Don’t Go To Waste

This may be none of my business as a Briton but…

If you put me on the spot I’m not sure I can list the achievements of the Obama Presidency but he is important if nothing else as a representative of a type of change many people never thought they’d see in the White House. On top of that, America, you really don’t want Mitt Romney as your leader for the next four years. Do you?

Galaxie 500 covering Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.

Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste

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Some People Try To Pick Up Girls


… and get called asshole, this never happened to Pablo Picasso. So said Jonathan Richman way back in 1972. Brilliant track, with a lovely riff and one great line turned into a whole song.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 !

I saw a man yesterday wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘1976 1988 Punk, Hip Hop, Acid House’, which seemed like a pretty fair summary of what’s been important culturally over the last 34 years. There are and have been writers and commentators more skillful than me to tie these three things together. But there are other parts of my record collection that fall outside these dates that are also important, and Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner is one of them.

Jonathan Richman first recorded it in 1972, as a Velvet Underground obsessed young man who had moved to New York to meet the Velvets and lived on a sofa belonging to one of them for a bit. His Modern Lovers also recorded it, produced by John Cale. Way ahead of their time, the first Modern Lovers lp is one of those punk-before-punk records. Roadrunner was issued as a 7″ single in 1977 at the height of British punk, with Roadrunner (Once) on the a-side and Roadrunner (Twice) on the b, and another live version, Roadrunner (Thrice), was on the flip of a later Jonathan Richman single. All three are ace and I can happily play them back to back, although my copy of Thrice is the crackliest piece of vinyl I own. In Lipstick Traces Greil Marcus waxes lyrical about Roadrunner, spending pages just deconstructing the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 introduction. More recently The Guardian’s Laura Barton took a road trip around Boston, Massachusetts visiting and passing all the sights mentioned in the song.

Roadrunner is about Richman’s hometown, the romance of the road, the sights and sounds inside and outside the car, the joy of late night radio, and the thrill of a song with only two chords (although he sneaks a third one in briefly towards the end). It’s massively influential, absurdly good, and doesn’t sound like it came from a time before that chap’s t-shirt.

‘Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on’

01 Roadrunner.wma