Modern Lovers

 
 
 
 

The right wrong album

Besides “Some Bright Stars For Queens College”, one of the songs I most wanted to find in my cassette archives was “Roadrunner (Once)”*. I’m not sure when exactly during my sophomore year at SDSU I finally found a Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers album, I’d been reading Robert Hilburn’s ravings in the LA Times and been on the lookout for awhile, but of course I bought the wrong one.
The right one was the John Cale produced debut, The Modern Lovers(1976), which sounds like the Stooges and the Velvet Underground in a blender, sort of, is a certified protopunk classic, and contains some of his best known songs, including “Pablo Picasso”.
The one I bought was the second one, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers(1976), which featured “Rockin Shopping Center”, “Abominable Snowman in the Market”, “Hey There Little Insect”, “Hi Dear” etc, which sounded nothing like the The Velvets or Stooges, and to my Beatles- Zeppelin-Floyd trained ears, bore little resemblance to Rock N Roll. Remember, I didn’t know what to make of Syd Barrett either.
My first instinct was to hate it, and since I lived in a dorm, peer pressure was strong. With my neighbors blasting Boston and Aerosmith, I felt really embarrassed playing it.
About the same time I noticed the Eno lyric on “Third Uncle”- “We saw the Lovers, The Modern Lovers and they looked very good they looked as if they could”, or something like that.
My freshman year was spent at Cal State Fullerton, where during lunch hour, bands would often play outdoors in the “quad” in front of “the Commons”.
I came to realize later that The Modern Lovers were one of them. They were pretty goofy, yet somehow charming, and I remembered them playing “Roadrunner”.
Like an idiot I got rid of almost all my records in 1990, including a half dozen Jonathan Richman albums.
I bought a Rhino “Best Of” cd as a replacement, but of course it was missing a lot of the best songs. Not included was the Beserkely Chartbuster’s version of “Roadrunner”, which is vastly superior to that on the debut, or “Rockin Shoppin Center”.
I had a really hard time tracking them down. Jonathan’s music goes in and out of print, and gets repackaged in different configurations. The version I was looking for is sometimes called “Roadrunner (once)”, and other times, “Roadrunner (twice)”.
I went so far as to order something on Amazon, but it never arrived.
I spent more time than I like to admit tracking these tunes down.
As great as the debut is, the “uncool” tracks found here are little closer to my heart.
Still, if you’ve never heard it, “Pablo Picasso” is a classic.
My favorite line:
“Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole, not like you”
Interesting that the original band included Jerry Harrison and David Robinson, who went on to play in The Talking Heads, and the Cars, respectively.

For more info, here’s wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Modern_Lovers

Roadrunner (twice?)
Rockin Shoppin Center
The New Teller

from The Modern Lovers

Pablo Picasso

*I never found “Roadrunner”, but a cassette did turn up “Rockin Shoppin Center”, however the mp3 I found, and posted here, sounded slightly better than the dub I made.

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