The story’s been making the rounds for a little while now -– specifically that “Roadrunner,” the lead track off of the debut LP by The Modern Lovers –- was in the running to become “the official rock song of Massachusetts.” I’m not really sure how much that really means to anyone, but when I heard it, I nodded in approval. For whatever that accolade is worth, it’s damn nice to see The Modern Lovers get some damn recognition at last. This was being spearheaded by a state representative named Marty Walsh.
But, of course, idiots like to fuck things up. When word got around that “Roadrunner” might be crowned as such, a pair of other representatives launched a counter-strike by making moves to give the honor to Aerosmith’s hackneyed hesher warhorse, “Dream On,” with one of them telling SouthCoastToday.com: “With all due respect, Aerosmith is the best-selling American rock band of all time. No band is more closely associated with Massachusetts.”
I’m sorry… I don’t live in Massachusetts, never have and probably never will. But with all due respect, Rep. Cantwell, fuck that and fuck you.
For a start, “Dream On” has about as much to do with Massachusetts as “Walk Like an Egyptian” does, so let’s get that right out of the way from the onset.
Secondly, since when does the fact that Aerosmith is the “best-selling” American rock band mean anything at all? Sales are zero indication of quality (take a look at the top of the pop charts if you’d care to beg to differ with me). And before I proceed, I should point out that I genuinely love a few (early) Aerosmith records. “Seasons of Wither”? “Back in the Saddle”? “Draw the Line”? These are damn classics.
But, honestly, does Aerosmith really need to be further celebrated? Do we really need to give Steven Tyler another reason to feel good about himself? Haven’t they had enough? Haven’t we all?
Full disclosure: Back in 1997, I came within arguable squinting distance of a book deal to write the authoritative story of the Modern Lovers’ front man, Jonathan Richman. By my logic, Richman was a tremendously influential figure in contemporary music, but precious few people knew his name, or his impact on what would become Punk Rock (and everything in the wake of that). And given his notorious eccentricity, it seemed like something of a no-brainer that an illuminating book on him would make for a great read.
Well, long story short: Two things scuttled that plan. For a start, someone had beaten me to the punch but a year earlier with a somewhat joyless, workmanlike tome on the subject, albeit one that Jonathan Richman himself did not authorize or contribute to. The second crucial factor is that Richman is stridently evasive about these things, and richly enjoys his privacy. And without the man’s own input, a book on his life and music would, by that point, have only been duplicative of that earlier book. So, I abandoned the idea. For a much lengthier discussion about my appreciation of Jonathan Richman, the Modern Lovers and the book that was not-to-be, click here to read a practically book-length post on it from 2008.
So, yeah, I’m incredibly biased in this case. For my money, The Modern Lovers is one of the finest solitary examples of rock n’ roll played properly. You can keep your precious copies of Pet Sounds and Horses and Songs from Big Pink and ____________ (insert tired sacred cow here). The Modern Lovers is the real keeper.
Which brings me back to Massachusetts: Hey Bay State! Get your head of your ass and do the right thing! Make “Roadrunner” your state’s official rock song.