The Modern Lovers (album)

The Modern Lovers is the debut studio album by American rock band the Modern Lovers. It was released on Beserkley Records in 1976, though the original tracks had been recorded in 1971 and 1972. Six of the original tracks were produced by John Cale. The album pointed towards alternative music genres such as punk rock, new wave and indie rock.[4]

The Modern Lovers
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 1976 (1976-08)
  • September 1971 and April 1972
  • October 1973 (bonus tracks only)
  • 34:51 (original release)
  • 44:06 (1989 CD reissue)
  • 62:13 (2003 CD reissue)
ProducerRobert Appère, John Cale, Allan Mason
The Modern Lovers chronology
The Modern Lovers
The Original Modern Lovers
Jonathan Richman chronology
The Modern Lovers
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Singles from The Modern Lovers
  1. "Roadrunner"
    Released: October 1976
1989 CD reissue

The album has been featured three times on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and was included in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background edit

The Modern Lovers were formed in 1970 by teenage singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jonathan Richman. In early 1971, the band's membership was settled as Richman, Jerry Harrison (keyboards), Ernie Brooks (bass) and David Robinson (drums), with Richman's friend and original band member John Felice joining them occasionally on second guitar as his educational commitments allowed. By the autumn of 1971, through their live performances in Boston and New York, they had begun to attract the attention of several record company A&R men, including Stuart Love at Warner Brothers, and Allan Mason and Matthew Kaufman at A&M. The band made their first recordings for Warner Brothers at the Intermedia Studios in Boston in late 1971; these included the version of "Hospital" which was later to feature on the album.[5]

In April 1972, the Modern Lovers travelled to Los Angeles where they held two demo sessions; the first was produced for Warner Brothers by John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, while the second was produced by Allan Mason and Robert Appère for A&M. Both sets of sessions yielded tracks which, although originally recorded as demos, eventually found their way onto the album. The Cale sessions produced "Roadrunner", "Astral Plane", "Old World", "Pablo Picasso", "She Cracked" and "Someone I Care About". The A&M sessions yielded "Girl Friend", "Modern World" and "Dignified and Old" (which, although not included on the original LP, was included on later CD reissues).[5]

However, the band were initially undecided over which record company to sign for, returned to Boston, and also did some recordings organised by Kim Fowley and produced by Stuart "Dinky" Dawson.[6] Eventually, in early 1973, they signed with Warner Brothers and agreed that John Cale should produce their debut album. In the meantime, they undertook a short residency at a hotel in Bermuda. Returning to California in the summer to work with Cale, it became apparent both that there were personality clashes between some of the band members, and that Richman now wanted to take a different approach to his songs - much more mellow and easy-paced rather than the earlier aggressive hard rock. The sessions with Cale were terminated before any new recordings were completed. Warner Brothers then engaged Kim Fowley to work with the band, but by this time Richman refused to perform some of his most popular earlier songs live. The band were also affected by the death during the sessions of their friend Gram Parsons: on the day before Parsons' death, he and Richman had played miniature golf and discussed recording together.[7] The sessions with Fowley were aborted, although two tracks, "I'm Straight" and the original recording of "Government Center", and possibly others, were later issued on CD versions of The Modern Lovers. Warner Brothers withdrew support from the band, and, early in 1974, the original Modern Lovers split up.[5]

Release edit

In late 1974, Richman signed as a solo artist with Matthew "King" Kaufman's new label, "Home of the Hits", soon to be renamed Beserkley Records, and recorded four tracks with backing by the bands Earth Quake and The Rubinoos, including new versions of both "Roadrunner" and "Government Center". These tracks were first issued as singles, and then on an album Beserkley Chartbusters Vol.1 in 1975. In 1976, with a new line-up of the Modern Lovers, Richman began recording what he went on to regard as his debut album, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.[5]

However, in the meantime, Kaufman also put together the album The Modern Lovers from remixed versions of the tracks recorded four or more years earlier for Warner Brothers and A&M, and released it in August 1976. "Hospital" was credited as being "donated by Jerry Harrison" because he possessed the original 1971 session tapes.[8]

Bonus tracks edit

The 1986 Beserkley reissue of the album added "I'm Straight" from the 1973 Fowley sessions. The 1989 compact disc reissue on Rhino Records added "Government Center", also from the Fowley sessions, and "Dignified and Old" from the 1972 A&M demo recordings. Kaufman was credited as producer of "I'm Straight" and "Government Center" which were originally issued on Warners' Troublemakers compilation in 1980.[8]

Further bonus tracks were added on a 2003 remastered reissue on Sanctuary Records: "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms" and "Dance With Me" (recorded at the 1973 and 1972 demos with Fowley, respectively); and alternative versions of "Roadrunner", "Someone I Care About" and "Modern World" (the first two being from the 1971 Intermedia sessions in Boston, and the last one from the 1972 Fowley demos). This 17-track version of the album was released in the USA for the first time on Castle Records in 2007.

