From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Jonathan Richman

“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future. As guest editor of this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.


Lee: I first heard Jonathan Richman when I was 14. I used to go around to my friend Stephen’s house and borrow music from his vinyl collection every week. I discovered Back In Your Life by Jonathan And The Modern Lovers the same week I discovered Raw Power by the Stooges. As much as it will surprise some people, these records aren’t disconnected. Richman was (and still is) as punk as it gets. He was in seminal garage band the Modern Lovers, then went solo, playing acoustic kids’ music about dinosaurs and ice cream. There is something so pure about the way he sees the world. Without him, there would be no Moldy Peaches, no Calvin Johnson, no Ben Lee. He gave songwriters everywhere the permission we needed to never grow up.

“Back In Your Life” from 1979’s Back In Your Life: