Monday, September 14, 2009

Jonathan Richman: Pixie Dusted Possibilities

I’ve got a confession to make- I've got a crush on a guy. But it isn't carnal, it's all about the spiritus mundi, as Sting once sang. This should come as no surprise to most guys; hetro or not, we all harbor affections for certain members of our own sex. There’s a name for this - hetro-gay.

One guy occupies a special place in the firmament. He's a Cosmo type, sophisticated and sensitive - a real charmer. And most of all, he's not afraid to let his feelings show. It's Jonathan Richman. 

Jonathan - Jojo for those in the know - inhabits a mysterious realm. Like Boo Radley, another outsider, his influence is benign, but largely unknown.

If The Modern Lovers was Jonathan's sole legacy his place among pop’s immortals would be secure. Like a first love it cuts the deepest and his later work never quite recaptures its magic or intensity. 

The album's defining characteristic is its unabashed amateurism – the opening call of "1-2-3-4-5-6!" saying it all.

In fact, by the time the album was released Jonathan was shying away from music that, according to him, could hurt a baby's ears. He was a geek who reveled in his geekness long before it became cool to do so, long before spazzes like the guy from Weezer or Wes Anderson's films made geek chic.

Suspended in time like an urban Peter Pan, Jonathan endures. One music writer has called him "the Jimmy Stewart of rock and roll" but this seems too cumbersome, too earnest. Jonathan wasn't bent on doing the right thing - he was bent on having fun.

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