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Recordings For Deviants

It was recently, when I was listening to "Government Center," by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, that I had a revelation. As he sang the words, "We've gotta lotta lotta hard work today/We've gotta rock at the Government Center/To make the...





It was recently, when I was listening to “Government Center,” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, that I had a revelation. As he sang the words, “We’ve gotta lotta lotta hard work today / We’ve gotta rock at the Government Center / To make the secretaries feel better / When they put the stamps on the letters” I realized there was something familiar missing from his songwriting, something missing that’s ubiquitous in today’s music. I spent the better part of the afternoon listening to his songs trying to figure out what it was. And as he tried to determine what flavor ice cream the Martians like and convinced a little dinosaur not to go away, it struck me – here is a man who writes about the absolute corniest and most childish stuff imaginable, and he writes it for adults, and he writes it without a hint of irony.


Here is a man who, since the early 70s, has managed to make a career out of being completely whimsical and totally genuine, and I defy you to find that anywhere in today’s music. Pick out any given love song and it will probably have some kind of morose and sarcastic undercurrent, like, “Oh, I say I miss him/her, but he/she was a real ass-face.” In Jonathan Richman’s music you get: “I know a girl – she’s important to me / When I feel separate from her I am in misery / Dear, let me know that I’m important in your life” and you’re like, “Yeah, Jonathan, that’s cool, man. Tell her how you feel!”

Because I think we’re coming up on the Ironic Event Horizon – the point where we just can’t stomach people not meaning what they say anymore and we’re forced to hunt around to find someone who sincerely wants to sing an ode to the ice cream man. And that’s where Jonathan Richman comes into the equation – because the man’s been doing exactly that for three decades now without any signs of wavering, flagging, or failing. He keeps making songs that embody the carefree spirit and innocence of 50s rock n’ roll with hooks that are catchy as hell. And let me tell you, after you’ve made your conversion to the Modern Lovers and you find yourself singing about that Abominable Snowman in the market while you’re in the market, you won’t care. People may stare, but people will stare anyway. The Modern Lovers are all about having fun despite what other people think, and so should you be.


I vote that when we all tire of shitty music about “raye-eeye-ayein on your weddin’ day” we take Jonathan and install him as the leader of a great new nation where he’ll teach us to like ourselves and each other and help us to see the world through a child’s eyes while singing fun rock songs and sipping lemon cokes. And fuck anyone who says differently.

And I mean that.

The Best Of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

is available on Rhino Records. Please send any non-ironic albums as well as information about what flavor ice cream the Martians like to Chris Eng, P.O. Box 8332, Victoria B.C., Canada, V8W 3R9