Legendary musician plays surprise party at SF bookstore

Customers at Green Apple Books on Clement Street did not expect to find a man with a guitar wandering between the culinary and fantasy sections as they shop.

It was Independent Bookstore Day, which occurs annually on the last Saturday in April, so they assumed it might have been part of the festive atmosphere. But once they took a closer look at him, they couldn’t believe who he really was – and why the legendary musician was playing an unintended concert in San Francisco.

One by one, they quietly approached the library staff to confirm.


“People were like, ‘This isn’t Jonathan Richman, is it?'” Olivia Vivieros, a Green Apple Books employee, told SFGATE on Sunday afternoon. “When I said that, they were just blown up.”

Richman is best known as the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and one of the founding members of the Modern Lovers, a band on the edge of punk and the new wave that formed in the 1970s and was active with many members during the 1980s. The original lineup included guitarist John Phyllis, guitarist Rolf Anderson, who was replaced by Harvard student Ernie Brooks, drummer David Robinson, who would become a co-founding member of Cars, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison, who replaced Phyllis and later joined Talking Heads. Their only self-titled album, inspired by the families of a teenage Richman with Velvet Underground, was released through Berkeley Records, Beserkley Records and went on to influence the likes of sex pistolsAnd Gwan Jett and the Black Hearts And Yo La Tingoall the bands that will be covering in particular their most popular hit, “Roadrunner”.

Jonathan Richman of Modern Lovers surprises customers and employees alike at Green Apple Books on April 30, 2022. Left to right: Customer Luis Gonzalez, Richman and employee Joey Goodman.

Jonathan Richman of Modern Lovers surprises customers and employees alike at Green Apple Books on April 30, 2022. Left to right: Customer Luis Gonzalez, Richman and employee Joey Goodman.

Courtesy of Olivia Veveiros / Green Apple Books

Much like the drifting musical narrator photograph In the 1998 Farley Brothers romantic comedy There’s Something About Mary, Richman wandered around the store as he toured his hour-long impromptu repertoire, which included not any songs from the Modern Lovers’ songs, but some clips from his most recent CD. The singles, “Want To Visit My Inner Home?” as well as some spontaneous tunes and monologues.

Vivieros said Richman is an old friend of former Green Apple Books director Mary Gorey and a longtime supporter of the library, and that he came to town to “surprise” customers and staff with some music in celebration of Independent Library Day. Apart from the mysterious tweet Shared less than an hour before he arrived, Richman’s appearance was not announced by the library—in part because the staff didn’t want the space to be too crowded—though the crowd swelled to about 40 as word spread.

“I think a lot of people celebrated this day and showed up at the right time,” Vivieros said.

For decades, Richman I played in San Francisco At an annual show held in December to celebrate the birthday of another old friend, Don Holiday, who was the general manager of Slim’s and Great American Music Hall. He also had residencies at Make Out Room and Swedish American Hall.

But those who had the opportunity to take part in the party at Green Apple Books had the rare opportunity to see him in an intimate setting.

“[It was] “An incredible surprise,” said Viveiros. “You never know what will happen when you visit our stores.”

Legendary musician Jonathan Richman gave a surprise presentation at Green Apple Books on April 30, 2022.

Legendary musician Jonathan Richman gave a surprise presentation at Green Apple Books on April 30, 2022.

Courtesy of Joey Goodman / Green Apple Books