20th October 2023 0 By John Deaux

Craft Recordings is pleased to reissue I, Jonathan—the 1992 lo-fi masterpiece from singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman exclusively for Rough Trade as an exclusive colour variant (a white with blue splatter) version as part of their Essential Edition titles. Set for release on November 17th, and available for pre-order today, I, Jonathan is a standout title from the offbeat artist’s solo catalogue, and features such fan favourites as “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” “Parties in the U.S.A.” and “That Summer Feeling.” 


Hailed for his authentic storytelling and candid observations about life, Jonathan Richman holds a unique place in modern musical history. The artist first emerged in the 1970s as the quirky frontman of the Boston proto-punk group, The Modern Lovers. Heavily inspired by the Velvet Underground, Richman and his bandmates soon built a cult following and garnered interest from a variety of record labels. While the founding members of the group disbanded in 1974, Richman relocated to the West Coast, where he assembled a new lineup  (as Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers) and moved away from the harder, electric sounds of his earlier days. By the late ’80s, however, when he signed to Rounder Records, Richman was primarily a solo act.  


1992’s I, Jonathan marks Richman’s fourth studio album as a solo artist and stands as one of the defining records of his career. While Richman made his return to a full-band setting in this album—engaging a variety of his musical friends to lend their talents—the songs’ arrangements remain beautifully sparse. Strongly influenced by vintage rock ’n’ roll, Richman’s catchy, lo-fi melodies are bolstered by handclaps and vocal harmonies, while his lyrics are simultaneously candid, charming, naïve and wise.  


Highlights include “Velvet Underground,” in which the artist pays tribute to his musical heroes, and wonders out loud about their song “Sister Ray.” In “Parties in the U.S.A.,” Richman mourns the fact that nobody gathers for beach or block parties in the modern era of TV and stereos. “Twilight in Boston,” meanwhile, finds Richman recalling his many “Lonely walks in the twilight” around his hometown, walking past the city’s Public Gardens, the iconic swan boats, Beacon Street and Fenway Park. Perhaps the best-known song off I, Jonathan, however, is the exuberant “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” in which he sings about the joys of letting go and dancing without the fear of uptight onlookers. Richman performed the song on Late Night With Conan O’Brien—becoming the show’s second-ever musical guest (following Radiohead). He would continue to make appearances on the popular variety show for years to come. 


While Richman certainly had a fervent following of fans prior to I, Jonathan, the release brought him greater exposure and has become a standout title in his impressive catalogue. AllMusic described the album as “a blast from start to finish,” while Pitchfork proclaimed the title to be “the highlight of Jonathan Richman’s rich and varied solo career.” The writer went on to say that “Richman’s work is about being fully present in the moment with other people, and that’s difficult to capture in a studio for all time. But I, Jonathan is as close as he’s come, and it’s a perfect gateway to all that his music promises.” 


In the latter half of the decade, Richman’s public persona would continue to grow, as he appeared in popular Farrelly Brothers films like There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin and Fever Pitch. All the while, he continued to tour and record new material on a regular basis, including several Spanish-language LPs.  


Throughout his five-decade-long career, Richman’s unique musical style has influenced multiple generations of artists. His songs have been covered by everyone from Joan Jett and the Sex Pistols, to Echo & the Bunnymen and Iggy Pop, while his work has paved the way for, and inspired, acts like Weezer, They Might Be Giants, Mac DeMarco, Frank Black, Jens Lekman and The Violent Femmes. To date, Richman has released 27 studio albums, both as a solo artist and with The Modern Lovers, including his most recent EP, 2023’s Yatasamaroun


Click here to stream or pre-order the album today, available on both black vinyl and white with blue spatter vinyl versions.


I, Jonathan tracklist: 


Side A 

Parties In The U.S.A. 

Tandem Jump 

You Can’t Talk To The Dude 

Velvet Underground 

I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar  


Side B 

Rooming House On Venice Beach 

That Summer Feeling 

Grunion Run 

A Higher Power 

Twilight In Boston 

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