Asa Brebner, Boston Rock Fixture (Modern Lovers, Robin Lane), Dies

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Asa Brebner via a 2018 photo on his Facebook page

Asa Brebner, a fixture on the Boston music scene in such bands as Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, and Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, died March 10. The guitarist and vocalist was 65. No cause of death has been identified.

Brebner had reunited with Lane on March 2-3 for a pair of reunion concerts in Somerville, Mass., as the Chartbusters were celebrating the release of a career-spanning collection called Many Years Ago, via Blixa Sounds.

Brebner was not an original member of the proto-punk Modern Lovers, who were formed in 1970 and featured future Cars drummer David Robinson and keyboardist Jerry Harrison, later of the Talking Heads, among its lineup.

Brebner joined the band in 1977-1978, performing on the albums Modern Lovers Live and Back in your Life. Through various lineups and break-ups, the Modern Lovers continued to perform, with Brebner occasionally involved in the mid-’80s.

Watch Brebner with Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, performing “Abdul and Cleopatra”

The band is perhaps best known for the song “Roadrunner,” written by Richman and recorded in 1972. (It was released by Beserkley Records in 1976.) Though Brebner was not on the original recording, he performed it many times with the band and as a solo artist.

In 1978, Lane had formed her group the Chartbusters with Brebner, Leroy Radcliffe (also ex-Modern Lovers), Scott Baerenwald and Tim Jackson; in 1980 the band—already making waves on the Boston circuit—released its self-titled debut for Warner Bros., which featured the wistful single “When Things Go Wrong.” The video was a fixture during the early days of MTV and was the 11th clip the network played on its very first day on the air in 1981.

On March 3, following the first of the Chartbusters’ two reunion performances at Burren Backroom in Somerville, Mass., Brebner wrote a lengthy Facebook post. “Well, we pulled it off,” he wrote. “It’s hard. Trying to go back 30 years and replicate a carbon copy of yourself.” In the same post, he wrote, “And maybe in a billion years my six self produced cds will have taken the position that Mozart occupies now in our Gabapenten brains.” [Gabapentin is a anticonvulsant medication.]

Watch the Chartbusters perform “Shakin’ All Over” at one of the the reunion performances

After the Chartbusters called it quits, in 1982, Brebner, according to a bio on his management’s website, “launched the Grey Boys, the first band in which he sang and wrote all the songs. He also did cartoons for High Times and other magazines. He formed Asa Brebner’s Idle Hands in 1986, and recorded a tape that included the song ‘Last Bad Habit’ [which] appeared on Warner Bros.’ Best of the Unsigned Bands CD compilation in 1988. He released three solo albums between 1996-2001 on three different labels, and a compilation of his music entitled Time in My Way on the Windjam imprint.”

Brebner also worked as a 3-D artist and performed with several other Boston-area bands.

Brebner was born November 21, 1953.

Listen to the original version of “Roadrunner”

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