Archive | Apr 14, 2018

Certain Songs #1185: The Modern Lovers – “Old World”

Album: The Modern Lovers
Year: 1976

Most of the songs on The Modern Lovers were produced by John Cale. Or really, in the tradition of Steve Albini, recorded by John Cale. Since they were originally conceived as demos, there really weren’t a lot of overdubs, or even going back to fix mistakes. At that time — 1972 — The Modern Lovers were being being courted by both Warner Brothers and A&M, and one can imagine an alternate world where they went back and re-recorded these songs for either label and the Modern Lovers were suddenly a huge deal.

Which is weird to imagine: would “official” versions songs of like “Pablo Picasso,” “Astral Plane,” “She Cracked,” etc. released in late 1973 have broken through on FM radio, with a 3:33 version of “Roadrunner” scraping the bottom of the top 40, fighting for AM radio space with “We’re An American Band” and “Smoke on the Water?”

And would the re-recorded versions have the raw immediacy that made The Modern Lovers an eventual classics, relegating the versions of these songs we know and love to whispered-about bootlegs that would have eventually surfaced on a CD reissue in 1991? Maybe. After all, they were going into the studio with John Cale, not Bob Ezrin. But still, it’s entirely possible that something would have been lost, especially given Richman’s change of heart about electric music.

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