Why cars are music to our ears
The car, as we’ve noted before in these blogs, has a big part to play in popular culture. We’ve already seen how, very often, cars not only contribute to, but actually shape the direction of, literature, film and TV. But what about music? That’s an area we haven’t yet explored. Do cars influence popular music? It’s an interesting question.
And the answer, of course, is yes. Massively. The great youth movements of the post-war era were fuelled by hot rods and Rock music, so it’s hardly a coincidence that hundreds of songs have been written about cars and driving. So we thought it might be fun to pick out a few which, in our view here at DesperateSeller.co.uk, are particularly emblematic of the symbiotic relationship between cars and modern music.
But first, a word of warning: don’t be expecting songs such as Don McLean’s American Pie, with its Chevys at the levy, or Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, where you can’t use the car, cuz you didn’t work late! They’re great tracks, for sure, but their connection with cars is rather like the Nissan Micra’s connection with value for money – virtually non-existent. So, instead, we’ve chosen songs in which the car (again, in our view) plays an integral part songs which use cars, or driving, as a metaphor for events, trends and issues of our modern Western culture. Even then, there’s a lot to choose from, and we’ve had to limit ourselves to just a few. Here, for what it’s worth is our top 5 and the reasons why.
Cars – Gary Numan
With a title like that, it’s perhaps predictable that this track would be on our list. But the reason for our choice goes far deeper than the title. From its robo-style music to its lyrics, everything about this song reflects its central message – that our ever-greater use of cars symbolises a techno-driven society, increasingly devoid of personal interaction. Oh, and did you you know - Gary Numan has Asperger’s syndrome, which – he says – helped him develop his alien-like stage persona?
Thunder Road — Bruce Springsteen
We all have hopes and dreams. And this song is about just that – it’s essentially a metaphor for a working man’s journey of escape from the frustrations of everyday life. “Thunder Road” is a road of blind faith and salvation a road away from the “skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets”, towards a “promised land” of a better life. All it takes is the courage to drive down the open road and never look back. The ultimate road song?
Riders on the Storm— The Doors
The 1960s and early 1970s was a time of New Liberation a period of revelation and realisation of freedoms that invited – indeed, demanded – extravagance. And many took advantage of these freedoms, often by taking to the open road to explore their own destiny. But such freedom carried with it more than just joy and liberation it carried danger, too. That, for some, was part of the fun – the risk of walking the line. And this song, from the quintessential band of the Los Angeles music scene in the ‘60s, who charmed and shocked audiences with their savagely unpredictable stage shows, brilliantly but menacingly warns of the dangers of the open road. Plus, musically, it’s one of the best fusions of jazz and Rock we’ve ever heard. Incredible!
The Passenger — Iggy Pop
Picture the scene: Berlin in the mid-70s. It was thirty years after World War II, yet the city still had an air of danger and intrigue a broken post-war urban jungle that was trying to put itself back together. Well, if you can’t picture it, just listen to this amazing track. Because Iggy Pop captures the atmosphere perfectly – gloomy, but electric, with a sense of a new future just beginning to dawn. Inspired by night drives on the Autobahn, with his pal and music producer David Bowie, Iggy’s sinister, but somehow enlivening, driving song feeds off the creative energy of Berlin’s regeneration to become one of his best works. Which, as they’re all superb, means it’s pretty damn good!
No Particular Place to Go — Chuck Berry
Everything has to start somewhere. And, in the case of the relationship between cars and music, it’s probably fair to say it started in the 1950s. In America, you see, in the early 1960s, youth culture revolved around cars - just as, in the UK, it revolved around the motorbike/scooter with the Mods and the Rockers. And, with his signature guitar licks, and a gift for lyrics way ahead of his time, Chuck Berry created what was probably the first-ever, and perhaps the definitive, Rock song about cars. This 1964 song encapsulates this iconic period in all its open-topped, bright chrome, blazing radio glory.
We could add more, but - unfortunately - space forbids it. However, other tracks which deserve an honest mention, include Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan), Drive My Car (the Beatles), Black Limousine (The Rolling Stones), Trampled Under Foot (Led Zeppelin), On the Road Again (Canned Heat), Hot Rod Heart (John Fogerty) and Fun, Fun, Fun (The Beach Boys).
Talking of going for a song, we’ve got lots of great used cars going for exactly that. Why not check them out now!