I once read a woman write about how she couldn’t completely judge someone from the music they listen to but she also couldn’t imagine dating someone who didn’t love Jonathan Richman. I understand. I’m surprised I wasn’t converted sooner. Hearing his songs covered by the Sex Pistols and on the Repo Man soundtrack didn’t make me want to dig deeper as a teen. But when I saw him during the Conan O’Brien’s first week hosting Late Night, years later I was ready.
When he came through town a few years later in 1997, I primed myself with a best of the Modern Lovers cd and was instantly sold. So was my girlfriend, Summer, but she was a few months shy of getting into the Casbah, so I went alone. I was literally in tears, loving it so much. When I got home, I insisted that we go see him up in Long Beach at the all-ages Blue Cafe. Jason Falkner had told us that he was opening up but it was in the middle of the week so we weren’t going to go. After seeing Jonathan, there was no way I’d let her miss it.
We braved traffic up from San Diego to meet our friend Mike Byer. Summer, sporting Flashdance shoulder that night, had started to bring a notebook to shows to draw and tell tales, which is good because I don’t remember much about that night. Jason played a solo acoustic set and then Jojo transfixed her so much that she couldn’t bother with a pen.
We sat on the floor, looking up at Joantahan and drummer Tommy Larkins, along with 147 or so entranced, cheering people. Hearing all of those songs for the first time was just magical. So much sweetness and hilarity within seconds of each other. When he was moved enough, he’d lay his guitar down on a pillow and take a dance solo. I watched out of the corner of my eye to see Summer falling for him just as hard. I couldn’t wait to see him again.
The show ended late and it seemed even later after a full day’s work and a 100 mile drive. We both had work again in the morning and another drive ahead of us. Half-awake, we looked around to say goodbye to Jason and when we found him, he smiled and said, “Look who it is!” pointing to a large, bespecatacled man. We both looked at him unknowingly and Drew Carey looked genuinely offended that we didn’t know who he was. “Sorry,” I sarcastically offered. “We don’t have a tv.” He rolled his eyes. “Are you college students? I hate college students.” Normally I live to argue with assholes but I was way too tired.
A year later, Summer was battling cancer and I was doing my damndest to cheer her up any chance that I could. Jojo was coming through town and, before his show he agreed to let me film him singing to her. After the show, he sat at the front of the stage with the PA playing music and a still-full room of people talking and asked me to come in close until I was almost on top of him. I assumed he would want to sing “That Summer Feeling” but insisted on singing a new song called “There’s Something About Mary”. He looked right into the camera, wished her well and softly sang a sad tale about a man who can’t seem to let the memory of a past love go.She loved the video, of course, and Richman’s merch man insisted on giving me a “That Summer Feeling” t-shirt, which she wore throughout her last days. Jonathan called to see how she was doing afterwards. Somewhere I have the saved message he started to leave before I picked up to tell him the sad news. When we decided to make Songs For Summer, an album full of her favorite artists for charity, Jonathan and Rounder Records let us use “That Summer Feeling”, which seemed like a fitting closer. It was. It is.
That Summer feeling, that Summer feeling….
Plenty of copies of Songs For Summer to be found on Amazon.
More Summer tales here.