A bill to have "Roadrunner" designated as the official rock song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been introduced FOR THE THIRD TIME, having died without reaching the floor of the Massachusetts State Legislature in 2014 and again in 2016. In 2014, it was derailed by an ill-conceived attempt to bestow that honor on Aerosmith's "Dream On," which is NOT by any account a love song to Massachusetts. The second time it just gained no traction and died a quiet death. It has been introduced once again by Rep. Daniel Linsky, who represents Natick, Massachusetts, the birthplace of Jonathan Richman. Let's hope third time's the charm. Today, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight heard testimony, and below is what I submitted.
Testimony in support of
HB.1683, An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the
Commonwealth, as prepared for delivery on January 30, 2108 at Hearing of Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
Chairpersons Timilty and Benson, Members of the Committee,
sophisticated music fans:
First, let me thank Representatives Linsky and Provost for
sponsoring this bill. I am excited to be here to testify in support of HB.1683,
An Act designating “Roadrunner” as the official rock song of the Commonwealth. I
am proud to say I am the person who, in January 2013, asked Representative Walsh,
now the Mayor of Boston, to introduce the first version of this bill, which has
now failed to make it to the floor in the last two sessions. We’re back,
because a group of dedicated fans of the iconic song understand it symbolizes
hope and optimism while professing its love of our home state. It is important,
and the perfect song for this honor.
This has been an interesting journey. Over the nearly five years
since the original bill was introduced, we’ve gotten a ton of press, with many stories
in all the local media, plus Rolling Stone, Time, NPR, the BBC, the CBC and
Gawker. A friend of mine in Tokyo said he heard me on the radio talking about
Roadrunner. When an ill-conceived competing bill was introduced in 2013 to
bestow the title on Aerosmith’s Dream On, there was even more national and
international press. My favorite was an essay in Slate by Jack Hamilton, an
assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Virginia, which
talks about the Massachusetts paradox that made the Aerosmith episode so
predictable. He said, “In a rock-snob worldview, the Modern Lovers’ failure at
the moment of Aerosmith’s success is evidence of the former’s worth: Part of
the reason the Modern Lovers are great is because everyone else loves
Aerosmith.” Remember, in 1972, the year both Dream On and Roadrunner were
recorded, Massachusetts was the only state to vote George McGovern for
President. We revel in the obscure and esoteric. We punch above our weight. We
root for the underdog. We wear our idiosyncrasies with pride. And sometimes, we
can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s who we are.
Jonathan Richman, the eccentric genius who wrote the song has
said that he doesn’t believe the song is good enough to be any kind of official
song. This is exactly what many of us expected him to say, and it just adds to
this already-great legend. But this isn’t really about the artist who created
or performed the song at all. This is about a song that captures the very
essence of the spirit of Massachusetts. And let’s acknowledge the first and
second bills’ anti-climactic deaths. Of course they died. That we’re still
spending time on this when it should have been done so long ago is testament to
the fact that we sometimes can’t get out of our own way. And, no matter what
happens from here, we will still have a great story.
Famed author Nick Hornby, who wrote the seminal High Fideity voiced his strong support
of our efforts on the first bill, as did the Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey, and
the Daily Show’s John Hodgman, a Brookline native who invited the soon-to-be
Mayor Walsh to perform the song on stage with him in November 2013. THAT was a
highlight of my life, which I am grateful to say has been pretty full of
It has been a blast. This story – indeed this song – captures
imaginations around the world and communicates the very character of our Modern
Massachusetts and her people.
With that, I give you 17 reasons why “Roadrunner” should be
the official rock song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Richman, who wrote the song, is a Massachusetts native, born in Natick.
Modern Lovers, his band, started out in the Boston area.
of Richman’s songs reference growing up in Massachusetts.
is an upbeat, youthful ode to the greatness of being alive, and the simple
beauty of the Commonwealth.
is a tribute to the urban landscape, with nods to Massachusetts landmarks both
civic and industrial, including the Mass Pike, Howard Johnson’s, the North
Shore, South Shore, Routes 3, 9, 90, 495 and of course 128, the Prudential,
Quincy, Cohasset, Deer Island, Boston Harbor, Amherst, Needham, Ashland,
Mattapan, Roslindale and Stop & Shop.
celebrates Route 128, which opened in 1951, the year Richman was born, and came
to be known as “America’s Technology Highway.” To this day, it still represents
Massachusetts’ vibrant Innovation Economy.
many versions of “Roadrunner” contain lyrical variations and musical deviations
that have inspired many passionate late-night conversations among rock music
fans about which is the best version.
has been consistently popular and relevant since its creation in 1970.
has been described as the first punk song.
10. “Roadrunner” communicates its unbridled, unapologetic
exuberance about youth, freedom and Massachusetts economically, using just two
11.“Roadrunner” contains one of the most brilliant lyrics ever
written: “going faster miles an hour.”
12.“Roadrunner” also has the greatest count off in rock
13. Rolling Stone ranked “Roadrunner” #269 on its “500 Greatest
Rock Songs of All Time.”
14. A recent article in the Guardian UK convincingly made the
case that the “Roadrunner” rock ‘n roll pilgrimage is just as important as
those to Chuck Berry’s Route 66, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61, Robert Johnson’s
Crossroads, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and others.
15. Legendary rock critic Greil Marcus called “Roadrunner” “the
most obvious song in the world, and the strangest,” which just proves that HE’S
never driven Route 128 at night. Of course, he is not wrong.
16. “Roadrunner” is a song that describes the mystery of the
modern Massachusetts landscape. It has taken the specifics of that mystery and
captured the imaginations of people around the world who have internalized it
as their own, creating awareness of and interest in our state.
17. It is an unabashed valentine to our beloved Commonwealth.
It says “I’m in love with Massachusetts” right in the song!
There’s no question
that “Roadrunner” deserves the designation this bill seeks to bestow, and I
urge you to look favorably on its advancement, with the Radio On!
The Committee will now decide whether to report it out favorably, unfavorably, or send it for study order. We want the first one. If your representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, call them ASAP and ask them to act favorably on House Bill 1683, An Act Act Designating Roadrunner the Official Rock Song of the Commonwealth. Do NOT call a rep or senator who does not represent you. It's 110% ineffective. Also, a call is more effective than an email. By a LOT. So pick up the phone! You will find the committee list at the link. If you do not know who your rep is, go to this website and plug in your address!
More to come if it moves again!