Buying Guide

I personally have over 100 recordings of Jonathan Richman music and occasionally people ask me for advice on which cds they should buy next - so what follows is my buying guide for Jonathan Richman

Of course most of you know this but Jonathan has made some very different types of cds. There is room for debate on this but I think the following are the distinct periods or stages of his career (if you only know of one then you are going to be very surprised at the range of stuff he has put out)

  1. Stages
  2. Other Stuff
  3. Summary and Final Recommendations

  4. Some More Thoughts


If this stuff is why you like Jonathan then you are going to hate the rest of his music (at least you will wonder what happened to him). If you heard stuff from the Ice Cream Man period first then you will not want to get these cds. Basically, he changes drastically after this so if you buy cds from different periods be prepared ...

The two cds that first came out from this period are

But if you like this stuff then the cd to buy is the one that just came out (2004)

There are also three live cds in this period

Now these three are more or less identical (only a couple of songs worth of difference) but the best production job is on Precise Modern Lovers Order

So, if you like this type of music, buy

If you buy any of the others you will be mostly buying duplicates that sound worse (of course if you are a fanatic like me you will buy everything you can)

The Ice Cream Man period\stage

This is my favorite of all - these are the cds I listen to the most. He is down on this period lately (in an interview in Take Me to the Plaza he says that the stuff in this period was too cute). After the Punk phase he made a lot of people mad with turn to this lighter but more fun (and better) material and it seems that he now agrees with his critics (he would often get booed on stage when he did this stuff live at the time). Jonathan pretty much ignores this stuff in his live shows these days, oh well ...

All of this stuff is essential for a complete Jonathan Richman collection and with the rereleasing by Castle, all four are currently available (2004).


Less fun than the Ice Cream Man period, but still interesting. Lots of great songs but the material is uneven - some cds are great, some are not so good.

Current (Tommy Larkins) Period


There have been MANY Jonathan Richman compilations over the years and in my opinion NONE of them are really worth buying (unless you only want to get only one of his cds) He is a hard person to put together a decent greatest hits cd since he has gone through radically different phases but as a fan I would want a cd to cover a particular period well and throw in some previuosly unreleased material. Only a couple of the compliations have any previously unreleased material (Roadrunner and Beserkley Years). Anyway, enough on that rant ...

Punk and Ice Cream Man periods

Punk and 80s/90s



CDs by Other People

These are cds with one or two Jonathan songs on them ..

Summary and Final Recommendations

A) If you like the Punk period buy the following (and skip all of the rest)

B) If you like the Ice Cream Man stage, buy the following (and stay away from the punk records)

(if you want more like the above 4 but not quite as good get)

C) If you want something from the 80s/90s period get

(if the previous four leave you wanting more, get)

D) If you want the current stuff get one or more of the following (if you like the one you will likely like the others)

E) Compilations and Greatest Hits

F) Rare Stuff

G) So, as far as I'm concerned the really essential Jonathan Richman cds are

Some More Thoughts

Ok the more I think about it, if you are new to Jonathan, my advice is to buy

These have a good mix of the playful fun stuff and the serious material. If you listen to these and you really like the fun songs - then buy the earlier cds from the Ice Cream Man stage. If you like the more serious songs, then buy the later cds.