Mar 012013


Last week, I was in England visiting friends and family, and during my journeys several songs came to mind relating to the places I was traveling. You may be able to imagine what was going through my head at Baker Street Station, Waterloo Station, Victoria Station, and along The Strand.

On my flight back to the US, I picked up a copy of The Guardian, and came across an article that also referenced music and place, “Beltway Belter.”

“In 2007 Laura Barton wrote an ode to a Jonathan Richman song. Inspired, Massachusetts now wants it as a state anthem. What is it about Roadrunner?”

In the article, Ms. Barton mentions about her previous newspaper piece, for which she traveled along good ol’ Rt. 128 to visit the locations mentioned in the song. Apparently, the article has since spurred a bill that “seeks to anoint Roadrunner the official rock song of Massachusetts,” and if passed, will join the other official Massachusetts songs (a folk song, a glee club song, a polka, and The Official Song).

So tonight I did a little web research and found the original article, a pleasant foray into music obsession that I believe many of us can relate to:

But wait, there’s more. If you thought Jonathan Richman had the nomination for Official Rock Song of Massachusetts wrapped up, you can Dream On:

What do you think? I’m reaching out to you, bostonhistorian, misterioso, diskojoe, and others, to help us understand, weigh the evidence, and sort out with this controversy of Official Rock Song of Massachusetts.

And while you all are mulling over all this, does your state have an official song? Apparently, Oklahoma locked on to the Flaming Lips‘ “Do You Realize” in 2009; that’s a lovely song, but is it worthy enough to be official? Does it match Ohio’s “Hang On Sloopy”? Or Washington’s “Louie, Louie”?

RTH, help us determine, ONCE AND FOR ALL, what should Massachusett’s Official Rock Song be, AND what is the best official state song?


  43 Responses to “What Is It About Roadrunner?”

  1. Another one frequently cited is Dirty Water by the Standells.

    No support from me, but Sweet Caroline was adopted by Red Sox fans and is now associated with Boston to some degree.

  2. You forgot Dirty Water. I don’t follow sports but even I know that Dirty Water has been co-opted by the Red Sox.

    As cheesy as it is, I like Dream On. But it has nothgin to do with Boston aside from the fact that 4/5s of the band is from there (and it’s author is from Yonkers). This discussion is about the Official State Song, not the Official State Band.

    Likewise, More Than a Feeling has nothing to do with the town itself. Naming More than A Feeling the Official State Song just because the band is named Boston would be like naming the Saturday Night the official song of Bay City Michigan just because it’s by the Bay City Rollers.

    The protagonist in Please Come to Boston sounds like a whiny pussy and I don’t think the good people of Boston want to be associated with that.

    Notwithstanding the fact that they are both most in line with my musical tastes, Roadrunner and Dirty Water (a great song if you haven’t heard it a bazillion times) are the only songs worthy of consideration because they actually connect the listener with the place. Both take ordinary things like Stop and Shops, polluted rivers, and frustrated chicks with curfews and infuse them with a romanticism that makes the mundane sound appealing and personal. I would give the nod to Roadrunner because it has a youthful enthusiasm as opposed Dirty Water’s cynical bemusement.

    As a sidebar, perhaps we could discuss New Jersey’s decision to have Born To Run as the State Song, despite the fact that it’s about about getting out of there.

  3. I forgot to add “Dirty Water.” Thanks. I have updated the poll.

    That “Sweet Caroline” singalong at Red Sox games is too weird to contemplate. Have you ever been at a Red Sox game when they sing that? I’ve been in the middle of it 2 times. Yikes! I’m doing your great home state a favor by leaving it out of the poll.

  4. And for the reason alone you state, cdm, I think “Born to Run” is wholly appropriate!

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Wow — here’s your daily dose of surreality:

  6. We drive to Maine for vacation almost every year. I kick off the driving in the wee hours of 2:00 am or so. Our goal is to get through New York and the most godawful driving state on the east coast, Connecticut, before the sun is up and our boys are awake. We stop at some beach town in New Hampshire for breakfast and a stretch on the beach. Then my wife drives the homestretch through Massachusetts and our destination in Boothbay, ME.

