The Unofficial Jonathan Richman Chords website lists 10 discernibly different versions: seven given an official release and three bootlegs. The 1972 John Cale version was a demo for Warner Brothers, and only saw the light when the Beserkley label in California collected the Modern Lovers' demos and put them out as the Modern Lovers album in 1976. Two more 1972 demo versions, produced by the notorious LA music svengali Kim Fowley, would be released in 1981 on a patchy album called The Original Modern Lovers, and a live version from 1973 would appear a quarter of a century later on the live record Precise Modern Lovers Order. In late 1974, Richman recorded a stripped-down version of the song for the Beserkley, which apparently took a little over two hours. This would be the Roadrunner (Twice), the most successful version. A further take, extended beyond eight minutes, and recorded live, was titled Roadrunner (Thrice) and released as a single B-side in 1977.
While every version of Roadrunner begins with the bawl of "One-two-three-four-five-six" and ends with the cry of "Bye bye!", each contains lyrical variations and deviations in the car journey Richman undertakes during the song's narrative, though it always begins on Route 128, the Boston ringroad that Richman uses to embody the wonders of existence. In one, he's heading out to western Massachusetts, and in another he's cruising around "where White City used to be" and to Grafton Street, to check out an old sporting store, observing: "Well they made many renovations in that part of town/ My grandpa used to be a dentist there." Over the course of the various recordings he refers to the Turnpike, the Industrial Park, the Howard Johnson, the North Shore, the South Shore, the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, Route 3, the Prudential Tower, Quincy, Deer Island, Boston harbour, Amherst, South Greenfield, the "college out there that rises up outta nuthin", Needham, Ashland, Palmerston, Lake Champlain, Route 495, the Sheraton Tower, Route 9, and the Stop & Shop.
Here's Roadrunner Once ripped for you from glorious 7" at 320 kbps