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February 27, 2013

In Mass., battle on for official rock song status

BOSTON (AP) — A battle of the bands is breaking out at the Massachusetts Statehouse, pitting a song by rock megastars Aerosmith against one by underground legends The Modern Lovers for the title of official rock song of the commonwealth.

The battle began after fans of The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” a 1970s ode to the joys of driving along Route 128 when it’s dark outside, launched a social media campaign.

Fans point to the song’s many references to the Bay State including cruising along the Massachusetts Turnpike, driving by the Stop & Shop and listening to “the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts.” The group was led by Natick native Jonathan Richman.

The “Roadrunner” bill has prompted a backlash from fans of Aerosmith, who want the group’s early hit “Dream On” named the official rock song instead.

Aerosmith also got its start in Boston. In November, the band performed a free outdoor concert in front of the apartment building on Commonwealth Avenue where members lived in the 1970s.

While the Modern Lovers were performing around Boston during the same time, they never achieved the superstardom of Aerosmith, although Richman went on to a long career as a singer-songwriter with a loyal following. Two other original members of the band went on to help found The Cars and Talking Heads.

The two songs are nearly as different as the bands.

“Dream On,” from Aerosmith’s first album, helped launch the band’s career, although even backers concede the song is devoid of direct Massachusetts references.

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered as the state’s official rock song, said state Rep. James Cantwell, a co-sponsor of the “Dream On” bill.

The Marshfield Democrat said the song has a positive message and encapsulates the spirit of Massachusetts rather than ticking off a series of geographic locations. He also said Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who is a constituent, has quietly engaged in local philanthropic efforts.

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