Song of the Day: “Roadrunner”

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Massachusetts route 128

“I’m in love with modern moonlight / 128 when it’s dark outside / I’m in love with Massachusetts.”

I’m shocked – shocked – to not know about this song until Amy Prohaska emailed Wednesday evening listing all the great concerts in our fair city this weekend. She led off with a note about Jonathan Richman playing Somerville Theatre tonight, and how his Modern Lovers’ song “Roadrunner” had a campaign supporting it for Official Rock & Roll Song of Massachusetts. I had no idea: amazing.

Yet, as I dig into it, the UK newspaper The Guardian takes all the credit: apparently a 2007 article by reporter Laura Barton inspired Joyce Linehan, Dorchester advocate and former manager of The Lemonheads, to push for the state’s official recognition of the song. Odd. And odder still that Aerosmith’s “Dream On” is Still, Laura Barton writes that BBC Radio 4 commissioned a short series based on the article, which I’d love to hear.

The song chugs along under Richman’s deadpanned cultural references and, without knowing the song’s pedigree, I thought to myself, “This sounds entirely like ‘Sister Ray’ by the Velvet Underground.” Well, I got schooled. The original “Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers was produced by Velvets bassist/violist John Cale, and virtually every piece of writing about Richman or the song references the influence of that band and song.

So go: drive to the Stop & Shop with the radio on at night.