Saturday, August 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six

Jonathan Richman  : Roadrunner (Twice)

   On August 22, 1975, a year before Berserkley Records released the magnificent and oft-delayed Modern Lovers album, they unleashed upon the world a revolutionary single: Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner (Twice)", featuring Richman backed up by Beserkley labelmates The Greg Kihn Band. 
   It's a simple rocking tour of the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts in a car that's going "faster miles an hour" with the radio on. You can hear Richman's infatuation with The Velvet Underground as you head out with him on Route 128 passing the power lines. At a time when art rock usually meant side long epics that quoted gurus or at least J R R Tolkien and featured twelve minute guitar solos, here was a song that might -MIGHT- have  three chords in "Roadrunner". Greil Marcus called it "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest." 

   As you might have guessed, this isn't the first version of "Roadrunner". That would be "Roadrunner (Once)", as recorded in 1972 by The Modern Lovers with John Cale producing. No, this is "Roadrunner ( Twice)", the most successful version. It reached #11 on the UK Charts even though it was all but ignored in the United States. Some credit the tune with inspiring Punk Rock. It was recorded by both The Sex Pistols and Joan Jett.

   By 1975, The Modern Lovers ( featuring future members of The Cars and Talking Heads) had been broken up for a year and Richman had told record executives he was sick of the songs and wouldn't perform them live. But at least for one moment, and one song, Beserkley truly was the "home of the hits".

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