Today's band is an American rock band that originally existed from 1970 to 1974 but their recordings were not released until 1976 or later. It featured Richman and bassist Ernie Brooks with drummer David Robinson (later of the Cars) and keyboardist Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads). The sound of the band owed a great deal to the influence of the Velvet Underground, and is now sometimes classed as "protopunk". It pointed the way towards much of the punk rock, new wave, alternative and indie rock music of later decades. Later, between 1976 and 1988, Richman used the name Modern Lovers for a variety of backing bands, always billed as "Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers". These bands were quieter and featured more low-key, where Richman drew on folk-rock and other genres. . ....N'Joy
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Singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman is sufficiently well-established as a solo artist, and it's easy to overlook the fact that the moniker sometimes used for his backing band, the Modern Lovers, was once connected to a coherent group of which Richman was a member. The Boston-based group the Modern Lovers is of such significance to American underground rock that they deserve separate consideration from Richman's own body of work, although many of the songs they recorded carried over into Richman's solo career and were used as the flagstones on which it was built.
After graduating from high school in 1969, Jonathan Richman relocated to New York City. Totally infatuated with the sound of the Velvet Underground, Richman made his entrée to New York with a couple of weeks sleeping on Velvets manager Steve Sesnick's sofa, and afterward moved into the rodent-infested Hotel Albert. After nine months in New York, Richman decided he'd had enough and moved back to his native Boston, but with the intention of forming a rock band modeled after what he'd learned from observing the Velvets. Back home, Richman swiftly organized a band with childhood friend John Felice as guitarist, David Robinson on drums, and Rolfe Anderson on bass. the Modern Lovers played their first date in September 1970, barely a month after Richman's return.
In early 1971 Anderson and Felice departed, although Felice would rejoin the group later down the road. Anderson was replaced by bassist Ernie Brooks, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison would also come into the band at this point, completing the classic lineup of the Modern Lovers. The group proved popular at live gigs in Boston, and word about them spread. In the fall of 1971 the Modern Lovers got their first nibble from a label -- Stuart Love of Warner Bros. came calling, and organized the band's first multi-track session at Intermedia Studio in Boston. The recording of the song "Hospital" on the Beserkley album The Modern Lovers originates from this session.
This demo tape generated some buzz in the industry, and pretty soon A&M was interested in the Modern Lovers as well. So in April 1972 the band traveled to Los Angeles to make their best, and most representative, recordings in the form of two multi-song demos, the first being a date with John Cale producing for Warner Bros. and another with Alan Mason at the controls for A&M. These two sessions comprise the balance of the posthumous album The Modern Lovers, although tape copies of the Cale session circulated widely before it was released, even to the U.K. In June 1972 producer Kim Fowley decided he wanted a piece of their action and traveled to Boston to produce some poor-quality demos that were ultimately released in 1981 on an album misleadingly titled The Original Modern Lovers.
The Modern Lovers' success as a live act continued unhindered, but as far as getting a record deal was concerned, the band was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. A second session held in Los Angeles in September 1973 with Cale producing went badly, producing nothing usable in terms of recordings. Fowley took them into Gold Star Studios shortly afterward with much better luck than he'd had in Boston, but by this time the band was on its last legs, and Richman had already decided to quit. By December 1973 the Modern Lovers were a done deal, and Richman was recording demos on his own. Jerry Harrison ultimately joined Talking Heads, David Robinson became drummer for the Cars, John Felice formed the Real Kids, and Ernie Brooks ended up with David Johansen. Richman retained use of the band name "the Modern Lovers" but often performs solo, prefers acoustic instruments, and has no plans to undertake another group like them.
In 1975 Richman moved to California to begin his association with Beserkley Records. Beserkley collected the various demos they could access of Richman's earlier group and pulled them together into the album The Modern Lovers, which was released on Beserkley's Home of the Hits subsidiary in 1976. Given the piecemeal nature of its assemblage, Richman does not recognize it as his "first album," awarding that distinction instead to 1977's Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, an album with a wholly different band, vibe, and approach. But The Modern Lovers was instantly recognized as a classic, and still came out in enough time to strongly influence aspiring punk rock musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Sex Pistols, whose cover version of "Road Runner" is one of the high points in their otherwise largely dismal sophomore effort, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. It is not out of merely idle adulation that Trouser Press critic Ira Robbins once dubbed the Modern Lovers "one of the truly great art rock albums of all time." the Modern Lovers was at one time the hottest unsigned live act in America, and their surviving work forms a pivotal link between the Velvet Underground and the punk rock movement that was yet to emerge.
Eventually, Richman formed a new, acoustic Modern Lovers with guitarist Leroy Radcliffe, Rubinoos bassist Greg "Curly" Keranen and drummer Robinson. In 1977, they debuted with Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, which emphasized the doo-wop flavor and wry pop melodies that remained hallmarks of Richman's career. That same year, the group issued Rock 'N' Roll With the Modern Lovers (with D. Sharpe on drums) and scored a major European hit with the instrumental "Egyptian Reggae." A year later, Richman went solo, and in 1979 issued Back in Your Life.
After a period of self-imposed exile, he resurfaced in 1983 with Jonathan Sings A series of strong pop records followed, including 1985's Rockin' & Romance, 1986's It's Time for Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (recorded with Andy Paley), and Modern Lovers 88. In 1990, he released the self-explanatory Jonathan Goes Country; later, he made another left turn with 1993's Jonathan, Te Vas a Emocionar!, a collection of Latin-influenced songs performed entirely in Spanish. No matter what path his music took, however, Richman's cult following remained fiercely loyal, and saw its ranks expand courtesy of his frequent appearances on the NBC program Late Night With Conan O'Brien; in 1998, he was also prominently featured in the hit film comedy There's Something About Mary. I'm So Confused appeared later that year. Richman began dipping his toes into slightly more sophisticated musical forms with 2001's Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow, which also documented his continuing interest in the Spanish language, as did 2004's Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love.
