When There's Something About Mary opened in July 1998, there was some speculation that Jonathan Richman was finally going to become a rock star and get the credit he'd been earning since his 1972 debut with his Boston band the Modern Lovers. So far, his two dozen-plus albums (with the Modern Lovers and solo) and almost constant touring have yielded labels willing to release every quirky pop song (he's been signed to Warner Bros.' Vapor Records since 1995); the respect of musicians such as Frank Black, David Byrne, and the Sex Pistols (who covered the Modern Lovers' classic driving song "Roadrunner"); and a rabid fan base that consumes every painfully earnest lyric and bashful-Elvis dance step. In short, he's considered a genius, a state that allows for every experiment and new direction -- except the ones that lead to limelight. His few minutes of screen time (with his drummer Tommy Larkins) as a Greek-chorus-type musician who narrates the gross-out-aw-shucks romance of Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller threatened to make him a bona fide celebrity, whether he liked it or not -- or not being the correct answer.
Richman is infamous for avoiding interviews and refusing to talk about his personal life, his songs, his albums, his band, his tours, or anything else relating directly to Jonathan Richman the Musician. That is, except for his interest in stone masonry and love for riddles, which make for some bizarre interviews. With Mary's release, he accepted interviews, having for once something to talk about that didn't compromise his privacy. But these were articles written by fans for fans who were happy their hero was finally getting his props. The buzz around his appearance brought one new thing -- I'm So Confused, his first album in two years and his second Vapor release. He even made a video for the title track. While some Mary fans may have picked up the album, it didn't bring him stardom. He kept the same dedicated fans and continued writing just for himself, and he still spends half of the year on a stage in some small town, playing his small songs.
His current tour brings him to Denton's Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio for Valentine's Day. But the irony doesn't end with a man who's made a career singing melancholy pop-ditties such as "Affection" and "True Love is Not Nice" playing on the day dedicated to lovers (something Richman understands, but bemoans his lack of). Like his songs, the setup only gets better on closer examination: The cement building will still be decked out in the remnants of the club's Saturday-night prom. He'll take the stage surrounded by the likes of deflated balloons, droopy streamers, and lots of red and pink hearts, making the show a sort of gala for the wallflower crowd, many of whom weren't even born when Richman broke up the original Modern Lovers. What a way to fall in love.
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