Let’s say you’re in your early 20s and you have a band with a really cool sound — way ahead of your time. And let’s say you record a masterpiece album, but your record company doesn’t release it until three years after your band has broken up. Where do you go from there?
If you’re Modern Lovers drummer David Robinson, you go on to cofound the Cars. If you’re Modern Lovers keyboardist Jerry Harrison, you go on to join the Talking Heads. And if you’re Modern Lovers leader Jonathan Richman, you go on to have one of the most improbable careers in rock.
When the Modern Lovers’ album finally came out in 1976, their stripped-down sound had became a favorite of punk rockers. (The Sex Pistols covered the album’s immortal classic, “Roadrunner.”) By that time Richman had moved on to a new, all-acoustic version of the Modern Lovers that specialized in ’50s rock ’n’ roll–inspired numbers with lyrics about dinosaurs and ice cream — a precursor to the Laurie Berkner Band and every other kid-rock act playing at a preschool near you today. By the ’80s, Richman was playing solo, singing naïve but often deeply affecting songs about romance — this was twee indie pop a good 15 years before Belle & Sebastian. In the ’90s, Richman was finally recognized as a cult hero. He even had a role in the movie There’s Something About Mary as a sort of musical narrator. But rather than reap the rewards, Richman moved on again, writing songs in Spanish and French about marriage and painters he admires. If the pattern holds up, ten years from now about 100 bands will be doing the same.
- Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 8:30 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
$10 - $12