    I love driving, and I’ve already listened to 6 hours of music while taking us to that point. In the passenger’s seat it’s always fun to think of “Roadrunner,” which I’ve already listened to in the middle of the night. That’s got to be one of the greatest driving songs ever. I think of that song as I try to doze off while my wife is flooring it and flipping the bird to all the Massholes who get up on her tail and flash their headlights, not satisfied with traveling 80 mph in a middle lane. Is there a lost verse in “Roadrunner” that touches on the impatience of Massachusetts drivers? I’m all for aggressive driving and a fast-paced East Coast life, but the flashing headlights push me over the limit. One year I drove the Massachusetts stretch too and started “boxing in” these guys – you know, purposely slowing down next to a slower driving car so the guy behind me would be royally screwed. My wife hates when I do stuff like that. I’ve tried to minimize my vigilante driving practices in my older, wiser years.

  7. Funny that the Red Sox seem to dictate so many cultural cues for the state.

    It’s rumored (or a fact?) that the Caroline of title is Caroline Kennedy so that may be the Massachusetts connection. That fan chant started long after I moved down I-95.

    Is the N.H. beach town Hampton Beach? That was the beach of my youth and my grandparent’s retirement town.

  8. Yes, that’s the beach! There’s a great little diner we always eat at, then we hang on the beach for an hour before continuing our drive.

    I did not know the possible MA connection that song. It’s really weird to hear people singing that song en masse at a baseball game.

  9. Very self loathing, Mr Mod, especially coming from a guy who made a choice to live there…

  10. My wife and I provide such a loving, highly adjusted and functional environment for our children that they might never want to leave the nest if not to escape their home state. We don’t want our boys to feel too contented.

  11. bostonhistorian

    I’m all in on Roadrunner. My former state rep and all around good guy proposed it as the state rock song at the behest of a friend. Here’s the Facebook page:

  12. bostonhistorian

    I was just through Hampton a few weeks ago on the way to Portsmouth. Boothbay is a great place for a vacation…

  13. diskojoe

    This Witch City boy is also for “Roadrunner” for the Commonwealth song (not “state”). I also dig “Dirty Water” as the Red Sox’s victory song, although we didn’t hear it too much last season 🙁

  14. I-95 is one of the many reasons I left Connecticut.

    I’ve never held with The Standell’s authenticity regarding the Charles River, since they’re actually from Los Angeles.

  15. Do you guys go to Pemaquid Point and re-create scenes from “The Birds”?

  16. As a resident of one of the other three Commonwealths, I thought about making the distinction in my previous post but figured I’d go with the vernacular.

  17. misterioso

    Painful. So painful. It was kind of cute–kind of–when they were winning the World Series. Last year when they won 69 games and the dumbasses in the stands were singing Sweet Caroline as the team stunk it up night after night–that was pathetic.

  18. misterioso

    I totally agree. Sorry, Standells.

  19. misterioso

    Portsmouth is such a great town. And Hampton Beach is such a sewer.

  20. misterioso

    As much as “Whammer Jammer” appeals to me, I’m all for Roadrunner. Somehow, I had never heard Roadrunner (that I could remember) or that first Modern Lovers record, until I was maybe in my early 20s. It was such an eye-opener, and it has never worn out its welcome. “Roadrunner” is still a delight to hear, every time, it gets the juices flowing, even if I myself have no particular affection for 128.

  21. misterioso

    If you don’t like it, go back to Philly, a-hole! Ok, just kidding. Mostly.

  22. Suburban kid

    Back in the days before we had to switch off all electronic devices, I used to listen to the album version of Roadrunner on my Walkman as the jet powered down the runway on takeoff.

  23. 2000 Man

    I love Roadrunner, and I like Dream On, but that whole thing with politicians arguing between those two songs just kind of cracked me up. They’re all JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! when they’re running, and now they’re dicking around with this? How many jobs will either of those two songs create? But I voted for Dirty Water, just because it would be funny to see the state song be by a band not from the state.

  24. diskojoe

    Mr. Mod, how can you stop @ a New Hampshire beach town & then go through MA to get to Maine? Something’s wrong here.

    Also, us MA drivers are among the crappiest. It seems that people don’t use turn signals. They probably think that we can pick up their thoughts via ESP & know when they are turning.

  25. diskojoe

    Here’s a cool rare version of “Roadrunner” where Jonathan takes us for a nighttime ride around MA:

    Also, here’s a fun fact: The Standells were the opening act for the Rolling Stones @ the opening of their ’66 US tour, which started @ the Manning Bowl in Lynn, MA, probably the only time they played “Dirty Water” live in MA until they played it in Fenway Park in 2005.

