In The Street

Album: #1 Record (1972)
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Songfacts®:

  • Mostly recognized as the theme for sitcom That '70s Show, "In The Street" was written by Big Star's primary songwriters, Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. For the show's first season, the song was performed by Todd Griffin, formerly guitarist and songwriter of The Graveyard Train. Griffin's cover was replaced in season 2 by the more widely known version recorded by Cheap Trick.

    The song is about life as a teenager in America, which in the 1970s meant driving around on weekends looking for fun, then doing it again the next week.
  • The song was released on Big Star's critically acclaimed debut album, but in our 2013 interview, their drummer Jody Stephens admitted, "I don't know if the general population even knows that Big Star had anything to do with it."

    Stephens played in a band called Golden Smog with Jeff Tweedy, and when Tweedy's band Wilco came to Memphis, Jody sat in with the group. "We played 'In The Street' together - I sat in on drums and Glenn Kotche played the cowbell part and John Stirratt sang lead," he recounts. "My wife was in the audience and she said when we started playing 'In The Street,' somebody sitting in back of her said, 'Why are they playing That '70s Show song?'"
  • In what he described as "ironic" in a 2000 Rolling Stone interview, Alex Chilton received $70 in royalty payments every time That '70s Show was broadcast.
  • Cheap Trick's cover includes the lyrics "We're all all right," an allusion to their 1978 hit "Surrender" from the album Heaven Tonight. Perhaps a chirpy re-interpretation to suit a primetime network sitcom, the inclusion undermines the ambiguity of the original, which evokes adolescent boredom without either romanticizing or condemning it.

    This ambiguity is perfectly encapsulated in the lyric, "wish we had a joint so bad" (also absent from the theme tune, although pot smoking was a recurring theme on the show), the double meaning of which can be read as meaning the protagonist's craving to get high or for a place to go with his friends. There is certainly a theme of being disposed that runs throughout the deceptively simple lyrics, which is juxtaposed with the major key power-pop music.
  • Chilton has said that along with "When My Baby's Beside Me," "In The Street" is the best song he ever wrote.
  • Cheap Trick recorded a full 2:50 version that was included on a That '70s Show soundtrack album in 1999 and sent to radio stations as a single. This version was titled "That '70s Song" and has a different set of lyrics from "In The Street," including the line, "We're still rockin' in Wisconsin," a reference to where the show takes place.

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