The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers  were an American rock band led by Jonathan Richman in the 1970s and 1980s.  The original band existed from 1970 to 1974 but their recordings were not released until 1976 or later.  The sound of the band owed a great deal to the influence of the Velvet Underground, and is now sometimes classed as “protopunk”.  Their only album, the eponymous The Modern Lovers, contained idiosyncratic songs about dating awkwardness, growing up in Massachusetts, and love of life and the USA.  (More from Wikipedia)
Another important band of the same time period, the Modern Lovers was formed in 1970 by guitarist and singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman with John Felice (guitar), David Robinson (drums), and Rolfe Anderson (bass). Richman had spent 9 months in New York City after becoming infatuated with the Velvet Underground before returning home to Boston and forming the band. The Modern Lovers played their first date in September 1970, barely a month after Richman’s return and became a hot live band. Anderson was later replaced by Ernie Brooks, and Jerry Harrison (a future member of Talking Heads) joined up on keyboards.
Getting their unique sound on record proved to be difficult, however, with John Cale, Kim Fowley and Allan Mason trying in various sessions to get some usable songs on tape in the early 1970’s. No recordings had been released until after the Modern Lovers broke up in December 1973; by the time Beserkley Records put out an album of their early recordings called simply The Modern Lovers (1976), Jonathan Richman had softened his sound and assembled a different band with a different style called Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Their debut album, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers came out in the same year on the same label, so it is not surprising that the original proto-punk band has largely dropped from sight.
The Modern Lovers is probably best known for their song “Pablo Picasso”. (Another of their tracks is “Roadrunner”; Roadrunner” was covered by Sex Pistols on their little-known, sort-of second album, The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle). I actually first heard the song on the Phranc album, Positively Phranc (1991), where (with Jonathan Richman’s blessing) she had rewritten the song as “Gertrude Stein” in honor of the famed Paris avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein who was the life partner of Alice B. Toklas – her 1954 recipe for marijuana brownies was celebrated in the Peter Sellers film, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968). An excerpt of “Pablo Picasso” (as performed by Burning Sensations) appears in the 1985 cult classic film, Repo Man that has been in heavy rotation on my TiVo for most of the year.  
(December 2016)
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Items:    The Modern Lovers  
Last edited: March 22, 2021