Beaver Cleaver meets the Velvet Undergound; magnificent!
Shlomo Sinatra | Alaska | 01/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This classic album, here in its definitve treatment, with incredible, comprehensive liners, is just a must for anybody who can relate to something Jonathan Richman once said: "I started a group because I was lonely and figured that way I'd make friends".
This beautifully chronicled group of stories, with a definite Velvets sound, is completely one of innocence. Love, sex and rock and roll being a rebellion against parents is a bald-faced lie. It's not always that way, and Elvis knew it even if Lou Reed didn't (see: "Rock and Roll"). Ricky Nelson knew it too. I LOVE the song Old World; it's a fantastic statement about refusing to give up loving his parents, he doesn't care what the hip people think; he loves what he loved as a child. Unlike alot of Richman's later stuff, this is not child-like, however; this a grown man, one growing into manhood here, refusing to give up what remains true to his heart.
The Modern Lovers were one of Boston's greatest ever bands, along with the Real Kids and The Remains.
Jonathan was always a dreamer,and LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE DREAMERS!
Astral Plane is one of those dreams; an alternative reality? Or an alternative TO the harsher reality? "I'll meet you tonight on the Astral Plane--or I'll go insane". Some serious passion here, belied by its delivery slightly. A brilliant song.
Someone I Care About is another heart-warming song; on this, he ain't looking to fool around, for some mere sex (did I just use the term "Mere" about sex?! wow, this album really is affecting me!)
This song is about not lying and playing the game just to get laid; it's about the real yearning inside most of us, someone to love. And it has a refusal for anything less! This guy, he had some real strong head-set beliefs!
I mean, this band played in '71 and played to bunch of hippies,and did the song "I'm Straight"?!! For anyone who has never heard that song, on here, trust me, THAT is confrontational! More than the Sex Pistols were! (oh yeah, that's one thing this is famous for: being the sole album that "Johnny Rotten" liked in the Pistols' heyday; BFD, it's great for much better 'reasons' than that).
Oh, that's one of the (ahem) 'bonus' tracks on here (that is, as far as the original 9-song LP goes; the Rhino CD had it on there, as well as another highlight, Dignified and Old; see, Jonathan didn't wanna die young; why the hell should he? Cause "rock 'n' roll says so"? To be nihilistic and fatalistic? If rock and roll is about defying the rules, then here is the classic example of an alien (to the mainstream) defying the rules, for real. The live version of this on "Precise Modern Lovers Order" is one of the true highlights on that CD, by the way.
What great lyrics: "I sit all alone in the desert, and no girl understands me, but I can see through this bleakness and grey and sadness, and, well, I won't die now, someday I'll be dignified and old".
Beautiful, he ends with a plea for kids not to die now, that one day they'll all be dignified and old together.
This, THIS is what it's all about. Jonathan Richman had some serious guts here, not say, Sid Vicious. Never. That guy was a joke. Be real. REAL. That's what is so PERFECT about this album, this collection of recordings that should've been an album a few times before they were finally released (most of them) in '76.
I'm Straight is a superb anti-drug song. It's not a simplistic sloganeering diatribe, in case you haven't heard this album; none of this is; it couldn't and contain the line "now's your chance to make me feel awkward and wish that I had never even called up this place".
He want to take "hippie Johnny"'s place in her heart. (apparently, it was a bit of a resentment against John Felice's lifestyle; for those unfamilair with that name, while he was briefly in the Modern Lovers, his greatness was in full place in The Real Kids, whose first album is a rock 'n' roll classic, but I digress-- he wasn't exactly "straight" apparently, as far as drugs were concerned; the Real Kids song "Just Like Darts", I was naive enough when I was younger to think that was about love; that Velvet-Underground-sounding song was about, well, think about it...)
I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms is a Stooges-sounding song about the obvious.
Pablo Picasso is an interesting song; it's really about frustration from lack of success with the opposite sex; it's a pretty humorous and clever song about what happened when he tried to meet a chick, and starting talking, and what they thought of him: "Pablo Picasso was never called an a--hole".
This whole album is kinda like a MORE innocent version of the frustration of The Stooges first album, about boredom and wanting love and...and...the whole nine yards. Love.
But what can save more lonely people's lives than anything? What saved Joey Ramone from a life worse than fate? What saved Jonathan Richman? The spirit of 1956? Gee, what could that be! The, one of the greatest tributes to rock and roll and rock and roll radio (when such a thing existed). Roadrunner (not to be confused with the Bo Diddley song) has been covered by, lets see...Joan Jett did a million versions, fine jobs, Sex Pistols did it (horrible! they put out one great-sounding album, but their version, yecch...); Greg Kihn Band did it (great version), but no version can touch the one that opens this CD, including the bonus version at the end, which I believe was a single at one time.
I'm in love with this album, it helps me from being alone late at night.
It will help you too.
