Hey there! Welcome to Teatro Triste del Clown.
This site started out as something else and then a few years ago, we got it into our head that we were going to write about every song in our music collection. Memo and I have been doing this for years – I’m going forward in the alphabet and just recently started on the letter J and Memo, as it happens, is also on the letter J. As of this writing. It might be a while before I update this pinned announcement again, so, well, yeah.
For a brief overview of my limitations as a music writer, click here. Memo writes with considerably more intelligence than I!
Our Webmaster, Christoph, joins us from time to time.
The Index of what we’ve done so far keeps growing.
If you’re interested in joining us, drop me a line.
The actual performance from the film Flamenco:
Watch that as many times as you need to. I did.
Let me correct the identification of the performers. The guitarist here is Enrique de Marchena, son of the great Melchor de Marchena. You can read José Menese’s biography in Spanish here (or read the Google translation of it here).
You may recall that my wife and I both became interested in Flamenco in 2008. I’m still blown away whenever I listen to these remarkable musicians. Its not easy listening since they don’t often employ hooks in the American rock/pop sense, but the emotion of the singers and virtuosity of the guitarists always blows me out of the water.
This is an especially compelling piece.
Even I can’t deny that Jordin Sparks’ hit single “One Step At A Time” is catchy and charming. The young (from my perspective) American Idol winner has a strong voice and this song is a nice showcase for her singing. The song is in my library because my wife loves it and, for once, I rather enjoy it, too.
Album cover video:
“Roadrunner” deserves a place in any discussion about the greatest rock songs of all time. The song has become so iconic that a bill was introduced to make it the official state song of Massachusetts. And why not? The song is a love letter to the state and to rock and roll. The other major contender for that state song honor – Aerosmith’s “Dream On” – was indeed composed in Massachusetts but it isn’t specifically about the state. Ergo, Richman’s tune should win.
I agree with Laura Barton’s assessment that it’s a magical song.
I’d make a case that it should be the national anthem of rock and roll – its about driving around, listening to the radio; it sounds like its being played by a garage band; and everyone in the world has covered it.
Anyhow, Richman captured something perfect, exuberant and beautiful when he wrote “Roadrunner,” and while the covers gamely try to catch it, the original trumps them all. Richman isn’t just singing this – he’s celebrating it for every young kid who has ever driven around enjoying some tunes in the town that he or she loves.
Rock and roll, man.
Researching Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers is just a little bit frustrating. While Joe Viglione’s review of the single “Egyptian Reggae” is very informative, for example, AllMusic doesn’t give a clear idea about when the single was released. Digging a little deeper on the Internet (and going back to the Wikipedia entry on Richman), one finds that the single was released in 1977 and was a hit in the U.K. Indeed, its arguably his biggest hit. Who knew?
The track is an instrumental that may or may not have anything to do with reggae or with Egypt. You be the judge. Its catchy as all hell.
“Hospital” is a great tune. As Joe Viglione describes in his AllMusic review, this is a stalker song and Richman is that stalker. Richman isn’t dating the woman he’s singing about – but he is walking down the streets of her hometown with tears in his eyes and hoping that she’ll “let [him] back into [her] life” once she gets out of the hospital. How did she get into the hospital? Did he do it? The answer seems to be yes – he loves her, but he can’t stand what she does. Major creepy.
Two of the original Modern Lovers went on to greater success in other bands – keyboardist Jerry Harrison went on to join the Talking Heads (later The Heads) and, of course, had a solo career. Drummer David Robinson is a member of The Cars. Bassist Ernie Brooks also has had a lengthy career in the music industry.
On this track, you can hear excellent contributions from all three – particularly Harrison’s understated keyboards.
Most of these Jonathan Richman tracks are going to appear again in exactly the same form when we reach The Modern Lovers. Because that’s how iTunes rolls sometimes.
Jonathan Richman’s work – both as a solo artist and as the leader of The Modern Lovers, hasn’t been packaged especially well for the digital age. For example, the classic first Modern Lovers album isn’t packaged on iTunes with the correct cover, which made me concerned that it might be some sort of tribute album. iTunes is sneaky like that.
We’ll be listening to the song “Pablo Picasso” twice – once now (because I downloaded a copy of the song credited to Jonathan Richman) and once when we reach The Modern Lovers. Its kind of stupid.
The first version of this song I heard was by Burning Sensations from the Repo Man soundtrack:
It took me a little while to get used to The Modern Lovers’ original but I’ve become a big fan of Richman’s vocal delivery style in the last few years – simple, naive and maybe a little sly.
The song also has a central truth – Pablo Picasso probably never was called an asshole. Not like us.
Let’s enjoy the World of Warcraft video for this song:
“Re: Your Brains” proved to be one of Coulton’s most enduring and well loved Thing A Week compositions. Coulton writes that the success of this song was the first indication that quitting his job wasn’t a terrible mistake.
The conceit of the song is charming – this is a memo written from the zombie of an office employee to a living human who is still staving off the encroaching zombie apocalypse. The zombie uses buzz-words, condescension and faulty reasoning to attempt to entice his former co-worker to let them in. Then the chorus of zombies kicks in and the song moves up to a whole other level of awesome.
This is the final track we’ll be exploring from Mr. Coulton. I’m intrigued enough by his work, however, to purchase more of it in the future.
“Stroller Town” is a delightful Beach Boys style pastiche, in the vein of “I Get Around” or any of their songs about fast cars. Its sung from the point of view of a baby who likes to race in his stroller. This is another song that I’d only spoil by discussing at length, so I have to encourage you to go listen to it on your own.
Excerpt from this cover starts here.
Rick Springfield original:
Coulton takes Springfield’s suspicious lover song and slows it down, making it a little creepier and anxiety-ridden. I’ve never been an especially big fan of Springfield so this cover of “Don’t Talk To Strangers” doesn’t really do it for me, just on basic principal alone.
George Plimpton was a fascinating American character with a long and storied life. Coulton’s “A Talk With George” is a kind of tribute to the great man. Coulton really likes this song and with good reason – despite its simplicity, it has a strong message about living life to its fullest. Like George did.