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Last Chance To Make ‘Roadrunner’ The State Rock Song? What Can Be Done?

This article is more than 4 years old.

With just a day or so left before a proposal known as Bill H.3573—namely “An Act designating the song ‘Roadrunner’ as the official rock song of the Commonwealth”—expires, supporters are making one more push to try to get the bill approved.

The bill to so distinguish Boston punk band Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 ode to the state was filed by Marty Walsh—then a Democratic state representative from Boston, now mayor of Boston—in February 2013 at the urging of Joyce Linehan—then a Boston arts promoter, now chief of policy for the Walsh administration. State Sen. Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, assistant minority leader for the Senate’s Republicans, came to co-sponsor the bill.

The state rock song proposal won support from celebrities like “Daily Show” commentator/comedian and Brookline native John Hodgman (“It is woven as deeply into the cultural landscape of Massachusetts as the Turnpike itself”) and novelist Nick Hornby (“a cause we can all agree on”).

But the bill failed to come to the floor for a vote when the regular 188th Massachusetts legislative session came to an end on July 31. That left hopes that the bill could still pass in the Legislature’s informal session. But with that ending this week, hope is running low.

I spoke to Linehan this morning about how it’s all come to this—and what supporters might still be able to do to get the bill passed.


Linehan: “All is not lost. We have like 48 hours. Well, really 24 hours. I’m still fingers crossed. I don’t know. No matter what happens it’s always going to be the unofficial rock song of Massachusetts, right?”

Is the problem that our elected representatives do not appreciate how cool we are and are not able to represent our coolness appropriately?
Linehan: “[Laughs] I did not say that. One may certainly ask that question. I may not. We’ve always been outsiders, us ragtag punk rock music people. Why should it be any different now?”

I don’t know. You seem like you might be an insider now.
Linehan: “[Laughs] Wait, you take that back.”

I mean, you can still be cool, but I think you might be an insider now.
Linehan: “Nice save. Yep.”

What are the logistics?
Linehan: “It can just be passed in what’s called an informal session. I believe that would be today or tomorrow because the new Legislature is sworn in, I think, on Thursday. So it could pass in informal session. Informal session is kind of exactly what it sounds like, where non-controversial items can be taken care of. Then it does have to be signed by the Governor, but I have it on good authority that he is inclined to sign it.”

Have you been counting votes?
Linehan: “We absolutely had enough votes. It just never made it to the floor. It made it out of the committee a long time ago. … Then it just, like a lot of bills, it’s kind of been languishing with the Speaker [of the House Robert DeLeo] who’s the one who has to make the call about whether there’s any action taken on it.”

So do you think the Speaker is not sensitive enough to the coolness of the state?
Linehan: “[Laughs] I think the Speaker has a very big job. It could be that he thinks it’s going to be re-filed and it could very well be re-filed. I will not be the one to re-file it. I think it’s kind of one of those things that ran its course and whether or not it ultimately prevails I think it just adds to the story.”

Did Nick Hornby and John Hodgman really let us down here?
Linehan: “[Laughs] I don’t know. Maybe it was that outsider imprint. You know, Bostonians don’t really like New Yorkers, right? Even though Hodgman’s from Brookline, that’s not Boston. And Hornby, come on, he’s English. But we definitely had a fair amount of what I consider pretty solid star wattage on this one. Hodgman even came here and sang the damn song.”

So who can I blame?
Linehan: “Blame is not the word I would use. But I think the derailment by the two South Shore reps didn’t help us.” [The “Roadrunner” bill was introduced without competition. But soon Duxbury Democrat Rep. Josh Cutler and Marshfield Democrat Rep. James Cantwell introduced a counter bill to make Aerosmith’s song “Dream On” the state rock song instead. That bill died in committee.] “We had some momentum and that sort of slowed us down a bit. I think you can probably say that the state Legislature has a lot of work to do and this is one of—I don’t even know what the number is—but I would imagine thousands of things that they had to consider in this legislative session. We just haven’t to this point rose above the din enough to make it to the floor.”

Is there anything people could do at this point?
Linehan: “Sure. They could call the Speaker’s office today and ask him to consider it in informal session. If people want to be active that’s something they could do. I have not spoken to the Speaker [about this] in several months. But I will call the Speaker’s office myself today and ask whoever they have me speak to—some sort of legislative director—ask if they could consider moving it today. … There was a small army of people who were working to make this happen and we’ll see if they’re still paying attention. It’s been a couple of years now. The bill was introduced in, what, February of 2012. Legislative sessions work in two-year cycles so we’re about to close this one and start another one. Sen. Hedlund says that he will reintroduce it.” [A Hedlund spokesman confirms to me that, “Yes, he will re-file.”] “I feel like no matter what happens the story is hilarious and engaging and Richman-esque. Whatever happens, it’s been a great run.”

Greg Cook, co-founder of ARTery, is in love with Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter @AestheticResear and be his friend on Facebook.

Previously: Proposal To Make 'Roadrunner' The State Rock Song Hits Dead End?

Greg Cook Twitter Arts Reporter
Greg Cook was an arts reporter and critic for WBUR's The ARTery.

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