop genius penis. They got a neon sign outside this place that declares: NO DRUGS NO NUKES! I fuckin' love that shit.
The security for the gig is manned by off-duty cops. They got big flashlights that make you see. One guy had a hook instead of a hand and wore black leather chaps and a cowboy hat. They also had crowd control zappers that inflict voltage and once again I had to stop the show after some poor slob got heavy therapy. How can I control these kids and protect 'em from the fuzz? I just wanna get all excited about rockin' responsibility and make conscious videos, too. Well, frickin' barely conscious.
After the show, we drive in our solid silver tour bus 20 hours to San Diego. It's a no-stopper and I spend all night playing "Super Mario Bros" computer games. I'm yelling a lot more these days. After four hours, I realize there's nothing more boring than a bunch of guys sitting around talking about pussy. After 16 hours I swear that if I ever tour again, I do not want to speak to a soul. I'll show up just like Chuck Berry, five minutes before showtime., walk on and walk off, because I just don't give a shit. Being in a tour bus means never being in the same place and always being in the same place at the same time. One more gripe and here it is: England is part of Europe.
This place is really Liverpooly. But with more heroin. David's dream has finally come true. Groupies are starting to appear backstage. I read in a science magazine that global warming is affecting our hormones. What a relief! At last there's a scientific explanation for his increasing obsession with schoolgirls.
The nearest Canadian city is 1,000 miles away. The place is full of lumberjacks and whores and pizza and porno shops. It's snowy and full of the excitement of a big city in the big woods. Drive all night to Salt Lake City, Utah. The entire band and crew smuggle drugs (again) to my fatherly displeasure, but at least now I can get baked.
Dave and I smoke a big doobie and take a tour of the Mormon tabernacle. A good time, honest. They were really polite and showed us this huge cathedral hall with a giant statue of Jesus that spoke. Then they began to get really friendly and invited us down to the basement to see some more "videos". We ran. David told me he once rode a unicycle through a Mormon church during a service. The gig is in a supermarket that they painted black. We went to the Salt Lake and made a video documentary on the famous brine shrimp, the lone inhabitant of these waters. Sea monkeys or fish food? What's going on?
Two big shows in one big night. Parents and cousins all turn up. Joey smashes his guitar to celebrate his new sponsorship deal with Gibson. Damages his hand more than the guitar. Ted Mico pops up and I haven't seen him since San Diego. The two of us drive down to New York City with my honey. I gave him the story. He gave me the flu.
A boring last show. We play like farts. JFK is on my mind. Who did it? Ironically, Billy Joel's video for "We Didn't Start The Fire" comes out About this time and settles me somehow. Jean and I spend snowy Thanksgiving alone together in New York at Victor's Cuban Restaurant. It's an important holiday for stuffing. We head home and my legs are all nervous and excited about thinking about rock in the Nineties. If they don't like my indie rockin' ruckus, I'll flip 'em the bird.