Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 4th 2020
If we can't drive, at least we still have the music
Following on from the best car songs of the 1960s, we hit the 1970s! Column number 2 of 3. Woo? Actually, in the 1970s there were as many really good songs about cars released as there were in the 1960s. However, now we reach a caveat – often songs that seem to be about cars are not. For example, 'Highway To Hell' is about touring. This means I had to actually find and read lyrics. Again, the car has to be front and centre… or, at least driving. Or sitting in a car. Look, cars. Okay?
So, car songs from the 1970s. Again, I am restricting myself to one song per artist, or else this would be half-filled with Springsteen tracks. And, again, no car death songs. But, really, the same rules as last time, only we go into the next ten-year span. So, not only did I listen to way too many of the songs in my collection, but I read a lot of lyrics sites. Do you notice how they never agree? I hate the Internet for research, but what you gonna do? Oh, and no songs about motorbikes or trucks (like BTO's 'Roll On Down The Highway').
Again, with various parts of the world (including my own) slowly opening up to life, and people being allowed to get out onto the roads and drive some places, here are some more songs to put into that driving playlist to take yourself back to a time when I was a kid, and so just listen to as you hit the road.
Or once more use these songs to pretend you're driving along the coast.
In chronological order (and the spread of years is actually quite good for a change).
'Mercedes Benz' by Janis Joplin (1970)
Mercedes Benz as a representation for everything you desire. A car as a status symbol. A song that got me into trouble in year 8, first-year high school. See, I came from a government school and went to a Catholic school via scholarship. So I was taken aside and asked what prayers I knew. I knew the Lord's Prayer, but the wrong one (?), and the lyrics to this song were my second prayer. They thought I was joking; I had no idea. I lost 3 lunch-times. I had to learn prayers. It only made me love this song all the more.
'Highway Star' by Deep Purple (1972)
Back to the 60s with a song about racing a car on the streets… but the Beach Boys were never this heavy. Ever. The difference between the music of 1966 and 1972, just 6 short years is like night and day in so many aspects. This was one of Deep Purple's early hits and it is also one of my favourites from their many, many years of releasing music. Ritchie Blackmore's guitar soars and Ian Gillan sings like very few before him.
'Rockin' Down The Highway' by The Doobie Brothers (1972)
The great Doobies' harmonies, with their fantastic rock music gives us a song about basically cruising in a car down the highway. It really does not get much simpler than that, not really. Just driving stupidly fast, making tyres and engine smoke, outrunning the police. It's that sort of song.
'Radar Love' by Golden Earring (1973)
This song has come up before, a song about a man driving to see his girl. And the ending leaves it open if he got there or not. The song has the rhythm of driving along the road and there is the feeling of growing weariness as the song progresses.
'Jump In My Car' by Ted Mulry Gang (1974)
Ignore the Hasselhoff abomination, and instead revel in the glory that is Australian 1970s music. The story of a guy offering a girl a lift and then it turning out to be too far away has become a classic of Australian music, and deservedly so. Ted Mulry always seemed to have fun singing his songs and this is no different.
'Born To Run' by Bruce Springsteen (1975)
A song of getting in the car and just driving to leave it all behind. I was not sure if this was about a car or a motorbike, but according to the man himself, it's about both, so there you are. That old car as freedom motif. And it is one of Springsteen's classic tracks, one of the greatest rock songs of the 70s.
'Paradise By The Dashboard Light' by Meat Loaf (1977)
I was in two minds about including this song, where the car is the scene for a first love, but decided I would because it is such a brilliant track, coming from Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell album. The car is central to the action – as is baseball – and this is such a great driving song.
'Greased Lightning' by John Travolta (1978)
Okay, I'll wait for people to stop laughing. Done? Good. But, come on, this was the best song from the film Grease, and the song that told those of us paying attention that this was not a kiddie movie. But, really, this song about a car also harkens back to the 60s, although the language is probably not what The Beach Boys would have sung. And it was still being played at Blue Light Discos in the 80s, with all of us joining in. Good song. Really.
'Cars' by Gary Numan (1979)
A song about using the car as a means of escaping from the world, this is where New Wave started, and it only got weirder from here. I first heard this song when I was about 9, and I had no idea what it was, and as it wasn't what I was used to, I ignored it. Then, a couple of years later I heard another Numan song and rediscovered this one and found that I did enjoy this music after all. Great song. The 80s started here.
Ten songs about cars from the 1970s. The music is a little heavier than the previous list, and even the slow song by Queen and New Wave song by Numan have a lot more meat behind them. Cars are still revered, but now they are beasts, not just modes of transport. And even more than before cars are symbols of freedom, and of a place where we can be ourselves and escape reality. No longer a teenaged passion, cars were for everyone who just wanted to get away.
Absolutely loved this column. Especially Bruce Springsteen as Born to Run is my favourite Bruce S song ever. Also Deep Purple whom I have admired for many years. Very diverse selection of songs but so good.Cheers.