Friday, September 23, 2016

40 Year Itch : Radio On

The Modern Lovers : Roadrunner

The John Cale produced version of "Roadrunner" is one of the greatest songs of our times. Even though it was recorded in 1972, it held great appeal for punk rockers like The Sex Pistols and innovative art bands like Wire who both recorded demos of "Roadrunner" the year the Modern Lovers debut came out. Who can resist a song about driving a car late at night with the radio on?

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. Greil Marcus called it "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest."

The only conclusion you can reach upon hearing the Sex Pistols demo of "Road Runner" is that it wasn't Johnny Rotten's idea to record it. He really doesn't know the words. " Stop! Stop! Stop!" he calls out. "What's the first line?"


Wire had yet to pair its sound down to the very basics when they recorded their version of "Roadrunner", in future Motors Nick Garvey's basement studio. Still, the band give its all on the track.


It was rare for the acoustic minded Jonathan Richman to revisit his garage rock classic, but he did just that during a birthday party for Joey Ramone in 1998. The song begins at 3:50 in the clip below.

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