THE MODERN LOVERS : Stonehenge, Massachusetts 1971 (Live recording)
This frankly ancient tape (40 years old & counting) of Jonathan Richman & his original Modern Lovers, performing live at some thus far undetermined juncture in 1971, has been doing the 'rounds online for a couple of years now - I originally came across it c/o Aquarium Drunkard, I think? Most references to this show date it as 1970-71, but I'll stick my neck out & say it's the latter - Jerry Harrison didn't sign up as keyboard player until early 1971, & he's definitely audible hereon.
Though it's of typically desultory bootleg quality, it's no worse than Rounder Records' officially sanctioned Precise Modern Lovers Order live set. What makes this particular performance indispensable - other than the searing V.U.-infatuated guitar vs. organ duels Jonathan & Jerry frequently engage in (check that 10 minute version of "Old World") - is that it's complete (comprising 2 short sets in their entirety), & that it showcases several hitherto unrecorded numbers. "Such Loneliness", "I Grew Up in the Suburbs", & "Cambridge Clown" are all fine songs - it's a shame more of these embryonic Richman compositions weren't demoed during The Modern Lovers' pivotal 1972 Warner Brothers sessions with John Cale. Lyrically, the painful clarity of Jonathan's lonely ethos (an abstinent, nerdish disdain) is already well established - earnest, impassioned, heartbroken, phenomenal. Legendarily, Jonathan finds these erstwhile Modern Lovers recordings somewhat cringe-worthy - he's worried that the fearless conviction of his between-song banter makes him sound "obnoxious", I think? Mr. Richman, sir, with all due respect, you were 20 years old in 1971. We were all obnoxious when we were 20 years old, but not many of us were penning songs as breathtaking as these...
n.b. The Modern Lovers, at this point, were: Jonathan Richman (vocals, guitar), Ernie Brooks (bass), Jerry Harrison (organ), & David Robinson (drums). Stonehenge, incidentally, was a rock club (pub, actually) based in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Apologies if you were expecting to see Jonathan poised atop a Neolithic standing stone, or something.
Thought for the day: Did Jonathan Richamn inadvertently invent Straight Edge?
● Nobody ever called John Cale an asshole