Certain Songs #1186: The Modern Lovers – “Someone I Care About”

Album: The Modern Lovers
Year: 1976

Wither Ernie Brooks? As the bass player in The Modern Lovers, his massive, roiling basslines were definitely part of what gave them such a primal power. But, unlike keyboardist Jerry Harrison, who ended up being the final piece of the puzzle that was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Talking Heads, David Robinson, who ended up being the drive train for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Cars, and Jonathan Richman, who ended up being Jonathan Richman, Ernie Brooks didn’t go on to huge musical acclaim in his post Modern Lovers career.

That said: it wasn’t like he stopped playing. He played bass for folks like Elliot Murphy, David Johansen and even hooked back up with his old college roomie Jerry Harrison after Talking Heads disbanded, and as recently as 2014, still had fond things to say about his experiences with The Modern Lovers, as you might when you know that you were part of one of the greatest albums ever.

The final song from the John Cale demos, and first of a pair of songs on the back half of The Modern Lovers that detail the romantic and sexual ethos of Jonathan Richman, “Someone I Care About” is a thick stew of noisy guitars, buzzing keyboards and Brooks’ merciless bass.

Also merciless: Jonathan’s thoughts on casual sex.

Well I don’t want some cocaine sniffing triumph in the bar
Well I don’t want a triumph in the car
I don’t want to make a rich girl crawl
What I want is a girl that I care about
Or I want no one at all
Alright, listen to this now

Once again, this goes completely against the grain of the groupie-soaked rock and roll world that pretty much every other band was dying to get balls deep in. And this wasn’t any kind of fake woke get the girls by being sensitive bullshit. There was absolutely no question that Richman was this sensitive, which also weirdly contrasted with the noisy and ominous buzzsaws being churned out by this band.

After a quick chordal guitar solo — over handclaps! — the band drops down and Jonathan explains just what kind of awesome boyfriend he wants to be.

Picture this:
I’m walking with my girlfriend
28 misguided souls combined say, “We’re moving in”
There’s a certain kind of girl that you care about so much
You say, “I don’t care what you guys do to me
But her, DON’T TOUCH!”

And the band explodes back into the song, while you realize that if you’re Jonathan’s girlfriend, he will defend you honor against not just one or two misguided souls, but 28. Combined! That’s pretty good game, but of course, it’s not a game. He’s serious, even though he also knows that the specificity of 28 is both funny and powerful.

There’s also a bunch of great singing on “Someone I Care About:” listen to how he wraps his voice around the word “care”, or elongates “girlfriend.” Jonathan doesn’t have a great voice, per se, but it it’s always been singularly expressive, no more so than in “Someone I Care About.”

“Someone I Care About”

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