Awesome, just totally awesome. If you've heard Jonathan Richman's later stuff and don't dig it, have no fear with this album; if you like his later stuff, this'll BLOW YOUR MIND!!!
A Timeless Masterpiece
Ron Dudek | Seattle, WA USA | 03/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So Jonathan Richman might be described as an acquired taste. And as time passes on, what was once a cult classic can perhaps be reborne and re-examined anew. I have had this experience with my wife, who has no clue who this Richman or the Modern Lovers are/were.
This album is straight ahead, stripped down rock and roll. The band may sound garage like, but if you like that minimalist kind of raw rock (not the colliseum, Journey type theatrics) this is it. Throw in funny and sometimes clever lyrics, and incredible pop hooks, seemingly casually thrown out there, and what you have is a true musical genius just trying to be real and perhaps wry.
I recorded this album in the '80's on a cassette tape off an LA radio station famous for their interruption-free album format, and so I am glad to see it is again available. My cassette version and it's noticeable tape hiss at high volumes coupled with my Encinitas, CA, 1980's young poor man's memories makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable. My wife who was introduced to this album on a recent road trip and had never heard of Jonathan Richman before, liked it and thought is was passable pop music, so go figure. Also, one other nice thing about these songs - If you fancy yourself a guitarist, albeit with minimal skils, you can play several of these three chord classics fairly easily.
ALl the songs are great, but my faves are:
She Cracked: because of the edgy punk guitar especially. I like the more electric guitar prominent Richman songs.
Old World: A contrarian but hook filled pop ballad.
Dignified and Old: Sweet sentimental and flawless pop.
Pablo Picasso: More of a funny lament than a great song.
I'm Straight: Take that, Hippie Johnny.
Modern World: a true Shin-Dig pop tune. Rock! "Put down the cigarette, and drop out of BU."
Girlfriend: A boy's primer on dating.
David Robinson, the original Modern Lovers drummer, went on to greater success in the Cars.
Jerry Harrison, keyboardist, went on to greater success in the Talking Heads.
One GREAT Album. If you haven't heard it before, it will become a timeless masterpiece in your collection. Never fails to cheer me up."
The Original "Straight-Edge" Rocker
Mike B. | 07/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On these earliest recordings of Jonathan Richman, he celebrates 3 things in particular - girls, his appreciation of the old ways of the "Old World", and his beloved city of Boston and state of Massachusetts.
For an ad hoc assemblage, it's remarkable how well it all coheres. Recorded in '71 and '72, this collection of demos was cobbled together into an album that was finally released in 1976. By then the band had already been dissolved for 2 years, and Richman had begun his on-going solo career. John Cale of the Velvet Underground produced 6 of the original 9 tracks that comprised the vinyl edition back then, and that lead-off this CD compilation.
This record is often cited as the bridge between the Velvet Underground and the Ramones - and that's entirely accurate. It frequently sounds like a minimalist garage-band version of the former, but anticipated the humor and faster pace of the latter. "Astral Plane" and "Hospital" kind of sound like the Doors, while "Someone I Care About" slightly resembles the early Stooges song "1969" (which was on yet another historic debut album produced by Cale).
Jonathan may have admired the music of these acts, but it's clear he disliked their hedonistic, excessive lifestyles. In some ways he was the first "straight-edge" rocker. He was and is clean-living. In "She Cracked", he chides a girlfriend who eats poorly, while he "eats health food at home". In other songs he lets us know he loves his parents, and he doesn't want one-night encounters - he wants a girl he can care about. Needless to say, these weren't the prevailing views of many young people during this rebellious era. Richman should be commended for not being afraid to sound un-cool. I suppose he gets the last laugh - his musical heroes are either dead or look like they're 80, and he still looks the same.
Since their breakup, the Modern Lovers have become an all-star band. Keyboardist Jerry Harrison became famous when he joined the Talking Heads. He's released a few solo albums, and produced records for Violent Femmes, Von Bondies, and many others. Drummer David Robinson enjoyed big success as a member of the Cars. Bassist Ernie Brooks has played on almost every Elliott Murphy record of the past 30 years, beginning with Murphy's third album "Night Lights" (1976).
And, of course, Jonathan Richman continues to soldier on in his own inimitable way. His appearance as the wandering troubadour who gets shot at the end of the movie "There's Something About Mary" introduced him to a whole new audience. As an adult solo artist he's often favored songs of a "child-like", more simplistic nature - as opposed to the songs found here, which were precociously written when he was in his late teens/early twenties. To paraphrase Dylan: he was so much older then, he's younger than that now.
Richman's released some good albums since this ("Back In Your Life", "I, Jonathan") - but this is still my favorite. It's truly one of the all-time best and most fun records by anybody, finally available now in America with terrific bonus tracks, liner notes and photos. You may want to consider buying it for "Roadrunner" alone - one of the catchiest songs ever written about driving. Sounds great in your car!