On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (1976)
California yesterday, dear reader, but today we’re all the way across the US heading east and coming to a halt in Massachusetts. I can never spell that! The Modern Lovers were founded by Jonathan Richman and the first line-up existed from 1970-1974 but no recordings were released. By 1976 Richman had resumed the group with a new backing band and released the group’s debut album, mainly recorded four years earlier. From that record, 1001 Songs have picked out Roadrunner.
Written by Jonathan Richman, Roadrunner is a homage to a strip of road known as Route 128 which was close to where Richman grew up in Boston. It was considered a special place for the young singer. In the song, Richman is behind the wheel of his car with the radio on and the road near empty as he drives around late at night. Taking the same course along Route 128, the narrator is at ease, at one with the car drifting down the road, the music flowing out of the radio being the perfect accompaniment. All of this makes our narrator feel good, they don’t worry about the loneliness that appears to be a concern for them though it is not explicitly stated what the cause of this may be. For as long as the narrator is enjoying the night drive, they have no other concerns.
With Roadrunner, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers reached their commercial peak. The track has the air of nostalgia about it, a yearning for simpler times and the comfort of solitude through a twilight drive along an empty road. The song has been reworked in multiple versions since but has outlasted the group which disbanded in 1988. Richman has been solo since and has shown no desire to revive the group, which is a shame.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)