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Case for 'Roadrunner' is better than case for 'Dream On' or 'Smokin'

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More  March 4, 2013 05:07 PM

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Don't feel so alone, got the radio on...There are plenty of great arguments in favor of the Modern Lover’s Roadrunner being enshrined as the official rock song of Massachusetts but what about those who, for some inexplicable reason, don’t like it and want to make Dream On by Aerosmith the state song?

State Rep. Josh Cutler, a backer of legislation to make Dream On the official state rock song, told the State House News Service that it should be considered because it’s a “classic ballad about holding on to your dreams and seizing opportunity.” State Rep. James Cantwell, another support of the legislation, said that Aerosmith’s stature as “the best-selling American rock band of all time” and their close association with the Bay State are why Dream On should beat out Roarunner.

Cutler is right that the Aerosmith ballad is a classic tune but it has nothing to do with Massachusetts. Cantwell is just wrong when he says they’re the best-selling American rock band of all time as The Eagles took that title many eons ago. Yes, Aerosmith is “from here” but there are many better and more influential bands that are “from here” like The J. Geils Band, The Lemonheads, The Pixies, Passion Pit, Dinosaur Jr. and The Cars just to name a few. Oh, and we can’t forget that pesky group of guitar nerds from Cape Cod named Boston.

The legislators don’t really have much of a leg to stand on in this argument so what about some of our local media figures?

Fox 25’s morning man-on-the-street guy VB trashed Roadrunner during an interview with Braden from WZLX’s morning show Karlson & McKenzie last Thursday outside their Beacon Hill studios.

During the interview Braden sounded like he wasn’t really sure why he was supporting Aerosmith’s Dream On as the official state song but VB jumped in to help him.
“Roadrunner sucks! It’s the kind of song you hear at a coffee shop,” said VB.

On another occasion VB called it, "Horrendous" and said the Modern Lovers are "terrible."

Ah, so thoughtful. I can’t remember the last time I heard a punk song at a coffee shop but whatever you say, VB!

While Braden weakly defended Roadrunner even though he was there to support Dream On VB suggested Shipping Up To Boston by The Dropkick Murphy’s and Smokin by Boston in addition to Dream On. The problem with Shipping Up To Boston is it is about Boston (and pirates or something) not the entire state. Smokin fails to mention Massachusetts and is about dancing and smoking, presumably pot.

The negative reaction by some to Roadrunner’s front-runner status as official state rock song was inevitable. If you’re not familiar with the history of rock music in the Bay State or the early days of punk rock it’s safe to assume you may have overlooked the genius of Jonathan Richman. So, of course, some have turned to Dream On by Aerosmith as the official state song because they’ve heard it a bazillion times on our all but dead terrestrial radio rock stations even though it has nothing to do with Massachusetts.

There is, perhaps, no song that describes traveling around the frustrating highways of Massachusetts in such a fun and uplifting way as Roadrunner. In the many different version of Roadrunner , Richman takes listeners for a trip around Route 128 and the MassPike while blasting the radio in his car. He’s having fun talking about how he is full of life and “in love with the modern world” as he drives by Massachusetts landmarks. According to The Guardian’s Laura Barton, an unofficial Roadrunner expert, Richman talks about

Over the course of the various recordings he refers to the Turnpike, the Industrial Park, the Howard Johnson, the North Shore, the South Shore, the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, Route 3, the Prudential Tower, Quincy, Deer Island, Boston harbour, Amherst, South Greenfield, the "college out there that rises up outta nuthin", Needham, Ashland, Palmerston, Lake Champlain, Route 495, the Sheraton Tower, Route 9, and the Stop & Shop.

Good luck finding a rock song that touches on that much Massachusetts in a positive, fun, and enjoyable way. The Dropkick Murphys could make a case with their song
The State of Massachusetts but I doubt it would go very far with its focus on broken families, family court, and the Department of Social Services.

Aerosmith made great records, as did Boston and The Dropkick Murphys, but they did not produce a song about Massachusetts like Roadrunner. We don’t need a state rock song that is some throwaway top 40 hit that blends in with all the other classic rock hits.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Garrett Quinn began writing for newspapers at age 17 with CNC in his native South Shore. He has been published in BlueMassGroup, RedMassGroup, Pioneer Investigates, and Wonkette. He is a More »

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