Jonathan Richman founded the Modern Lovers in the early 1970s and, as one of the most influential underground musicians of his time, has sometimes been referred to as the "goddfather of punk." Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, Sixousie and the Banshees and Echo and the Bunnymen have all covered Richman’s songs and rapper M.I.A. sampled one of his most famous tunes, “Roadrunner.”
When I listen to music I often determine its quality by how it will do as a soundtrack for being on the highway. Maybe that's because we're in America and, specifically in Montana, where you can drive your car for long stretches and that's what feels like freedom, man. "Roadrunner" is the quintessential road tune. It is literally about listening to the radio and smelling the thunder in the air on the highway. It's punk-rock liberation. Also, the line "I'm in love with rock and roll and I'll be out all night," just seems like the perfect eff-you to societal responsibilities.
Richman is super funny—listen to his banter between songs and you know he doesn't take himself (punk rock) seriously. He and Tommy Larkins, who joins him on drums for his show tonight, played the role of Greek chorus narrators in There's Something About Mary in 1998, plus he showed up in the Farrelly Brother's Kingpin.
If you don't know much about Richman know this: He has influenced and inspired a whole slew of bands you are definitely familiar with (unless you have never heard of music before.) Violent Femmes, Weezer, They Might Be Giants, Frank Black, and on and on. If you go see a show this year, you might think about this one being THE ONE. It's a rarity that such a music giant will be playing in an intimate space in our little valley. It might not happen again anytime soon, if ever.
Jonathan Richman plays the ZACC, with Tommy Larkins on drums, at 7 PM sharp tonight, Thu., June 26. All Ages. $15. Advance tickets at Rockin Rudy's and 1111presents.com.