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Vampire Girl

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Album Review

Notorious New York cult singer/songwriter David Roter was once called "an unholy confluence of Woody Allen and Lou Reed." Though Jonathan Richman is a well-known devotee of Reed and the Velvet Underground himself, he might best be termed "an unholy confluence of Pee Wee Herman and Sha Na Na." Starting with his band the Modern Lovers, Richman developed a musical persona that seemed eternally youthful and naïve; a trapped-in-the-late-'50s teenager who still lived in an imaginary world of sock hops, bongo drums, and nascent lust. Like Herman, however, he acknowledged the passage of time, yet seemingly remained, as a middle-aged man, just as surprised and bemused by the crazy scene in "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar," or the fact that friends would begrudge his favored mode of transportation in "You're Crazy for Taking the Bus," as they were when he was a high school freshman. Musically, the Boston native played a stripped-down, shambling, beach-party take on old-time rock & roll and pop, and was heavily influenced by doo wop, occasionally even detouring into country and Latin music (represented here by the full-on Nashville soundtrack "Since She Started to Ride" and the Spanish-language "Harpo en Su Harpa"). Overall, Vampire Girl: Essential Recordings is a good overview of Richman's classic Rounder Records material, which, despite its brief ten-track length, gives the casual listener an effective tour through the artist's strange, childlike, oft-hilarious, and always perceptive mind.


Born: 15 May 1951 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jonathan Richman was one of rock's most eccentric and unpredictable cult figures, a performer whose eternally childlike public persona and seeming naiveté -- typified by songs like "Ice Cream Man," "Hey There Little Insect" and "I'm a Little Aeroplane" -- tended to obscure the dexterity and craft of his music, which skirted from garage rock to country to Latin stylings and back. Born May 15, 1951 in Boston, Massachusetts, Richman began playing guitar at the age of 15, and within a year was making...
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