Photograph titled "Mr. Thomas Coleman's Anniversary" by Scurlock Studio, 1951
The Modern Lovers may be the quintessential "We Love the Velvet Underground" band, as the band's existence derives from and overlaps with the Velvet Underground in a variety of ways. Frontman Jonathan Richman moved to New York in 1969 in part because of his fascination with the Velvets, and he stayed with their manager for a while when he arrived in the city. John Cale produced the band's first demos. And then there's the undeniable influence of Lou Reed's singing style on Richman's vocals. But there's a subtler VU influence that can be found in other aspects of the Lovers' music, like Richman's willingness to blend ultra-cool subject matter with the totally uncool in his lyrics.
Where Reed's songwriting had songs about filth and drug addiction sitting next to twee-pop nursery rhymes like "After Hours" and "I'm Sticking With You", Richman mixed dark "relationship" material with decidedly un-punk material about "growing up" and "the good old days". Take a song like "Dignified & Old", for instance - Richman confronts this contradiction head-on in a song about the comfort of anticipating old age when being young and in love just sucks. He admits that his friends accuse him of contradicting himself, but this doesn't stop him from saying, "Hey kids! Someday we'll be dignified and old!"
"Dignified & Old" by the Modern Lovers