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    In total agreement. And don’t talk to me about Dover.

  27. ladymisskirroyale

    2000 Man, you are the first Haller to mention Aerosmith, so you if you would like it, I have some prime, authentic Aerosmith merch for ya: perfect for your next drive down I95, an Aerosmith thermal mug!

  28. ladymisskirroyale

    Please someone comment on the bizarreness of The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize” becoming the state rock song for OK. I love the album it comes from (a concept album about robots destroying the earth!) but didn’t the state public servants realize that the song is about death? At least Roadrunner is about drive.

  29. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m noticing that Rhode Island has been unfairly left out of your travelogue. The next time you all are driving north, put on some Cowsills to add to that wholesome family experience.

  30. cliff sovinsanity

    I remember one the first things I learned about Dinosaur Jr was that they were from Massachusetts…and it stuck with me. Even though J. Mascis doesn’t have much of Mass accent they will forever represent that state for me.
    I always associate Jonathan Richman and that Standells song with Boston.
    Another association with Massachusetts for me is the album of the same name by the Scud Mountain Boys. It feels like Lowell in late November inside a warm house, while a cold wind is blowing outside.

  31. bostonhistorian

    Dream On will create jobs for rehab clinics. A recognition and support for the arts in Massachusetts means an important component of the state’s economy gains visibility. The Roadrunner campaign has gotten national and international attention for Massachusetts and its music scene.

  32. I remember the question was what was the state song of Rhode Island and I guessed Get along little Rhody. David Fry. Rhode Island its small and cute. Any songs by Boston for MS st. song?

  33. Is my order wrong? It could be.

  34. We don’t go up the coast and through Rhode Island. We drive through some bridge that skirts around NYC into that White Plains area, then we go through the middle of Connecticut on some winding, 2-lane highway with the most boring highway shrubbery on earth (what little of it I can see in the middle of the night). The road may be called 84 – I just drive; I never really remember what the roads are called. Then we either get to Massachusetts or the New Hampshire beach town. Then we get to Maine.

  35. 2000 Man

    That’s very generous! But I very begrudgingly admit some love for Aerosmith. I hated them when I was a kid, and for a very long time after that. I only liked Rocks, and it seemed all my friends hated that one. Everything after is awful. But I think I have all their studio albums from the beginning through Rocks now, and I have to admit, there’s some good stuff there. There’s some bad stuff too, but the good is really good even in the bad is Kiss bad.

    I haven’t been on I95 in a lot of years. I generally only go to the East Coast when I have a reason. The weather is lousy like Cleveland and the trees look the same. But the traffic is a lot worse, I’ll give ’em that!

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m with you. I enjoyed their albums from the 1970’s, and Toys In the Attic was a favorite when I was in high school. However, I haven’t listened to them in years (must dig them out of vinyl purgatory and note middle-age reactions to them). Maybe “Big Ten Inch” is a song you mostly enjoy and snigger at when you are 16.

    If you would like the mug, it is yours – perhaps contact Mod off line and he can pass along your address.

    If you would not like the mug, it can go to some other lucky Haller who also admits an enjoyment of Aerosmith. Or else Mod can pass it along to his brother for a wedding present from The Hall.

  37. bostonhistorian

    Tappan Zee Bridge, Saw Mill Parkway, I-84 to Mass Pike, 95 North…why you get off the interstate to hit Hampton Beach is a mystery unless you take U.S. 1 north….

  38. That’s our route! Were you the guy tailing me?

    I think we do get onto US 1 N to go up to Boothbay. The whole Hampton Beach thing started as a way to give our boys a chance to stretch out and not drive each other (and us) crazy. It may take us off track for a half hour, but it’s well worth it.

  39. bostonhistorian

    I haven’t been down to Philly in years so it wasn’t me. Last time I was there C. Everett Koop walked into me on the sidewalkoutside the Library Company. I thought about faking an injury for insurance ppurposes but then realized I probably wouldn’t win in court against a former Surgeon General.

  40. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod, you owe it to yourself to at least once take I95 up along the CT coast, through RI, have a little stop in Providence, and then continue on along Rt 128. The sea air and Jonathan Richman would do you good.

  41. misterioso

    Careful, m’lady, careful, now…

  42. misterioso

    I’m not campaigning for the mug but I have almost totally guilt-free affection for Aerosmith up through Rocks. Mostly great stuff. And, then, suddenly, not.

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