Crash Chords: Driving Beats (music to travel to)

Interstate Love Song

Interstate Love Song (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this age where dubbing mix tapes has been largely usurped by burning mix CDs which is gradually being supplanted by composing MP3 playlists, it’s easier than ever to cook up a tailor-fit musical program to suit every activity. There’s little better than going all meta while on a road trip, plane ride or boat voyage and listening to songs about modes of transportation and travel destinations. There are old, reliable chestnuts like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or “Get Here” (lyrically they’re practically the same song), “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”, “Sailing”, or “Ocean Deep”; the usual FM radio suspects such as Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday is a Winding Road” or Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song”; Heavy Metal spark plugs like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”, and Steppenwolf’s hog-rider anthem “Born To Be Wild”; or country classics like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway”.

Hardcore travelers may choose to ditch the tunes and concentrate on the native sounds of their chosen location. But there are sure to be instances where cocooning one’s self in music, ANY music, will be much more preferable to snores or vapid chatter.

As far as I’m concerned, travel music has to be non-nauseating, non-irritating, and non-repetitive. You do NOT want to suffer from Last Song Syndrome while in transit. Nor do you want to develop a headache or a hard-on. So thematically, it’s best to stick to geography and commuting to keep your mind out of the gutter and in the right groove.

Deutsch: Logo

Deutsch: Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To set the scene, it’s useful to look to the continental landmarks such as “Africa”, Toto’s number one 1983 hit about their safari-slash-spirit-quest on the Dark Continent. Appropriately enough, this song was included in the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Then there’s Men At Work’s 1982 wonder “Land Down Under”, which I think lay the groundwork for our future tolerance of Crocodile Dundee, Russell Crowe, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Folk icons Simon and Garfunkel are both patriotic and pensive in “America” their dramatic ballad to Western wanderlust. Paul Simon was also later inspired by that enduring mecca of musical Americana with “Graceland”.

The band named America on the other hand, burst onto the scene with “Ventura Highway” the lead track and first single from their aptly titled album Homecoming.  As recounted by composer Dewey Bunnell, the song is about leaving, escaping the cold Omaha winters by moving to California.

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In terms of geographical ambition though, Sufjan Stevens just can’t be topped. With plans to come up with an album for each of the 50 United States, Stevens started off with Michigan, a collection of folk songs, instrumentals, and odes to the cities and landmarks of his home state that is loaded with vivid imagery, characters, and sentiments on faith, humanity, and hope for the future. Illinois explored even weightier subjects, including such native sons as serial killer John Wayne Gacy and poet Carl Sandburg, and ended up as one of the most highly acclaimed and awarded independent albums of 2005. Up next, fans are speculating between Oregon, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Arkansas on the Sufjan state list.

Across the pond, Scottish band Ballboy penned the glorious strings-and-spoken-word piece “A Europewide Search For Love”. Set to swooning cellos and a shuffling beat, we hear front man Gordon McIntyre speak-singing verses such as “someone once told me ‘the world is moving because you are’, and tonight there are people travelling through Europe on trains, looking for something that they’ve never had before, wondering if they’ll find it and if they’ll recognise it if they do” in a warm Scottish burr that makes you want to line up for tickets to the Trans-Siberian railroad post-haste.

A personal favorite, the criminally underappreciated The Wedding Present, produced Mini – an EP celebrating the Michelin lifestyle, sort of like a more muscular and masculine musical version of Stanley Donen’s “Two for the Road”. Mini contains songs bearing such titles as “Drive”, “Convertible”, and “Sports Car”. These naughty rock confections feature enough fun raspy engine noises to get one’s motor running and drive purring. The Weddoes’ most recent album, Take Fountain, was greatly inspired by front man David Gedge’s own transatlantic/transcontinental romance thus featuring tracks like the jangly “Ringway to Sea-Tac”, the dense epic “Interstate 5”, and the bouncy “I’m from Further North Than You” (formerly entitled Edinburgh).

On the OPM front, we can always hum “Tayo na sa Antipolo” while taking Ortigas Extension or belt Sampaguita’s “Laguna” as we cruise down SLEX. Just a parting suggestion, if ever The Amazing Race producers were to look for a new song to base the show’s theme on, may I respectfully propose the Flaming Lips’ “Race For The Prize”?

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

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6 Comments

  1. Ah man, where’s Route 66? Life Is A Highway? Everyday Is A Winding Road??

    Okay, so I’m getting those from my son’s Cars soundtrack LOL But they’re still good songs…

    My personal favourite is America by Simon & Garfunkel… a very British driving song, that’s quite obscure, is “Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)” by It’s Immaterial… just be warned the guy sounds slightly psychotic… not the kind of guy you’d accept a lift from LOL

    Reply
    • Well, there are definitely a lot more songs about journeys and travelling out there, and many more to be written. From strolls, to horseback, to biking, to automobiles, trains and planes… and even spaceflight! The road goes ever on… 🙂 Thanks for chiming in!

      Reply
    • oh, and I just caught Morrissey’s concert here in Manila, and am now remembering this wistful song from Kill Uncle, his least appreciated album – “Driving Your Grilfriend Home”

      Reply
  2. OK, sorry, I see the Sheryl Crow song now… my bad LOL

    Reply
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