It’s May already! Here in Florida, the temperatures are reaching 90 on any given day, and everyone is beginning to break out those bikinis and pale, winter skin. In the next few months, I will be hitting the pavement with my surfboard, a cooler, and some good friends. From beach days to trips around the country, here is the road trip playlist that will guide them all.
Rock music has long been the genre of epic road trips: top down, wind in your hair, thrashing guitars pumping from the speakers. So, as summer gets closer and more and more of us pack up our trunk and hit the tarmac, having the right music to get you through the journey is essential.
As I get ready to embark on a 20 hour road trip up the East Coast, I was thinking about the best driving songs of all-time. Back in the day, it was Jolt Cola and No-Doz, now it’ll be Monster and 5 Hour Energy, but it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck listening to Air Supply and those frenetic backwoods preachers who monopolize small town late night radio. I’ll have my trusty XM radio to get me through the many miles of rock-free radio badlands, but it would be nice to throw a handful of tunes on my iPod to help me through the painful late night hours as my body tries to nod off.
So, the Best Driving Songs of All-Time? That pretty subjective, eh? It sure is – and I’ll admit, my tastes are probably a lot different than yours. I tend to like the songs a little heavier and maybe a bit darker than the norm. No, you will not see Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love the Rainy Nights” on this list, but you’ll know most of these tunes.
My rules – Pretty Simple: I like the song and only one per artist.
So, here they are in reverse order – one for every hour of the trip:
20. “Stop,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 2003 and “Head On,” The Jesus and Mary Chain, 1989 – sorry, couldn’t leave either one out with a clear conscience. Two hard charging cuts.
19. “Hey Tonight,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1971 – Great for cruising down a long country road, singing along with your buddies.
18. ” L.S.F.,” Kasabian, 2004 – Good modern driving stuff from these talented Brits.
17. “Running Down a Dream,” Tom Petty, 1989 – Another artist with a bunch to choose from. Not my favorite Petty song, but the best to drive to.
16. “Sleep Alone,” Heart, 1983 – This one from Passion Works is very under-rated, with fantastic guitar work and great soundtrack for the highway.
15. “Highway Star,” Deep Purple, 1972 – Machine Head is just a great driving album with a few worthy candidates, I thought this was a little better than “Space Truckin.”
14. “Life On A Chain” Pete Yorn, 2001 – under-rated song, and a great driving tune, from an under-rated artist.
13. “Lunatic Fringe,” Red Rider, 1981 – featured in half of the movies and TV shows from the 80’s – typically while the protagonist was fleeing down a dark roadway in the dark of night.
12. “Midnite Maniac,” Krokus, 1984 – these hard rockers were the pride of Switzerland, and had some great driving music. This was their best.
11. “Slow Ride,” Foghat, 1975 – another classic rock tune that is just perfect in the car.
10. “Lucretia My Reflection,” Sisters of Mercy – This 1988 tune has a great driving bass line and haunting lyrics about the destruction of an empire. Cheery stuff to keep your energy going. Crank it up!
9. “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin – A 1970 song about Iceland, surprisingly from my least favorite Led Zep album. It’s a great driving tune that starts with a wicked scream from Robert Plant and features a furious driving Bonham beat the remainder of the song.
8. “The Passenger,” Iggy Pop – This one was reborn a few years ago, but initially released in 1977. Written about riding a train in Germany. If it’s good for train travel, that’s close enough for us.
7. “Take It Easy,” Eagles – It was the Eagles first single way back in 1972. This Jackson Browne penned hit requires the top down, or at least the windows open.
6. “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues,” The Eels – This was actually an after thought and a bonus track on their 2000 album Daisies of the Galaxy. It later became the theme to Road Trip. Fun, fun stuff; “It’s a beautiful day, uh huh…”
5. “Gonna Raise Hell,” Cheap Trick, 1979. 9 minutes and 20 seconds of perfection. Bun E. Carlos drives the beat, Robin’s vocals are fantastic, and Rick’s guitar doesn’t exactly suck either.
4. “Sherry Darling,” Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – Springsteen has more than a few good candidates, but this one from 1980’s The River, is a blast to drive to – again: windows down. “I got some beer, and the highway’s free.”
3. “Ride On,” AC/DC – From the 1976 Dirty Deeds album, this haunting driving song is Bon Scott at his absolute best. So perfectly Bon, that Brian Johnson won’t even touch it. Perfect for late night cruising down a deserted highway.
2. “Back Where I Started,” Box of Frogs – the only hit from this reformed incarnation of the Yardbirds. The 1983 hit features Jeff Beck’s guitar and a killer beat. I picture this one cranking loudly as I drive through the swamps of Louisiana or backwoods of WV trying to avoid the locals from Deliverance.
1. “Radar Love,” Golden Earring – This 1973 hit from the veteran Dutch rockers was an instant driving classic. It stands the test of time and is as great today as it was 30 years ago. It was the first tune I thought of, and nothing I considered knocked it out of my top spot. Crank down the windows, crank up the volume and watch out for the cops…
So, how did I do? If I survive the drive, I look forward to reading your feedback.
9/19 – Yo Animals – I just set-up a Playlist on Spotify with the great majority of these songs. Check it out next time you hit Route 66, The Highway to Hell, or the Backstreets… RARA’s Farm Top Driving Songs