If you’re a fan of the Velvet Underground or punk music of the late 1970s and beyond, it would be a shame if you’d never heard Jonathan Richman. As founding member of the Modern Lovers, Richman sought to emulate the Velvet Underground in the early 1970s. With former Velvets’ member John Cale producing the group’s first album, this goal was easily realized. Modern Lovers’ early music captures the raw, minimalist appeal of the Velvet’s. A sing-talker like Reed, Richman’s lyrics have a wide-eyed and childlike quality, often playing with pace and narrative—to the point that he kind of sounds like a crazy person rambling and ranting on the street.
After breaking away from the Modern Lovers in the late 1970s, Richman took a brief pause from the spotlight and re-emerged in the early 1980s with his first solo album, Jonathan Sings! (Sire/Warner Brothers), an upbeat foray into sunshine pop and a departure from the fuller garage rock sounds of Modern Lovers’ material. Richman continued to release material throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, making a series of appearances on Conan O’brian to play material from what was then his 7th album, I, Jonathon. In 1998, Richman garnered further mainstream exposure by contributing the title track to feature film, There’s Something About Mary.
As a performer, Richman is animated and interactive with his audience, propelling the show forward with entertaining anecdotes about each song. He performs on the 27th and 28th at the Tractor in support of his most recent solo effort, O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth (Vapor Records; 2010).