Thursday, January 18, 2007

To Be A Modern Lover

I am sitting here on this otherwise quiet night listening to the Bomp 1981 release of the "72" "Original" Modern Lovers sessions that Kim Fowley oversaw. Primitive, a kinder, gentler White Light/White Heat (Velvet Underground)...with keyboards sticking out above everything else and guitar fuzz as out of place and awkward as Jonathan's vocals...but damn if it does sound great and essential. Roadrunner (both versions) is fantastic and true to its classic rock n roll nature. But the never-officially released WALK UP THE STREET might be the shimmering gem here. A dark, driving monosyllabic riff, that could go on forever as far as I care, about the empowerment of acknowledged idleness: feelin' the romance of a boredom that is lost in this work-a-day world. Dig it. It is no wonder that once-fellow Boston-walkers THE CHEATERSLICKS found the wanting to cover the song years and years later on In The Red Records (their thicker version is sensational, as are they).

The back of the album has a letter from Jonathan himself discussing how the liner notes to the record are wrong in most every sense (mostly that this recording did not boast the original Modern Lovers since the band had very early on gone through a member change, and that the claim is wrong that these are the 72 sessions--the tracks were recorded a year later). He ends by saying that while he is embarrassed of some of what is heard, he admits that the band rocks and that some of the versions have great Jonathan banter that still makes him laugh. The fact that the Bompsters reprinted the letter without changing the "incorrect" liner notes or the "misleading" album title is nothing less than brilliant.

I got this record in a lucky way back over a decade ago when Geoffrey Weiss helped me get entrance to Greg Shaw's Bomp warehouse. I walked around the cluttered space like a detective, picking out amazing punk and psych singles that were still around from the time they were originally distributed. Then I espied the treasure I was after...and that treasure sounds fantastic right now.

RIP Greg Shaw, a true visionary...Greg, sorry I never let you explain to me my future path that you saw in a dream (the concept at the time freaked me out).

Listening to this record tonight incited an on-line crawl about the band. The brilliance of the internet: I had no idea a teenage Jonathan opened up for the Velvets. No idea that they played with a young Arrowsmith, NY Dolls, and Wayne County or that Jonathan went to New York and hung out at Warhol's factory. I had no idea that Danny Fields and the jerky Marty Thou were as close to him as they were (Danny Fields being one of the biggest heroes this industry has ever seen). No idea that while in Berkeley, Jonathan fell into being the original drummer for The Patti Smith Group and no idea he recorded I'M STICKING WITH YOU with Mo Tucker! I had no idea that the original Modern Lovers (okay, the close-to-the-original Modern Lovers) broke up the month that VU did, and a month before the Ramones began. Amazing story. If Joanthan was not so awkward to talk to, I would love to ask him about all of this stuff when I see him walking around San Francisco.

Ah, as I write, the second side just finished for the second time. I think I am going to have to start going through all the Modern Lovers records now (and dig out some other demos I found in a closet while at Warner Bros.). It is going to be a rocking rocking night here in the Outer Richmond.

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