The Modern Lovers
If "Roadrunner" were the only song the Modern Lovers ever recorded, they would still go down in history as one of the most important bands of the pre-punk era. Boston-bred loner Jonathan Richman's brainchild was one of the very the first bands (of the many thousands) directly influenced by the Velvet Underground. "Roadrunner" itself is a jubilant, unspeakably perfect swipe of VU's "Sister Ray" and, as the story goes, Richman was such a huge fan of the band that he used to sleep on the couch of their recording studio. The rest of the The Modern Lovers, is a triumph of simple pre-punk that, thanks to Richman's almost childlike innocence, continually subverts the nihilism of punk and replaces it with a level of honesty that at times makes the listener uncomfortable. Richman's unabashed loneliness, his willingness to express his total isolation, and, most importantly, his desire for inclusion goes beyond creating a "sensitive guy" persona. What comes out is a bizarro honesty that calls into question how in touch with reality Richman really is. People just don't say the corny things he says without coming off looking like a fake, but Richman does, and always has. This founding incarnation of the Modern Lovers didn't last long, mainly because the music Richman wanted to make was far less aggressive than the jagged pre-punk of that band. Still the music they recorded stands as a blueprint for countless bands, in much the same way that the first VU albums do.