If you want to be a songwriter, though, The Velvet Underground lyrically represent a problem. Sure, if you're a transvestite heroin addict living on the lower east side of New York in the 1960s and hanging out with Andy Warhol, then a lot of Lou Reed's words would probably resonate with you.
I, alas, wasn't.
I grew up just a kid living in outer-suburban Brisbane in the 1980s. I had some songwriting aspirations and knew some rudimentary guitar, but the missing link I didn't really discover until my late teens - The Modern Lovers. They had the sexy swagger of The Velvet Underground but lyrically had something I could relate to (as well as a wicked sense of humour).
The Modern Lovers' lead singer Jonathan Richman possesses what can only be described as a guileless honesty. He grew up in suburban Boston in the USA. The songs on the self-titled Modern Lovers LP concerned subjects such as 'pretending to like modern art to impress pretty girls' - (Girlfriend), 'hippies who get high to appear deep' - (I'm Straight) and 'driving around aimlessly in your car to try and escape loneliness' - (Roadrunner - The group's most recognisable 'hit'). In short, they were songs that a suburban kid such as myself could relate to.
The first Modern Lovers album was cobbled together from demos recorded in the early 1970s (some produced by The Velvet Underground's John Cale), but it didn't receive a release until the late seventies, by which time Richman was hailed as a proto-punk hero. Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers recorded a live album in the seminal punk year of 1977, but by this time things had changed.
I suppose the lesson I learned from this album is to appreciate people who 'have a bash' and try something new rather than pandering to some corporate model and seeking approval from washed up hacks on shows such as 'The Voice' and 'American Idol'. Jonathan would never appear on any of these shows and he certainly wouldn't win. I can imagine if he did appear on 'American Idol' it would be with a mischievous grin on his face and a giddy giggle as the judges looked on shocked and bemused.
Of course Jonathan wouldn't take any of their criticisms to heart, because they don't understand what he's trying to do. He doesn't need their approval to have faith in what he can do. Like those punks in the audience during 'Modern Lovers Live', the judges on 'American Idol' also don't understand that 'now is the morning of our lives'.