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Music / The Modern Lovers

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"That's right!"
— Jonathan Richman in every one of his songs.

Legendary Proto Punk band from Massachusetts. The members consisted of Jonathan Richman and whatever musicians felt like working with him. Seriously, he's the only official member of the band.

They started in 1970, trapped in obscurity. They recorded a few songs for an album that never got off the ground. They then disbanded, and got back together in 1976. This time they succeeded in releasing the album, with both the original tracks and some new ones they recorded. The self titled album is considered a precursor to Punk Rock.

After the album, Jonathan Richman started working with other musicians using The Modern Lovers name. They remained a footnote up until fairly recently, when they received recognition for being (along with the Velvet Underground and The Stooges) one of the earliest inspirations for Punk Rock. They're even given credit for jump-starting the Straight Edge movement with the song "I'm Straight," one of the earliest examples of the genre.

Richman is also a familiar face in several films by the Farrelly Brothers. Along with Tommy Larkins, he serves as the Greek Chorus in the movie There's Something About Mary, sings the song "As We Walk to Fenway Park" in Fever Pitch, and has a brief role in Kingpin.

Two early members of the Modern Lovers had success with other New Wave Music bands. David Robinson became the drummer of The Cars. Jerry Harrison joined Talking Heads as a keyboardist/second guitarist.

Oh and their music is catchy and energetic. Think of Jonathan Richman being a less monotonal version of Lou Reed and add a touch of romanticism.

"I say Roadrunner once, roadrunner twice, I'm in love with TV Tropes and I'll be out all night":

  • Airplane Arms: "I'm A Little Airplane," where the singer imagines he's the title entity, complete with "nyyyow" sound effects.
  • The Alleged Car: The song "Dodge Veg-o-matic" describes the singer's car that won't run anymore, possibly because of its involvement in an accident.
    See, the brakes are made of glass and tires are made of vinyl
    You'll want to take it back find out that all sales are final.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The singer in the song "Hospital" is hopelessly in love with a woman he knows is bad for him. He realizes how foolish this is, but can't give her up.
    I can't stand what you do
    Sometimes I can't stand you
    And it makes me think about me
    That I'm involved with you
    But I'm in love with this power that shows through in your eyes.
  • Artistic License – Biology: "Pablo Picasso," with the line "the girls would turn the color of an avocado." Though perhaps this is to be forgiven, as this artist sometimes makes surreal use of color.
  • Cover Version: "Pablo Picasso" has been covered at twice: by John Cale, who produced the original version (on his 1975 album Helen of Troy), and David Bowie (on his 2003 album Reality).
  • Driving Song: One of the most iconic pop music examples is "Roadrunner," whose quasi-improvised lyrics extol the joys of driving on the highway while listening to the radio.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • "I'm Straight," which has the singer advance himself as a better dating option for the girl he's addressing than her current stoner boyfriend. In fact, the title itself could be a precursor to Straight Edge.
    • "She Cracked," whose lyrics lament the mental breakdown of the singer's female friend. Drugs have a lot to do with her downfall.
    • This line from "Someone I Care About" shows the singer's disdain for drugs.
      Well I don't want some cocaine sniffing triumph in the bar.
    • The horrible stoner woman driver in "Stop This Car" tries to get her nervous passenger to smoke weed so he can relax. He's having none of it.
      "Smoke some of this man"
      "And act like an ostrich with his head in the sand?"
  • Getting the Baby to Sleep: The singer in "Not Yet Three" subverts this trope. He has obviously been put down for a nap, but wants no part of it, finding the lure of the outside world irresistible.
  • Greek Chorus: Richman serves as running commentator along with Tommy Larkins in There's Something About Mary.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The lyrics to "I'm Straight" are about avoiding drugs, not addressing sexual orientation.
  • Hollywood Skydiving: The song "Tandem Jump" sings the praises of a parachuting experience.
  • Jungle Drums: Played with in the song "Those Conga Drums," where an urban counterpart is encountered.
  • Kavorka Man: Pablo Picasso "was only five foot three," but ...
    Well some people try to pick up girls
    And get called assholes
    This never happened to Pablo Picasso
    He could walk down your street
    And girls could not resist his stare and
    So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole
  • Lighter and Softer: By far the most wholesome and sweet-natured Proto Punk band.
  • One True Love: Several songs by the group extol the virtues of a stable relationship, sometimes stated as a preference over casual sex. These include "Girlfriend," "Someone I Care About," "Important in Your Life," and "A Higher Power." A more wistful version is found in "Somebody To Hold Me."
  • Shout-Out: The music for "Roadrunner" is lifted from the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." The song "Velvet Underground" is also an homage to that influential band.
  • Stop and Go: The live version of "Ice Cream Man", restarting and repeating the last verse seven times.
    Jonathan Richman: Thank you very much, our next song is going to be one about - ONE MORE TIME!
  • Women Drivers: "Stop This Car" shows the singer trying to extricate himself from riding with a flaky stoner woman whose driving is atrocious. He even imagines the fish are laughing at them!
    She's taken three red lights
    Four wrong turns
    She's got the leatherette seats filled with cigarette burns.