Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 3rd 2020
Driving in music at least
Welcome to the first of three columns following the same theme! Quite a few people have decided to request various themes for my music columns. I've already done a few, but then this one was suggested to me on Twitter. I responded by saying it was an insanely large topic and I didn't think I could do it. Well, after some discussion, I agreed to do it. But in order to keep things under control, after going through my own music collection, we now have three columns about cars!
Now, 1960s car songs… I own way too many, and it seems half are by The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. I have an entire album by The Beach Boys from 1964 which is virtually all just car songs. But I decided only one song per artist or else I would have called this column '10 Beach Boys Songs About Cars'. I also decided to not include any of the numerous death songs relating to cars. In fact, if I can find a way to do it without being depressing, that could well be another column idea.
My final thing was the song had to be about cars and driving. Not motorbikes (like Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild') and not about roads. I do not mind if the car is a metaphor for something else, but cars still have to be front and centre. And, truth be told, in the 1960s, that was pretty easy to find. It only becomes an issue in later decades.
So with parts of the world slowly opening up again, and people being allowed to get out onto the roads and drive places, here are some songs to put into a driving playlist to take yourself back to a time before I was born and just listen to as you hit the road.
Or use these songs to pretend you're driving.
In chronological order (but 1964 is quite over-represented here).
'Roadrunner' by Bo Diddley (1960)
Probably better known for one of the countless cover versions, but Diddley was there first. And, no, it's not about the cartoon character, but about racing on the roads. Of course. More blues-like than many of the covers, but there is something about his guitar playing that is completely mesmerising.
'Little Old Lady From Pasadena' by Jan And Dean (1964)
Jan And Dean were a surf music duo that had a string of hits throughout the 60s. They were matching the Beach Boys in the surf music scene… until Jan's near-fatal car accident in 1966. This is one of their best-known songs, about a woman drag-racer who beats everyone. It might be in bad taste to have a car song by Jan And Dean, but they also released 'Dead Man's Curve' about a car fatality. Tempting fate?
'Fun, Fun, Fun' by The Beach Boys (1964)
So many songs to choose from! Wow! So I went simply for the car song of The Beach Boys I like most. This is a song I cannot help but sing along to, especially the "Ooooo!"s at the end. A song about a girl enjoying her car too much, it is just so filled with a sense of joy that it is hard not to get into it.
'No Particular Place To Go' by Chuck Berry (1964)
A song about just driving aimlessly, the sort of thing teenagers still do to this day. And why not. Like I said – freedom. Maybe the first taste of freedom. It's a song that shows why Chuck Berry was regarded as a guitar hero. And the final denouement of holding a grudge because of getting stuck… just a classic car thing.
'G.T.O.' by Ronny And The Daytonas (1964)
A song bragging about a hot car… sounding weird coming from such perfect vocal harmonies. I love the "Wha-wha" sections. When I first heard this song when I was in primary school, my friends and I would holler those bits and ignore the lyrics (which meant nothing to a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds anyway). Still, you can't get much more 'car song' than this.
'SS 396' by Paul Revere And The Raiders (1965)
Another song bragging about the car. Coming from Paul Revere and the Raiders, this does not seem to fit their image, but they do such a good job with some really under-rated guitar work in this track, as well as the standard 1960s vocal harmonies. When I first heard this song, I would have been 11 or so, and I thought it was about a rocket ship. Mind you, the way they describe it…
'Maybelline' by Johnny Rivers (1964)
A cover of Chuck Berry's 1955 hit. A guy racing a girl, or chasing a girl who'd wronged him… doesn't matter, they're doing it in cars. Rivers makes the song deeper and heavier, with some great harmonica as well as an almost Bo Diddley guitar chug. Such a glorious cover.
'From A Buick 6' by Bob Dylan (1965)
From the classic Highway 61 Revisited album, this song about driving a girl or being driven to death. I am really not sure, but the driving motif seems to be heading for the end. Still, a great track and one that showed Dylan was doing the right thing going electric.
'Drive My Car' by The Beatles (1966)
From Rubber Soul, the album they released before Revolver, this song about a one of a couple driving the other around is a strange one lyrically, but, like many songs on the album, it shows The Beatles starting to show their prowess with their instruments, and people who say Ringo is not a good drummer just listen to the beat he lays down here, and George's great little solo and Paul's piano – so good. I've seen Paul do this live and you have not heard anything until you hear tens of 1000s of people shouting, "Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!"
'Mustang Sally' by Wilson Pickett (1966)
This man's voice! Another song known possibly more for the cover versions, but how can you beat Pickett's singing, backed by the Stax musicians (including members of what would become the Blues Brothers)? Mind you, Pickett's version is also one of those unexpected cover versions as well, but the song is just so associated with him that it might as well be his.
Ten songs about cars from the 1960s. There is just something about songs from the 60s that seems to bring a smile to my face. The things about these songs is that, for the most part, they are fun. Even Dylan's song is not a negative one. Cars were a symbol of freedom and being a teenager and becoming independent. That was all.