Ages ago, I was engaged in one of those late night, multiple-beer-fueled, freewheeling conversations that only seem to happen in one’s collegiate years, when the constant exchange of ideas and theories is the coin of the realm. Since it was a bunch of radio kids, one of the avenues was naturally the live music we had and hadn’t seen to that point. One question centered on the band or performer who represented the most coveted concert that hadn’t yet happened for each of us. In my hazy recollection, there were a lot of big name acts submitted for everyone’s clucking approval. Then my friend Gunner (in college, I routinely hung out with people who were largely known only by their beautifully odd nicknames, which strikes me as the white, Midwestern version of rap monikers) piped up with a name I never would have considered: Jonathan Richman.
This was the late nineteen-eighties, so Richman was over a decade removed from the seminal self-titled album with the Modern Lovers, and he’d been releasing albums full of lovely esoteric songwriting with reasonable regularity. He was — and still is, and likely forever will be — the only person who could pen and perform a song called “I Like Gumby” and have it be sincere and utterly logical as a topic for pop crooning. He describes the world as he sees it, and his vision is clear and his outlook enviably positive. I want to take up residence in nearly every Jonathan Richman song I hear.
This is my long-delayed confession that my confusion over Gunner’s answer was misplaced. By now, I’ve seen Richman live several times, and it is always splendid, full of charm and simple wonderment in a way that I can’t adequately describe. Gunner’s aspiration was spot-on. I hope he’s had his night in the audience of a Richman show, too.
Listen or download —> Jonathan Richman, “You Can Have a Cell Phone That’s OK But Not Me”
(Disclaimer: Blessedly, it appears a substantial portion of Richman’s voluminous discography is still available for purchase as physical items that can acquired from your favorite local, independently-owned records store, though it’s likely some special ordering will need to take place. Regardless, go get some of that. No matter the album, there are gems to be found. It’s my belief, however, that the track shared here is available only on a ten-year-old seven-inch single which can no longer be secured in the manner described above. It is shared with that understanding and as an enticement to send some business Richman’s direction, one way or another. But really, take any opportunity to see him play live. It’s pure joy. Although I believe sharing this song in this way constitutes fair use, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)