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Compiled of demos the band recorded with John Cale in 1973, The Modern Lovers is one of the great proto-punk albums of all time, capturing an angst-ridden adolescent geekiness which is married to a stripped-down, minimalistic rock & roll derived from the art punk of the Velvet Underground. While the sound is in debt to the primal three-chord pounding of early Velvet Underground, the attitude of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers is a million miles away from Lou Reed's jaded urban nightmares. As he says in the classic two-chord anthem "Roadrunner," Richman is in love with the modern world and rock & roll. He's still a teenager at heart, which means he's not only in love with girls he can't have, but also radios, suburbs, and fast food, and it also means he'll crack jokes like "Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole...not like you." "Pablo Picasso" is the classic sneer, but "She Cracked" and "I'm Straight" are just as nasty, made all the more edgy by the Modern Lovers' amateurish, minimalist drive. But beneath his adolescent posturing, Richman is also nakedly emotional, pleading for a lover on "Someone I Care About" and "Girl Friend," or romanticizing the future on "Dignified and Old." That combination of musical simplicity, driving rock & roll, and gawky emotional confessions makes The Modern Lovers one of the most startling proto-punk records -- it strips rock & roll to its core and establishes the rock tradition of the geeky, awkward social outcast venting his frustrations. More importantly, the music is just as raw and exciting now as when it was recorded in 1973, or when it was belatedly released in 1976.
The Modern Lovers - I (flac 410mb)
01 Roadrunner 4:06
02 Astral Plane 3:01
03 Old World 4:01
04 Pablo Picasso 4:22
05 She Cracked 2:56
06 Hospital 5:32
07 Someone I Care About 3:39
08 Girlfriend 3:55
09 Modern World 3:45
10 Dignified & Old 2:29
11 I'm Straight 4:19
12 Government Center 2:04
13 I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms 2:32
14 Dance With Me 4:27
15 Someone I Care About (Alternate Version) 2:59
16 Modern World (Alternate Version) 3:17
17 Roadrunner (Alternate Version) 4:55
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Richman's second collection of Modern Lovers, over which he was billed (eventually, the group name would be dropped) had a lighter rock & roll sound than the first. In fact, as often as not, Richman played acoustic guitar. And his lyrical concerns had similarly lightened up, to the point of childlike whimsy on such songs as "Hey There Little Insect" and "Here Come the Martian Martians." But the focus was still Richman's unabashed vocalizing (the word "sings" is put in quotes on the back cover), giving the whole album an amateurish charm.
Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers - I (flac 295mb)
01 Rockin' Shopping Center 3:33
02 Back In The USA 2:22
03 Important In Your Life 3:36
04 New England 2:22
05 Lonely Financial Zone 3:00
06 Hi Dear 3:21
07 Abominable Snowman In The Market 2:25
08 Hey There Little Insect 3:08
09 Here Come The Martian Martians 3:13
10 Springtime 3:52
11 Amazing Grace 2:51
12 It Will Stand 2:35
13 Government Center 2:15
14 The New Teller 1:39
15 Roadrunner (Once) 4:42
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This album (Rock and Rock with the Modern Lovers) was the second he recorded in this style, and he's pretty much kept to this ever since. Why he didn't rename the band is a mystery (all the original members except for him were gone by this time), but probably is just Jonathan's way of having some fun by thwarting our expectations. In fact, even the name of this album is misleading; these songs don't sound anything like any rock and roll you are probably used to. There are several instrumentals or near-instrumentals, and most of the other songs are more like children's music than rock. I think this is intentional; the title is either ironic or subversive (who says that children's music _can't_ be rock and roll, huh?). Regardless of this, try to approach the music with an open mind and you'll be rewarded. I think of this style as "children's music for adults"; what children's music would be if it were 1000 times better than any children's music you've ever heard. Jonathan sings with childlike wonder and delight, evoking images of a simpler time. Sure, his singing is nasal and occasionally slightly out-of-tune, and the band was apparently recorded in a bathroom, but that just adds to the DIY charm. And the songs are amazing! They combine goofy, funny and painfully sincere lyrics with great tunes, and there is not one bad song in the bunch. I particularly like "Roller Coaster By The Sea", "Rockin' Rockin' Leprechauns" (who have apparently come back to rock and roll), and the classic "Ice Cream Man", which he would expand to about seven minutes on the "Modern Lovers Live!" album by way of a ridiculous number of encores. I only recently rediscovered Jonathan's music because I have a two-year-old son, and somehow these tunes are great for both of us to listen to. If you have a toddler, I would recommend this album; it sure is more fun than listening to Raffi over and over. And even if you don't, you should still get it, because Jonathan is singing to the child inside each of us, and nobody does it better than he does.
Rock'n'Roll With The Modern Lovers (flac 187mb)
01 The Sweeping Wind (Kwa Ti Feng) 2:00
02 Ice Cream Man 3:02
03 Rockin' Rockin' Leprechauns 2:12
04 Summer Morning 3:50
05 Afternoon 2:49
06 Fly Into The Mystery 3:17
07 South American Folk Song 2:37
08 Roller Coaster By The Sea 2:06
09 Dodge Veg-O-Matic 3:49
10 Egyptian Reggae 2:37
11 Coomyah 2:09
12 The Wheels On The Bus 2:28
13 Angels Watching Over Me 1:51
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