The Modern Lovers were a rock group from Boston, Mass. They were fronted by Jonathan Richman and their time in music history, though brief, was extremely important and influential, as they were one of the major links between the Velvet Underground, and the emerging punk scene.
Richman was extremely obsessed with the sound of The Velvet Underground. He was so obsessed, that after graduating high school in 1969, he moved from Boston to New York, and slept on the sofa of Velvet Underground manager Steve Sesnick. He spent 9 months in New York, during which time he learned alot from his time spent with The Velvet Underground. After 9 months, he moved back to New York with the intentions of building a rock band in the image of his idols. Soon after he found childhood friend John Felice to play guitar, David Robinson to play drums, and Rolfe Anderson to play bass. In less than a month, the Modern Lovers were born and played their first show in late 1970.
Early on in 1971, there was a lineup change as Anderson was replaced by Ernie Brooks, and Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads fame) was added on keyboards. By late 1971, the band finally got noticed by a label, Warner Bros. A recording session was scheduled, and the song "Hospital", which later appears on this album, was recorded.
The Lovers got even more recognition in 1972, recording multi-song demos for both Warner Bros. and A&M that year. These two sessions comprise the majority of this album. Into 1973, the band still had not been signed by a label, and another recording session in 1973 went badly. By this time, the band was beginning to fizzle out as members began to leave. Richman left to pursue a solo career, retaining the name The Modern Lovers. Jerry Harrison went on to play with Talking Heads. David Robinson ultimately became the drummer for the Cars, John Felice formed a band by the name of the Real Kids, and Ernie Brooks ended up playing with David Johansen.
In 1975, Richman was finally signed by Beserkley Records. Beserkley began to assemble all the previous salvageable demos, and the album The Modern Lovers
was created (3 years after they disbanded). This album was very influential to the emerging punk scene, most notably for the Sex Pistols who cover The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" on their sophomore album The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
Rolling Stone Album #381
Jonathan Richman - Guitar, Lead Vocals
Ernie Brooks - Bass, Backing Vocals
Jerry Harrison - Organ, Piano, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
John Felice - Guitar, Backing Vocals
David Robinson - Drums, Backing Vocals
This album very much has a Velvet Underground type feel to it musically. The songs are mostly bare bones and minimalistic art punk. Particulary on the song "Girl Friend" where the song is almost in story form with just a bit of backing music to give the impression that it is a song. The lyrics, however, don't have the maturity or depth that their predecessors do. They are less surreal and involve things that we all can relate to: A guy wanting a "G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N, that's a girlfriend, thats something that I understand." The minimalistic story style is also present on "I'm Straight", and "Hospital". These songs are good for what they are, but I prefer the rockier songs on the album.
There are some driving songs, particulary great are "Roadrunner", "Old World", and my favorite "Someone I Care About" where Richman claims that he doesn't want "A girl to fool around with, or just a girl to bone. I don't want a cocaine sniffing triumph in the bar, I don't want a triumph in the car, I don't want to make a rich girl crawl. All I want is a girl that I care about or I want no one at all." All the time maintaining the same punk rock driving style. There are simple solos here and there, but most of the time the music relys on a 3 chord structure. The lyrics are as cheesy as the name Modern Lovers would seem to indicate. There is a certain harmony between the lyrics and the music that makes it work though.
Someone I Care About
Recommended for fans of:
The Velvet Underground***
This album contains some real gems like "Someone I Care About", "Roadrunner", and "Girl Friend", but even if you don't dig the musical value, the influential value of this album is extremely high. This band spawned so many great musicians in so many other influential bands, and bridged the gap between The Velvet Underground and the 1970's punk scene. It's time for you to experience that bridge. Without this band, who knows what other great bands wouldn't even exist.