Saturday, August 29, 2020

COUNT: 1,2,3,4,

There are few more rousing introductions to any piece of rhythmic music than the exhortation to the band of a swift entry count, the musical equivalent of get on your marks, get set, go. And many have made much of this, with particular favourites being the Ramones (on just about everything) and, in the middle eight drop of Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. (It's at 3.04.) But there is another, a far more languid take on it, the appeal of which lingers for all time, making me smile even now.....

By slowing it down, as well as getting to 6, Richman totally blew my twenty year old mind when I first heard it, 'with my radio on', and it became one of the few singles this album buyer bought. Adding to the joy and the confusion was that it was on both sides; the version above nominally the A side, Roadrunner (twice) being on the flip. Even more confoundingly, 'twice' was the earlier version, '72, I think, against the '74 of 'once'. The charts were clearly not ready for this garage band romp until softened by the early UK stirrings of punk in 1977. A relatively early adopter, I was already in thrall to the Beserkely record label, the self-entitled 'Home of the Hits', populated with such delights as the Rubinoos and Greg Kihn. Trivia moment: although Roadrunner (once) is often attributed to the Modern Lovers, Richman is here actually backed by the Greg Kihn band. I don't know whether it made any impression in the U.S., but it captured a credible 11 in the UK singles chart. Richman later toured, this time with the Modern Lovers, promoting the LP, Rock'n'Roll With the Modern Lovers, getting another hit with the equally quirky (and even stranger) Egyptian Reggae, an instrumental. I didn't catch the tour, deeply of a friend who did, hooking up with the band and accompanying the band for the rest of the tour and to Germany. A very surreal experience, I gather and I am uncertain whether he was ever the same.

This is neither the time nor place to discuss further the charm of Richman, taking his idiot savant persona further and forward in ever more endearing/annoying directions. (I have R&RwtMLs and can still enjoy it, but I would confess to that being entirely as much as I need. There are only so many Ice Cream Men and Rocking Leprechauns I can stomach.)

The earlier Roadrunner (twice) probably deserves a little background, if only to namecheck the produce, welsh Velvet Underground man John Cale, he perhaps appreciating the debt to VU song, Sister Ray, which is hardly dissimilar.

The lyrics of the song are also conveniently very conducive to a counting theme, as Richman returns, time and time again, in the chorus, a repeated and echoed refrain of Roadrunner, then applying the time old contrivance of emphasis: 'I said roadrunner once, I said roadrunner twice', failing to even leave it at that. It's a delight.
You're begging to ask, was there a Roadrunner (thrice)? Of course there was, a live version, a b side of a later single.

Once, twice, thrice.........

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