The Modern Lovers
I got into a conversation today with a friend who has quite solid musical taste, and we somehow got onto the topic of folk-punk, and I made the totally unfounded assertion that Jonathan Richman invented folk-punk, which is almost certainly not true, but the conversation did remind me to listen to the one and only album by The Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman’s now-legendary first band, which in its own way really is kind of a proto-folk-punk record, if you throw in some garage, some psychedelia, some girl group, some motown, some rockabilly, and a lot of Boston and New York as well. It’s basically a very reverential and deeply weird rock n’ roll album that is SO influential that the last 40 years of “alternative” rock is probably not actually necessary.
A fair amount of the album was produced by John Cale, the drummer went on to join The Cars, and the keyboardist, who happens to have been Jerry Harrison, would go on to be the guitarist in The Talking Heads, so there was a lot of pedigree here. And then there’s just weird old Jonathan Richman, just keepin’ on keepin’ on, doin’ his very weird folk-punk-rockabilly-torch song thing.
I had the honor of opening for Jonathan at Slim’s in San Francisco once. He played solo, and stomped a lot for rhythm, and it was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. He was incredible. What he does live is this sort of unreal self-hypnosis, where he just sort of semi-disappears into the movies playing behind his eyes, and he just plays from there, and tells incredible stories, and sings perfectly shaped, molded, and cut songs, and he’s like a weird post-nasal east coast guru mendicant troubadour who’s sort of a low-rent folk-punk Jesus sent to save us all.
Listen to Pablo Picasso, She Cracked, and Hospital right in a row.
“I got to bakeries all day long
there’s a lack of sweetness in my life.”
And be glad there is Jonathan Richman.