This is the story of the song Roadrunner. It’s a bit confusing but stay with me.

Roadrunner was first recorded in April 1972. The producer was John Cale of The Velvet Underground fame. However the song did not see light of day until its release as a single in the USA in 1975. But before its release, it had been re-recorded with Matthew King Kaufman in the producer’s chair, and this new version, which was first made available on a budget compilation album, was released around the same time as the Cale-produced original first saw light of day.

Then in 1976, the Cale-produced version appeared on a much delayed debut LP while the Kaufman produced version was released as a single, first of all in the USA and then later on in the UK, where it’s b-side was……….the Cale version as recorded in 1972!! To confuse things further, the UK single saw the Kaufman version given the title Roadrunner (Once) and attributed to a solo Jonathan Richman while the Cale version was given the title Roadrunner (Twice) and attributed to The Modern Lovers despite the latter being the original by a few tears…..

You following all this??? Good….cos I’m about to confuse things further.

For in 1978, a completely different version saw light of day as a live b-side – and it was given the title Roadrunner (Thrice) …….and attributed to Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers!!

Now for years I had the Thrice version on a cassette tape – it came from me getting a copy of the song from a friend’s older brother who was the first serious muso I ever knew. My copy of ‘thrice’ snapped years ago and I thought my chances of hearing it ever again were minimal given the single was, to the best of my knowledge, only ever released in the USA and didn’t sell in any huge numbers, so I reckoned the chances of anyone owning a copy and then making it available on line were remote. But now thanks to folk putting things up on the likes of youtube and the existence of converter tools, things have changed:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman – Roadrunner (Once)
mp3 : The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (Twice)
mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (Thrice) (Live)

Every one of these versions are quite wonderful dontcha think??

Oh and in a 2003 re-issue of the debut LP, yet another version of Roadrunner was made available. This had been recorded later in 1972 with Kim Fowley in the producer’s chair…..seemingly the band weren’t sure at the time whether to go with Cale or Fowley as the producer of the debut…….(I don’t have a copy of this version otherwise I would have included it in this posting).


15 thoughts on “ONE, TWO, THREE, (FOUR), (FIVE), (SIX)

  1. … and there is another rawer version here (3:23):

    Very little info, but it is patented 1971 Hornall Brother Music
    “In April 1972, the Modern Lovers travelled to Los Angeles where they held two demo sessions: the first was produced by the Velvet Underground’s John Cale for Warner Bros. while the second was produced by Alan Mason for A&M. ” – maybe from the A&M session??

    This album (and series that it is part of) has lots of interesting stuff
    You can still find it here:


  2. To confuse things even further, I first heard the song in a cover by labelmate at Berserkley, power popster Greg Kihn, from his 1979 album “With The Naked Eye” as produced… wait for it, by Matthew King Kaufman. This actually played intermittently on the FM rock stations in Orlando, Florida at the time, so it was something of a miracle! And it’s pretty good, to boot. The song is amazingly durable. Ever hear a Sex Pistols version? It’s said that they played this song in their early days.

  3. I agree that Twice is the best version, at least also in my eyes. Thrice was actually released in the UK, on the b-side of Morning Of Our Lives from the live album in 1978. The Sex Pistols version is on what used to be the double disc version of The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle.
    I haven’t heard the fourth version, and will have to look out for that.
    I faintly remember Greg Khin doing a version of Springsteen’s For You, possibly from that debut album.

  4. Yeah, but who are the guys on the sleeve at the top? I thought all the versions of the song were recorded by the Richman/Brooks/Robinson/Harrison “classic” Modern Lovers line up from the first LP. In the picture it’s Richman and Robinson and two other guys

  5. Johnny…..the sleeve was pinched from what I think was a German-only release of the single. I’m thinking the record company may have looked to take some sort of stock image of the band only to get it badly wrong.

    You’re right about the four men who played on the song and you’re right that the sleeve is Richman, Robinson and two others. At a guess it could be John Felice and Rolfe Anderson who, according to wiki, were part of the original Modern Lovers line-up over 1970/71 before being replaced by Ernie Brooks and Jerry Harrison. It may well be that photos from the 70/71 era were kicking around and mistakenly used on the sleeve…..

    From wiki:-

    “After nine months in New York, and a trip to Europe and Israel, Richman moved back to his native Boston. With his childhood friend and neighbor, guitarist John Felice, he organized a band modeled after the Velvets. They quickly recruited drummer David Robinson and bass player Rolfe Anderson, and christened themselves “The Modern Lovers”. They played their first date, supporting Andy Paley’s band the Sidewinders, in September 1970, barely a month after Richman’s return. By this time their setlist already included such classic Richman songs as “Roadrunner”, “She Cracked” and “Hospital”. Richman’s unique character was immediately apparent; he wore short hair and often performed wearing a jacket and tie, and frequently improvised new lyrics and monologues.

    In early 1971 Anderson and Felice departed; they were replaced by Harvard students bassist Ernie Brooks, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison, completing the classic lineup of the Modern Lovers. This new configuration became very popular in the Boston area, and by the fall of 1971, enthusiastic word-of-mouth led to the Modern Lovers’ first exposure to a major label when Stuart Love of Warner Bros. Records contacted them and organized the band’s first multi-track session at Intermedia Studio in Boston.”

  6. Ah, that would make sense. Anyway, thanks for another excellent post. I always like it when TVV readers respond in a big way to our unsung American heroes.

  7. apologies for referring to another version – it was just the already mentioned alternative version from the 2003 re-issue that someone had topped and tailed (in the 320 kbs, but not the flac version) ..der.
    Still a great compilation tho’

  8. And I’m amazed as many people as this even know that there were all these versions. I have had all three for years and years. I got the “twice” original after buying the 76 album as a 14 yr old on the advice of Jerry Harrison in an interview in The Soho News (I think) a year later. Being a burgeoning fan of all things downtown and especially Talking Heads, it was a no brainer. After all he’s the drummer on this version.
    Oh and that Sex Pistols version – all I can say is “it’s a (Great Rock & Roll) swindle…

  9. The first two on the couch are Leroy Radcliffe and Greg “Curly” Keranen. It’s the same picture as on the back sleeve of Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers from 1976. Although they never actually played on Roadrunner (Once), as I believe Jonathan was backed by members of the Earthquake on the Beserkley Chartbusters Vol.1. version.

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