As far as unexpected cover versions go, Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols putting their own spin Jonathan Richman’s rock and roll hit ‘Roadrunner’ is right up there.
The song, which is inspired by the many times Richman saw the Velvet Underground perform live, is said to derive directly from the Velvets’ song ‘Sister Ray’ which, in many ways, is a million miles away from the ethos of the Sex Pistols.
In 1976, when Rotten and Co. were in the studio laying down a recording of Chuck Berry‘s legendary song ‘Johnny B. Goode’ for their soundtrack album The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, the band somewhat accidentally rolled into a rendition of ‘Roadrunner’ given its similar tempo and the same key.
Even though Pistols’ lead singer Rotten famously said that he “hates all music”, he did offer a few very rare complimentary words for Richman and his hit track by naming ‘Roadrunner’ as his favourite song many moons ago—even if he didn’t know all the lyrics.
In the demo recording, the ban rolls into the track with Rotten a little bit lost as to where to enter. Comically, he begins to laugh and asks “I dunno the words, I dunno how it starts I’ve forgotten it. Hold on stop a second.” But the band don’t stop, they continue and urged their frontman to find his rhythm. “Stop, stop, stop,” he continued. “Shout out how it starts whats the first line.”
Hilariously, Paul “Cookie” Cook, the Pistols’ drummer, replied: “One, two, three, four, five, six.”
Have a listen to the rendition, below.