Jonathan Richman, modern lover

Daniel Felsenthal in The Point:

In 1973, a 22-year-old named Jonathan Richman wrote a letter to the editor of Creem. The Detroit magazine, which started in 1969 when both New Journalism and the archetype of the music critic were solidifying in the consciousness of American counterculture, was an iconic purveyor of rock ‘n’ roll criticism and culture. It had recently run a short, positive notice about Richman’s band, the Modern Lovers, whose fast, angry guitar music had given them a reputation in their native Boston. With its signature hopscotch of irony and humor, Creem synthesized the Lovers’ sound: “More than a little like a teenage Velvet Underground.” The magazine called one of their songs, “a guaranteed hit single” and another, “possibly the next national anthem.” Creem’s kidding aside, by most metrics, the Modern Lovers were in a good place in 1973. John Cale, legendary member of the Velvet Underground, was producing the Lovers’ debut album for Warner Brothers when their singer decided to write a letter to Creem.

Richman’s reasoning reflects the mingling of iconoclasm and wisdom that would direct him his entire career: he wanted to defend a decidedly non-countercultural, non-hip icon of a past era, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, whose work Creem had appraised negatively in a recent issue. The title of his letter: “Masculine Arrogance Blows.”

More here.

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