With “Roadrunner,” Jonathan Richman pioneered a Velvet Underground meets the Romper Room kids kind of sound. The VU influence of minimalism and drone was tempered with Richman’s sense of innocence - which provided an excellent contrast. This combination would lie dormant for many years before it become the basic K Records aesthetic - but before that we had Velvet Monkeys.
Everything Is Right was the 1981 debut of Velvet Monkeys, and was initially released on the bleeding-edge format of cassette tape only. The group was led by future indie-icon Don Fleming, who has remastered the 30-year-old tapes for this CD reissue. Besides Fleming’s guitar and vocals, the Monkeys consisted of Elaine Barnes (keyboards, vocals), and Stephen Soles (bass). In the tradition of all great rock bands, they had a succession of drummers - no less than three appear here.
The disc begins with “Everything Is Right,” a song that perfectly encapsulates what the group were all about. Fleming’s deadpan delivery of lines such as “Everything is right, everything is coming up roses” sounds irony-free. Of course this is highly unlikely, given the fact that they were a Washington D.C. band in the first-flush of Reaganism. What Velvet Monkeys pioneered was a way to have your cake (or jellybeans) and eat it too.
Their sense of fun is what comes through the most. With songs like “Drive In,” the foursome share their love of the simple pleasures of the drive-in double feature. In 1981, such things still existed. Other mood-lifters include a cover of “The Creeper” and “Velvet Monkey Theme Song.” As we all know, every band shoud have a theme song.
Velvet Monkeys were definitely not living in a vacuum. There is an experimental side to them that may have been obscured in the early days, but was clearly there. Whether intentional or not, “Any Day Now” has a great deal in common with the sound Martin Hannett produced on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album. Don Fleming may disagree with this, and it may have just been something in the air at the time. Still, there are remarkable similarities.