Thursday, September 17, 2009

A TVD Special Event | Story/Stereo

Our special Story/Stereo event continues with more Roofwalkers. This morning we hear from the band's bassist, Chris Licciardi, with tales of teen angst and musical epiphanies. (Oh, like YOU never had any.)

"When I was in high school and my brother was in college and far from home, he told me about a band called The Modern Lovers. It was during one of those afternoon calls when he had probably just woken up from whatever college debauchery he was doing the night before, and I had just gotten home from school. These calls didn't happen all that often: usually every other month or so when he was broke. I would run to beat my parents to the phone, hollering "I got it, I got it!" I know my parents liked it that my brother and I got along so well, but they probably also liked the reprieve from being asked for money, so the competition to say hello probably wasn't as tough as it felt.

My brother has a way with words when talking about music. In a matter of minutes, he could (and still can) describe a band in such a way that I would have to go check it out. Conversely, I was often crushed to learn that a band I had been listening to for the past few weeks was a "load of shit" and "a total rip-off of ...". He'd mention bands like Sonic Youth or The Kinks and told me stop listening to the 3rd Oasis album.

This particular phone call was short. I remember this because of the cryptic nature of his description of The Modern Lovers. Ben was never cryptic about bands; he was always long-winded (and still is). He told me that the first album was the best; I don't remember what the justification for this was, but I bought it on his recommendation. He told me to listen to "Pablo Picasso".  
So a week later I threw my backpack on the floor of my bedroom, unwrapped the newly purchased CD, put it in my boombox, and went straight to track four. Laying there, listening to "Pablo Picasso", I have to admit I wasn't sure what to make of the singer's head-cold vocals. Was this a joke? Had my brother been testing me? Why the hell did I waste my 16 bucks on this music? I mean, there were some cool guitar parts and, yeah, even at that age, I noticed they sounded a bit like the Velvet Underground, but Lou Reed exuded confidence and a coolness that Jonathan Richman only seemed to hint at.

Perhaps my brother had led me astray. 

Song Seven: "She Cracked"

Now this was more like it! Pulsing and edgy, on the verge of falling apart, and Richman sounded like he was completely wasted. The guitars and drums were driving, and the chorus of Modern Lovers' voices jumping in was just right. The break made me want to bounce around the room and play air guitar. This Jonathan Richman guy could even say, "All right" at the end of a chorus without sounding like a dick. When I paid attention to the lyrics, though, I realized Jonathan wasn't your average doped-up rocker, which made him even more relatable. Most of my friends messed around with drugs, but Jonathan and I were both straight (song five). Not only that, but we both had awkward teenage relationship problems. I later heard that Richman was a teenager when he wrote those songs.

This is what I had been hoping for when my brother mentioned it. I'm still kinda hoping for this when my brother recommends a new band. Now that we're older and somewhat closer to music peers, I try to do the same thing for him." 

The Modern Lovers - She Cracked (Mp3)


Dan R said...

I love this article. There's something so special and genuine about Jonathan Richman that just makes his songs feel a little more fulfilling.

I had the privilege of meeting Danny Fields over the summer and he had nothing but positive, wonderful things to say about Jonathan Richman. I hope he keeps playing forever.

Chris said...

I hear you, Dan. JR has been one of those musical constants in my life. From age 16 onward. To be honest I haven't heard his entire catalog, but of the four or five albums I do own, he has always impressed me. I feel like he is teaching me the ways of love and relationships whenever I listen to his records.

And, yes, he is so great to see live.

I'm so jealous you met Danny Fields!