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A particularly amusing clip of Jonathan Richman singing Let Her Go Into the Darkness. The funniest stuff is after about three and a half minutes.

One New Year’s Day, many years ago, a song came on the radio that changed the feeling of this day, and how I felt about music, forever. As I stood in my parent’s kitchen, with its ugly wallpaper and a view of the frozen backyard, I heard a guitar played in a way I had never heard it before, and a voice that called to me. It was, of course, U2’s New Year’s Day, the ultimate song of hope and despair.

To this day, I always play my old War LP, third track, as the first song of the New Year. Listening to it, and watching the video, I amazed how this song is still completely relevant all these years later.

It’s possible if it’s PJ Harvey. I dare you to try to take your eyes of of this!

I’ve seen many, many musical performances in my lifetime. There must be in the hundreds; I have no way to gauge how many. In all these performances, there’s only a couple that really stand out: my first concert at age 10 (Melanie), Eurythmics before anyone knew who they were, White Stripes at the Greek Theater, and a few more. Given those odds, I haven’t thought I would see many more shows that would surprise me. Last night I saw Jonathan Richman perform for the first time, and he BLEW MY MIND.

(Note: Now, I know when one talks about The Famous or those you don’t know, the professional thing to do is to refer to them by their last name. But this is not a professional venue; therefore, I will take liberties and refer to the subject as Jonathan, as if he is a friend of mine. I *felt* he was a friend of mine, which I know is the magic of his performance, but nonetheless…)

Jonathan came on stage, and with a blank, somewhat hangdog expression, immediately began playing a song about embracing suffering, a song that was characteristically heartfelt and amusing. He seemed comfortable and awkward at the same time. I guess he’s the expert on expressing divergent moods simultaneously. His first several songs were played in this manner, with more instrumental spans than lyrical components. And this was all very enjoyable, but it what came next was stunning.

Plunging into a song about why he doesn’t have a cell phone, Jonathan began to improvise wildly. He dropped the guitar to his side and sang with his hand on his heart. I mean, it was like he just forgot to play the guitar for a spell, because he really needed to sing. Then he walked away from the mic so he could sing to us directly. This simple move, which he repeated several times throughout the evening, was exceedingly charming. What singer leaves the mic? It’s completely counterintuitive – you can’t hear them well. But Jonathan didn’t care, he wanted to sing to us, in his way. He melted all of our hearts.

In the second half of the show, he was really in his element. In a song about being loved more than he prayed for, Jonathan expressed unrestrained joy by moving all over the stage, crouching, kneeling, playing reindeer bells, dancing a bit. His complete abandonment of convention and embracing of spontaneity is unparalled. I felt I saw music performed that was it was meant to be seen, heard, experienced: with total freedom for the artist.

Moreso, Jonathan had to end the show several times. Neither he nor we wanted the experience to end. He reprised the cell phone song and made it a sing-a-long. Again, have you ever seen a musician play the same song twice in one show? Me neither. Then he sang a happy birthday and a request for an audience member. Finally, he sang a short a capella song in a foreign language I didn’t recognize (he knows French, Italian, Spanish and who knows what else), and concluded by saying he didn’t now what it meant.

The conclusion of this story is obvious: if you EVER have an opportunity to see Jonathan perform, YOU MUST GO. K & I plan to go to every performance we can forevermore.

night.jpgSince I wrote this post about the Beatles, it’s been a goddamn Beatles free-for-all in Universe Nerge. Every day K and I have heard a Beatles song played at least once while in a public place. Yesterday was a real horror — we heard two different Wings songs in two different places.

I’m okay with the Beatles being played ad nauseum in perpetuity, but I must ask: Why? Why Wings? Some music should die. It’s already withered, lifeless, bereft of creativity, so why isn’t it dead? There’s only one explanation: Wings songs are like musical zombies. Decaying and soulless, they still wander the earth, looking for an unguarded ear to slip inside.

PLUS: Freaky synchronicity.

Last night I wrote about the pervasiveness of the Beatles, and tonight, synchronicity has kicked me in the ass.

There’s a video on YouTube of K and I imitating Simon and Garfunkel. The video is quite obviously a joke rather than an actually tribue; I’m wearing a blonde jewfro wig that is so large it looks like a sheep laid down on my head and went to sleep. However, to our credit, it’s a well crafted joke; K and I practiced singing The 59th Street Bridge Song many times before we recorded it and performed it for our couple of friends on Halloween.

However, some (fill in pejorative noun here) wrote this comment on the video:

wrong vocals, Garfunkel.. you’re singing a high octave.. and even so, not right..

Thanks, bro, for letting me know I can’t really sing like Art Garfunkel. You’ve saved me from a life of delusion.

Wouldn’t you know it, this guy actually gets on stage to perform Beatles’ Covers and EVEN WORSE, WINGS’ COVERS and has really lousy footage to prove it. I guess he mistakenly thought we were serious? I’m not sure how, except he’s from Brazil — perhaps something got lost in the cultural translation.

The Beatles: absolutely the most pervasive, long-standing pop icons in the U.S.– who knows about the rest of the world. I swear, I can’t get through a day without some Beatles reference floating my way. This despite the fact that they broke up in 1970 and poor John’s been dead since 1980. For instance, when I went into my local independent video store (you rent from one, *don’t you?*) on Monday, they were playing Hard Day’s Night on their gigantor TV. Today, when I went to the taqueria to grab my lunch, the girl behind the counter (looking all of 19) was wearing a Beatles T-shirt.

Some people, like K, hold a not-so-secret animosity towards the Fab Four. The reason this category of folks always give is that they didn’t deserve the popularity they had. I cannot comment on whether their fame was deserved or not, for I was brainwashed to like them from an early age. Released when I was three, I recall seeing the cover of Meet the Beatles in almost every home I visited during my formative years.Meet_the_Beatles.jpg. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue who those floating heads belonged to until years later, but they also appeared on my lunch box. Woe to me that I don’t still have *that* collector’s item.

One of my clearest recollections of being on top of the Empire State Building for the first time, in 1969, was that someone had dropped a 8″ x 10″ glossy of the Beatles over the edge of the building. It didn’t fall, though — the updrafts were too strong. The picture never falling really impressed me. I wondered for years — did it ever fall? If so, where?

However, despite all this, let it be said that I absolutely hate Magical Mystery Tour. (Just try reading the “plot” summary, har har.) I believe when I saw it, much to my detriment, I was the only member of the audience not on acid. This film (which sadly, I recall quite clearly) is unwatchable and somewhat pukey to the sober mind.

Love them or hate them, their fame does not wane. I’m sure if I end up in an old folks home they’ll be blasting the Beatles day and night on the P.A., everything from Love Me Do to Revolution #9. And, although I’ll have forgotten my own name, I’ll still know all the frickin’ words.

Well, it could be worse. So, without further ado, here’s one of my favorite childhood songs:

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