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The Modern Lovers -Roadrunner – Official State Song of Massachusetts

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Some politician wants to make Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lover’s seminal tune, Roadrunner, into the Official State Song. I could agree with that. I remember listening to this song back in the stone age, before CDs, and I always loved it. Maybe because it is so much a descendant of the Velvet Underground sound, or just because it is cool. I had forgotten that John Cale produced the song.

One of these days I’ll be a tourist in Boston…

 

Roadrunner, filmed in Boston, circa 1976

I’ve never been to Massachusetts, but this song evokes what MA is, to me anyway.

From Wikipedia:

Richman’s band The Modern Lovers first recorded “Roadrunner” with producer John Cale (previously of the Velvet Underground) in 1972. This version was first released as single and in 1976 on The Modern Lovers’ long-delayed but highly acclaimed debut album (originally Home of the Hits HH019). Later in 1972, the group recorded two more versions with Kim Fowley, which were released in 1981 on the album, The Original Modern Lovers (Bomp BLP 4021). A live version from 1973 was also later officially released on the album, Live At Longbranch Saloon. The most commercially successful version of the song, credited to Richman as a solo artist, was recorded for Beserkley Records in late 1974, produced by label boss Matthew King Kaufman, featured Jonathan backed by The Greg Kihn Band and released at the time on a single (Beserkley B-34701) with a B-side by the band Earth Quake. Kaufman stated: “To record “Roadrunner” took the 3 minutes 35 seconds for the performance, about another 30 minutes to dump the background vocals on, and another 90 minutes to mix it”. Actually Kaufman was mistaken – this version is listed on the UK release of the single as being 4:40. This version was reissued in 1975 on the album Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1(Beserkley JBZ-0044). In the UK, where Richman had received substantial and very positive publicity in the music press, it was released in 1977 as a single (Beserkley BZZ 1), known as “Roadrunner (Once)” and credited to Jonathan Richman, with the Cale-produced “Roadrunner (Twice)” on the B-side, credited to The Modern Lovers, and lasting approximately 4:06. This single reached number 11 in the UK singles chart in August 1977. The differences among all these versions are in the lyrics, the duration, the instrumentation (electric garage rock vs. acoustic rock) and the way Jonathan sings them.

(click here to continue reading Roadrunner (Jonathan Richman song) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

and from Rolling Stone:

Jonathan Richman used to describe “Roadrunner,” the best-known song by his band the Modern Lovers, as a “geographical love song.” Now his affection for his home state is on the verge of being institutionalized: there is a movement underway to make the classic song – an ode to the singer’s native Massachusetts as it appeared through his windshield (“Gonna drive past the Stop and Shop with the radio on”) – the state’s official rock song.

Last week, Massachusetts State Representative Marty Walsh filed a bill proposing as much. Jerry Harrison, who joined Talking Heads after the first recorded lineup of the Modern Lovers split, tells Rolling Stone he’s pleased. “I can’t tell you how many congratulatory emails I’ve gotten,” he says.

The push to designate “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of Massachusetts began with Joyce Linehan, a Boston publicist who did A&R for Sub Pop Records and now has a record label with Joe Pernice. She has political connections, too: she worked closely with Elizabeth Warren on her successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

 

(click here to continue reading Modern Lovers’ ‘Roadrunner’ Proposed as Massachusetts’ Official Rock Song | Music News | Rolling Stone.)

one two three four five six
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on

I’m in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it’s cold outside
And the highway when it’s late at night
Got the radio on
I’m like the roadrunner

Alright
I’m in love with modern moonlight
128 when it’s dark outside
I’m in love with Massachusetts
I’m in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
It helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That’s right

Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to ’57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven(thunder)
And I say roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night
Roadrunner
That’s right

Well now
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
O.K., now you sing Modern Lovers

(Radio On!)
I got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the car, got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the AM sound, got the
(Radio On!)
Got the rockin’ modern neon sound
(Radio On!)
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
(Radio On!)
I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night
(Radio On!)
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I’ve got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, (?), rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Alright

Right, bye bye!

More reasons to love this song:

Roadrunner is one of the most magical songs in existence. It is a song about what it means to be young, and behind the wheel of an automobile, with the radio on and the night and the highway stretched out before you. It is a paean to the modern world, to the urban landscape, to the Plymouth Roadrunner car, to roadside restaurants, neon lights, suburbia, the highway, the darkness, pine trees and supermarkets. As Greil Marcus put it in his book Lipstick Traces: “Roadrunner was the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest.”

One version of Roadrunner – Roadrunner (Twice) – reached No 11 in the UK charts, but the song’s influence would extend much further. Its first incarnation, Roadrunner (Once), recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale, but not released until 1976, was described by film director Richard Linklater as “the first punk song”; he placed it on the soundtrack to his film School of Rock. As punk took shape in London, Roadrunner was one of the songs the Sex Pistols covered at their early rehearsals. Another 20 years on and Cornershop would cite it as the inspiration behind their No 1 single Brimful of Asha, and a few years later, Rolling Stone put it at 269 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Its impact would be felt in other ways, too: musicians playing on this song included keyboard player Jerry Harrison, who would later join Talking Heads, and drummer David Robinson, who went on to join the Cars. Its power was in the simplicity both of its music – a drone of guitar, organ, bass and drums around a simple two-chord structure – and of its message that it’s great to be alive.

(click here to continue reading The car, the radio, the night – and rock’s most thrilling song | Music | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 21st, 2013 at 12:25 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

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