By Bob Katzen
The House gave initial approval to a bill making “Roadrunner” the official rock song of the commonwealth. Natick native Jonathan Richman led the group Modern Lovers who sang the tune as a 1970s ode to the joys of driving along Massachusetts’ Route 128 late at night. The bill is co-sponsored this year by Reps. David Linsky (D-Natick) and Denise Provost (D-Somerville).
“Roadrunner, roadrunner going faster miles an hour,” begins the song. “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 ‘n’ roll. Modern girls and modern rock ‘n’ roll. Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on. Like the roadrunner.”
The original backers of the campaign for “Roadrunner” were ex-legislators Bob Hedlund, now Mayor of Weymouth and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Hedlund took the lead. He explains that he first heard the song as a 15-year-old working at a local Hingham gas station in 1977. He immediately bonded with the song and years later although concerned that people might think this is just another frivolous bill, decided to listen to his heart and filed the proposal in 2013.
Enter current Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) and former Marshfield Rep. Jim Cantwell, now the state director of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s staff. They filed a rival bill making the official state rock song the classic Boston-based Aerosmith rock ballad “Dream On” written by Stephen Tyler. Neither bill was getting traction in the Legislature and eventually Cutler and Cantwell decided to end the competition and support “Roadrunner.”
“‘Roadrunner’ is a great Massachusetts rock song and Aerosmith is a classic Massachusetts rock band,” said Cutler. “Since ‘Dream On’ is not specific to our state per se, we agreed, with sweet emotion, that it was time to come together and support ‘Roadrunner.’ We hope the bill passes this session and it’s not the same old song and dance. As a final note, I’m thankful we’ve had this fun discussion and been able to focus attention on the rich musical tradition in the commonwealth.”
“The road to passage has had as many potholes as Route 128 in the Springtime, but we are Red Sox fans and are used to overcoming adversity,” said a hopeful but cautious Linsky. “Hopefully it will not take the full 86 years.”
“The song is a teenager’s Paul Revere ride,” Hedlund said. “The lyrics capture the perfect mood and vibe about everything that’s great about rock ‘n’ roll. I am hopeful it will get through all the legislative hurdles this year and be signed by Gov. Baker.”
The measure still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor before it becomes law.