Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers
Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers
Richman spent a couple of weeks sleeping on Velvets manager Steve Sesnick's sofa before moving into the Hotel Albert, a residence known for its poor conditions. After nine months in New York, Richman moved back to his native Boston and organized a band modeled after the Velvets. Christening themselves "the Modern Lovers," the group included Richman's 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 to Boston. In early 1971 Anderson and Felice departed; they were replaced by bassist Ernie Brooks, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison, completing the classic lineup of the Modern Lovers.
This new configuration became very popular in the Boston area, and by the fall of 1971, enthusiastic word-of-mouth led to the Modern Lovers' first exposure to a major label when Stuart Love of Warner Bros. Records contacted them and organized the band's first multi-track session at Intermedia Studio in Boston. The demo produced from this session generated more attention from the industry, and soon A&M Records was interested in the band as well. In April 1972, the Modern Lovers traveled to Los Angeles where they held two demo sessions; the first was produced by the Velvet Underground's John Cale for Warner Bros. while the second was produced by Alan Mason for A&M.
In June 1972 producer Kim Fowley also courted the band, traveling to Boston to produce some poor-quality demos that were later released in 1981 on an album misleadingly titled The Original Modern Lovers. Despite their continued success as a live act, the Modern Lovers had a difficult time securing a record deal. Cale produced another session for the band in Los Angeles in September 1973, but nothing usable was recorded. Soon after, Fowley produced yet another session with the band, this time at Gold Star Studios with much better results than he'd had in Boston, but by this time Richman was pushing for a drastic, new direction. Richman wanted to scrap all of the tracks they had recorded and start over with a mellower, more lyrical sound.
The rest of the band, while not opposed to such a shift later, insisted that they record as they sounded now. These issues stymied efforts to complete a debut album, and, eventually, led to the band's breakup by the end of 1973. Richman continued recording on his own, eventually moving to California in 1975 to begin working with Beserkley Records. While Richman never returned to the Velvets-inspired sound of the original Modern Lovers, the demo recordings made with that group eventually surfaced in various formats. The first of these releases came in 1976 when Beserkley compiled a posthumous LP from the first demo two sessions produced by Cale and Mason; issued on Beserkley's Home of the Hits subsidiary, the album was simply titled The Modern Lovers and included celebrated tracks such as "Roadrunner", "She Cracked", and "Pablo Picasso".
Richman did not recognize this compilation as his "first album," preferring to recognize his debut as 1977's Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, an album pursuing the lighter, softer direction he had in mind with a completely different band. However, The Modern Lovers was given an enthusiastic, critical reception, with critic Ira Robbins hailing it as "one of the truly great art rock albums of all time," and it influenced numerous aspiring punk rock musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Sex Pistols (who covered "Roadrunner" on The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle). Despite the original group's premature break-up, many of its members found considerable success elsewhere: founding member John Felice formed the seminal Real Kids, Jerry Harrison later joined Talking Heads, David Robinson co-founded the Cars, and Ernie Brooks would later work with David Johansen. Richman retained use of the band name "the Modern Lovers," reusing the name for his subsequent groups in the 1970s and 1980s, but these bands were always billed as Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Richman continues to perform, often solo and preferring acoustic instruments, and currently has no plans to undertake another group like his original band.
A tribute album comprised primarily of Modern Lovers songs, If I Were a Richman: a Tribute to the Music of Jonathan Richman, was released by Wampus Multimedia in 2001. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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