The Modern Lovers / Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Rock N Roll With The Modern Lovers

It may be due to the fact that he appeared in the film "Something About Mary" or maybe other factors that Castle Music have decided to reissue the first three albums by Jonathan Richman.

The first album, simply titled "The Modern Lovers" consists of demos recorded in 1971-72, but did not see the light of day until 1976. Richman was disenchanted with the rock music of the early 70s which was suffering with the conformity of the hangover of the 60s "hippy long hair music". He came up with a proto-punk sound heavily influenced by his heroes the Velvet Underground. How much of that is down to the fact that the sessions were produced by ex Velvet Underground member John Cale or not is open to speculation. A more recent comparison would be the Strokes minimilistic organ droning sound. However the tastes of the day were decidedly hippy and audiences did not take to a singer who maybe taunted his audience with songs such as "I'm Straight". It also included the first version of "Roadrunner", one of his two UK Hits. Due to Richman being difficult to work with, only several tracks were released at the time and it wasn't released until after the following two albums.

Richman decided on a different sound for the second album. "Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers". The influence was not the Velvet Underground, but 1950s Rock N Roll and doo-wop with a cover of Chuck Berry's "Back In The Usa" plus a bunch of children's songs he had written especially for underprivileged and handicapped children such as "Hey There Little Insect" and "Here Come The Martian Martians", and the traditional "Amazing Grace" all performed in a softer semi-acoustic style which he was to strip down even further for the third album "Rock N Roll With The Modern Lovers".

The sleeve notes written in great detail by David Wells tell us of Richmans insistence on the drums being played as quietly as possible which was helped by the drummer suffering from a broken arm, thus having to play one armed. More influences were taken on board with a traditional chinese song "The Sweeping Wing" and "South American Folk Song" and a track borrowed from Jamaica's Desmond Dekker "Cooryah". This album also gave him his second UK hit "Egyptian Reggae", self explanatory really. Of course you still got the child like songs, "Ice Cream Man", "Rockin Rockin Leprechauns" and "Roller Coaster By The Sea".

Richman is definitely an acquired taste and these three reissues are only the start of a career which flourishes over thirty years later

Derek McCann

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