Critical reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [9]
Blender     [10]
Christgau's Record GuideA[11]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [12]
Q     [15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [16]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[18]

The Modern Lovers was immediately given an enthusiastic critical reception, with critic Ira Robbins of Trouser Press hailing it as "one of the truly great art rock albums of all time".[3] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice felt that Jonathan Richman was deserving of his "critics' darling" status and stated that "by cutting through the vaguely protesty ambience of so-called rock culture he opens the way for a worldliness that is specific, realistic, and genuinely critical."[19]

In a retrospective write-up for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine states that "the 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."[9]

Legacy edit

The Modern Lovers influenced numerous aspiring punk rock musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Sex Pistols, whose early cover of "Roadrunner" was placed on The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. In the UK, the versions of "Roadrunner" produced by Cale and Kaufman were released as two sides of a single, which became a chart hit in 1977.[20]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 381 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[21] 382 in 2012,[22] and 288 in 2020.[23]

In 2006, the album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[24]

Track listing edit

All songs written by Jonathan Richman, except where noted.

Original LP edit

Side one
  1. "Roadrunner" – 4:04
  2. "Astral Plane" – 3:00
  3. "Old World" – 4:00
  4. "Pablo Picasso" – 4:15
Side two
  1. "She Cracked" – 2:53
  2. "Hospital" – 5:31 (September 1971)
  3. "Someone I Care About" – 3:37
  4. "Girl Friend" – 3:51 (A&M sessions, April 1972)
  5. "Modern World" – 3:40 (A&M sessions, April 1972)

1986 Rhino reissue bonus tracks edit

Side one
  1. "I'm Straight" * – 4:18 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)
  2. "Dignified & Old" – 2:29 (A&M sessions, April 1972)
Side two
  1. "Government Center" * – 2:03 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)

2003 Castle reissue bonus tracks edit

  1. "Dignified & Old" – 2:29 (A&M sessions, April 1972)
  2. "I'm Straight" * – 4:18 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)
  3. "Government Center" * – 2:03 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)
  4. "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms" ** (Richman, James Osterberg) – 2:32 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)
  5. "Dance With Me" ** – 4:26 (Fowley sessions, October 1973)
  6. "Someone I Care About" (alternate version) – 2:58 (September 1971)
  7. "Modern World" (alternate version) – 3:16 (Fowley demo, 1972)
  8. "Roadrunner" (alternate version) – 4:55 (September 1971)

*Previously released on Troublemakers (1980)
**Previously released on The Original Modern Lovers (1981)

Personnel edit

The Modern Lovers


  • John Cale – producer (tracks 1–5, 7)
  • Robert Appère – co-engineer (tracks 8–9, "Dignified & Old")
  • Allan Mason – co-engineer (tracks 8–9, "Dignified & Old")
  • Gary Phillips – remixing
  • Matthew King Kaufman – remixing, compilation
  • Glen Kolotkin – remixing
  • Jim Blodgett – LP co-ordination
  • T. Lubin – LP assistance
  • George Horn – mastering
  • Kim Fowley – producer ("I'm Straight", "Government Center", "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms", "Dance with Me" and alternate versions)
  • Gary Stewart – reissue coordination (1986 edition)
  • Philip Milstein – research, assistance (1986 edition)
  • Geoff Gans – repackage art direction (1986 edition)
  • Monster X – repackage design (1986 edition)
  • Richard P. Rodgers – front cover photo (1986 edition)
  • Kevin J. Cummiskey – booklet photos (1986 edition)
  • Bill Inglot – digital remastering (1986 edition)
  • Ken Perry – digital remastering (1986 edition)
  • David Wells – compilation, annotation (2003 edition)
  • The Town House – remastering (2003 edition)
  • Antony Amos – coordination (2003 edition)

References edit

  1. ^ The following cite the album as "proto-punk":
    • Hann, Michael (August 10, 2011). "My favourite album: The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers". The Guardian. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
    • Breihan, Tom (April 25, 2018). "Jack White - "Pablo Picasso" (The Modern Lovers Cover)". Stereogum. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
    • Klein, Joshua (September 14, 2007). "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  2. ^ The following cite the album as "garage rock":
  3. ^ a b Lewis, Uncle Dave. "The Modern Lovers". AllMusic. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "#288 The Modern Lovers, 'The Modern Lovers' (1976)". Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Retrieved 2023-12-16.
  5. ^ a b c d Mitchell, Tim (1999). There's Something About Jonathan. Peter Owen Publishers. ISBN 0-7206-1076-1.
  6. ^ See
  7. ^ Boston Rock Storybook - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers LP Archived 2013-02-22 at
  9. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers". AllMusic. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  10. ^ Weiner, Jonah. "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers". Blender. New York. Archived from the original on March 27, 2004. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved March 8, 2019 – via
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Modern Lovers". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  13. ^ Klein, Joshua (September 14, 2007). "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  14. ^ Keefe, Michael (September 20, 2007). "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers". PopMatters. Archived from the original on February 4, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers". Q. No. 78. London. March 1993. p. 98.
  16. ^ Hochman, Steve (2004). "Jonathan Richman". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 690–91. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  17. ^ Cavanagh, David (February 1993). "The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers". Select. No. 32. London. p. 80.
  18. ^ Sheffield, Rob (1995). "Modern Lovers". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 257–58. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 14, 1976). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
  20. ^ "Jonathan Richman". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  21. ^ Levy, Joe; Van Zandt, Steven, eds. (2006) [2005]. "381 | Modern Lovers - Modern Lovers". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814.
  22. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. New York. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  24. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (revised and updated ed.). Universe Publishing. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.

External links edit