By Bob Katzen
The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on legislation 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 sponsored by Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick).
“Roadrunner, roadrunner going faster miles an hour,” begins the song. “Gonna drive to the Stop & 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.”
“I can think of no better song to designate as the official rock song of the commonwealth,” said Linsky. “‘Roadrunner’ embodies what it was like for my generation growing up in the Massachusetts of the 1970s and 1980s. The passionate and candid lyrics take the listener on a late-night car ride down Massachusetts Route 128, passing by several Bay State landmarks, including Stop & Shop, Howard Johnson’s, Route 3 and the Mass Turnpike. ‘Roadrunner’ combines the liberation of youth on the open road with the sights and sounds of our beloved commonwealth.”
The original backers of the campaign for “Roadrunner” were ex-legislators Bob Hedlund, now Mayor of Weymouth and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Hedlund 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.
Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) and former Marshfield Rep. Jim Cantwell, 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 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.”