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).