We left Jonathan Richman (see ABON 0188) having just been deserted by his first band - the, original, Modern Lovers - because of his decision to junk their Velvet Underground-inspired back catalogue and sound in favour of a new musical style that seemed to take Jonathan’s eternally optimistic world-view that had always fuelled the original Modern Lovers’ lyrics and apply it - in spades – to the music, the instrumentation, the production, even the album covers of everything he would do from then on.
His new incarnation, Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers, comprised a completely new line-up, and sounded a little like a crazily optimistic and almost childishly naive 50s doo-wop band. Only more optimistic and more childishly naive. Jonathan even tried to mimic an early 50s sound by minimising electric instruments - the Modern Lovers’ guitars would all be acoustic or semi-acoustic from now on. Even the bass had to be a stand-up double.
Launching his first new, jolly, lets-all-be-friends, sound and vision in 1976 at precisely the same moment as Punk was lumbering over the hill looking for a fight, it should all have ended in tears. But somehow it didn’t and Jonathan got away with it all.
Because, amazingly, alongside other such hard-core material as ‘Hey There Little Insect’, ‘Rockin’ Shopping Centre’ and ‘Abominable Snowman In The Market’, ‘Roller Coaster By The Sea’ became a firm favourite of those people who were hoovering up any Punk single they could get their hands on.
Which, ironically, just goes to show how much Punk - which had been partly inspired by the original, Velvet-esque, Modern Lovers that Jonathan had now consigned to history – had, in breaking down the walls of musicianship and what constituted ‘good’ music, opened the door, and people’s ears, to left-field and ‘abnormal’ music like that of the second-incarnation Modern Lovers.
You could almost - in hindsight – believe that Jonathan Richman was as evil a genius as his hero, Lou Reed, afterall and had had a cunning career plan mapped out from the beginning.
Available on the album, ‘Rock’n'Roll With The Modern Lovers’: Amazon