By Chris Chase
Given how pervasive the automobile is in modern society, it’s no surprise that so many songs have been written about loving cars, loving driving cars, and loving each other in cars. With road trip season upon us, we thought it might be fun to spend the summer sharing some of our favourite car songs with readers. Rather than focus on songs about the cars themselves (that would be too easy), we’ll focus on music from a variety of genres that sound great in the car, are fun to sing along to on a sunny day, or simply make you want to plant your right foot and go.
Every Thursday until Labour Day, we’ll publish a list of five tunes that lend themselves to the open road, with selections from me and from other Autos.ca contributors. Where it’s possible, we’ll include links to let you listen to, and then purchase, the songs you like. We know that everyone’s tastes are different, so we encourage you to post some of your own favourites in the comments for each playlist we post.
Most of the playlists will be based around simple themes; this week’s theme is “long songs,” a selection of tunes with running times of at least six minutes.
Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel
Catherine Wheel is not, as its name suggests, a female solo artist, but rather a quartet of British guys who decided it would be fun to name their band after a torture device from the Middle Ages. Black Metallic comes from the band’s debut album, Ferment, and in my mind, is their signature song; it’s drenched in reverb and boasts great dynamic range, from the anthemic, overdriven chorus to a quiet, pensive mid-section reminiscent at times of the moody middle of Third Eye Blind’s Jumper. While Oasis was busy pretending to be the second coming of the Beatles and Blur was singing about Parklife, Catherine Wheel was showing us what grunge might have sounded like had it originated in Britain, instead of Seattle.
Buy: iTunes | HMV.ca
Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
This 1970s Dutch progressive rock band was best known for the song Radar Love, and while Twilight Zone was written nearly 10 years later, it was worth the wait. The song was inspired by the Robert Ludlum book, The Bourne Identity, and tells the story of a rogue spy. As English is the band’s second language, the lyrics can be a little quirky, but the three-minute breakdown/drum and guitar solo in the middle should get your fingers tapping the steering wheel. Be warned that this song can cause an involuntary lead-foot reaction; watch your speed when this one comes on the stereo.
When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
This song was originally recorded in 1929 by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. Led Zeppelin, as it did with many blues standards, popularized it in 1971 with this version. It’s notable for its drum track, which was recorded with the drum kit at the bottom of a stairwell and a microphone hanging from the top; the result is a supreme example of natural reverb. The steady rhythm drives the song, while the variety of sounds, including some awesome guitar and blues harmonica work, keep it interesting. Taken all together, it’s one of my favourite Zeppelin songs and a great driving tune.
Buy: iTunes | HMV.ca
Bombs Away – Luke Doucet and the White Falcon
At not even 40 years old, Canadian alt-country rocker Luke Doucet seems too young to be able to write the intelligent, socially-conscious lyrics he comes up with. The White Falcon isn’t officially the name of his band; rather, it’s his trademark guitar, a Gretsch White Falcon that is an integral part of his sound. Bombs Away reads like an advice column to young musicians, written by an aging rocker hoping to impart some of the wisdom gained through years of hard living. This six-minute-long jam rarely gets loud, but it’s driven by a rhythmic, cyclical drum part and Doucet’s stellar guitar work, both of which deserve to be heard on a good-quality car stereo.
Buy: iTunes | HMV.ca
The Bonny Swans – Loreena McKennitt
Loreena McKennitt is best known for setting traditional lyrics to original music that draws heavily on Celtic and Middle Eastern sounds. The Bonny Swans provides a perfect example of her style. McKennitt describes the song as the story of a girl who is drowned by a jealous sister, and returns to life “first as a swan, and then is transformed into a harp.” What makes this song really come to life is its liberal use of electric guitar, steering the song away form folk and towards a new-age/prog rock meld. Don’t miss the smoking guitar-fiddle duel near the end.