Our 10 Best Road Songs For Riding Alone In Your Automobile is a fun list of songs that we thought we would recommend for those about to hit the open road. Just like As the COVID-19 catastrophe is finally in (hopefully) its final stages, people and families are going to be stir crazy and for those who can afford to, will undoubtedly want to get out of the proverbial Dodge, so to speak. Luckily for us in America, there is almost always something worthwhile that doesn’t require marathon drives, like a state park, camping, other outdoor activity like fishing, which is huge in my home state of Arkansas, home of the famous White River, one of the most lauded fishing rivers in the country, especially for bass and below the large dams on the system that winds from the NW in a circle to the mighty Arkansas River near Pine Bluff, trout fishing is spectacular. Arkansas also boasts the most beautiful cavern in the country, Blanchard Springs.
Many of us have relatives and good friends we couldn’t see and many might have saved up and can take that special road trip they never had the opportunity to do before. Flying is convenient and safe, and best if you are pressed for time or going to Hawaii, where you have no choice unless you have a pretty big boat.Nonetheless, the open road beckons, and besides the necessities we need to have, including pet carriers for the kids (oops – did I say that?) one thing that I would go bananas without out obviously is music.
It really depends on where you are, what time of day, etc. as well. From Arkansas and the Midwest, we start out (except for Arkansas and southern Missouri where the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains call home, fairly well in the flat breadbasket of the nation, and while many find it dull, having been a boy in Iowa, I find farm country and the Great Plains soothing and relaxing. You have real horizons, which we have little of in the mountains. If you never saw a wheat field in Kansas just before sunset prior to harvesting, it is literally a field of waving gold that turns slightly redder as the sun sinks. It’s as beautiful in its own way as any beach or mountain.
But what to listen to? Well, with streaming and satellite the music world is your oyster, but for me, CD’s are the best because given the amount of them in my collection, I can hand pick music that is almost tailor made for just about anywhere for any occasion. So many have the rhythm of the road. There are hundreds of songs and albums that are not familiar with folks who are not musicians, and we try with one exception to raise a glass of bottled water to songs that shouldn’t be too difficult to access. Perhaps the first selection and the song from Scruffy The Cat might encourage you to check them out. Never be afraid of new music or even older. Here’s ten tunes that I have found are really good for traveling, segmented into different times of day.
In the interest of public safety, we will probably be out starting around Memorial Day or shortly after. We will be anxious to get out, and certainly need to pay extra special attention to the road as we celebrate finally getting to go somewhere nice. Please, don’t drink and drive. We want everybody home safely!
10) “Twisted Blues” by Wes Montgomery
Yes, it’s jazz guitar, but the song comes from the equally beautiful So Much Guitar and is so laid back and smooth one can almost let the car drive itself. Who needs a Tesla when you have a Wes Montgomery cd in the player. This is just perfect on a beautiful sunny spring morning, and just as accessible to casual listeners as his huge fan base.
9) “California Girls” by the Beach Boys
The greatest summer time band ever, going through summer or a trip during that time of year without The Beach Boys is unthinkable. Even though their early stuff was primarily surfing, surf guitar and hot rod themed, the music was always bright and optimistic. The fact that a surfing song was just as popular in Venice Beach as Columbus, Ohio just demonstrated how enjoyable their music is. Brian Wilson is still active, and we are very fortunate indeed to still have one of America’s greatest ever songwriters and musicians alive with us today.
8) “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles
First song off their first album Please Please Me, and does this song rip! Even today it’s incredibly raw and full of energy that an album or song with 1000 overdubs couldn’t hope to surpass. It’s always been an interesting fact that although the band were technically John Lennon’s band, the first song of their career was by Paul McCartney, with Lennon’s help on the bridge, and he also has claim to the last vocal, the small snippet that closes out Abbey Road, “Her Majesty.”
7) “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones
Now, it’s serious rocking time! This for me usually kicks off the early afternoon, but never just one song! The interesting factoid of one of The Rolling Stones most beloved songs is that it never appeared on an official Rolling Stones album in its original studio form. For some reason The Rolling Stones decided to release it as a single around the Beggar’s Banquet/Let It Bleed timeframe. It was a smash, and the first album appearance would be on their superior live album Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, but released on greatest hits compilations later. Nobody sounds better on the ol’ blacktop than the Stones for moi. During punk’s heyday especially in the U.K., it was fashionable for the punk bands to publicly disparage the bands of the generation immediately before them. This claim was of course an effort to claim a piece of rock and roll infamy and lifestyle of their own, but time would tell the tail.
Certainly, Pink Floyd never came close to punk ideology, and progressive outfits like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull and other bands that featured virtuoso playing but also incredible dullness for some took a lot of barbs, the punks not always incorrectly stating the lifeblood of rock and roll was not in that overstated music. The punks however were forced to eat some crow in huge helpings, as The Rolling Stones amply proved that they were truly one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever, were not intimidated, and just got better and better. Punk could not have happened without The Stones and the punks knew it. Eventually along with some garage bands, and caustic outfits like MC5 and Iggy And The Stooges and The Stones, punk had to embrace the Stones. It’s what rock and roll is all about. It runs a line that won’t allow pretenders to sever their bonds with it.
6) “Born On The Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Another outstanding genius in John Fogerty resulted in some of the truest and enjoyable Americana music ever in history. John Fogerty has managed a busy solo career as well, and this lead off track from Bayou Country set the stage for a trip down South through Louisiana through New Orleans and down into deep deep swamp country, where the snakes, alligators, boogeymen out deep deep in the swamps where nobody in their right mind dares visit, and humidity that will choke a fish. For a California man, John Fogerty still managed to summon the spirits of the seance, his dog chasing hoodoos, which might be Atchafalaya Swamp ghosts, and delivering the musical gumbo in a raw powerful voice few in rock and roll ever equalled. This is good on the open road, or if you’re brave, driving after dark in southern Louisiana.
5) “Beg Borrow Or Steal” by Scruffy The Cat
This is the relatively unknown song here, included because although this Boston band from the ’80’s only managed to make a couple albums, they were a cross of modern rock and roll and the spirit of great songwriting maybe from the late ’50’s. They did cover “Moons Of Jupiter,” the album this song is from. But “Beg Borrow or Steal” is worth your search on your Spotify if it’s there. The bass does a trippy bouncy figure that locks in with the rhythm of the center line, and produces a groove that could go on for 100 miles before you’d tire of it. The playing is reminiscent in places of The Stray Cats, although not a carbon copy. It also has enough down home feel to satisfy some country outlaws as well, but overall it’s just great great overlooked rock and roll.
4) “You Got Another Thing Coming” Judas Priest
Metal is great music, beloved by millions of all ages. When we’re near a city and around later afternoon, for some reason the pumping hook of this song gets your blood moving and fist pounding. Rob Halford of Judas Priest is one of the greatest metal vocalists of all time, so you won’t have to worry about screaming and grunting.
3) “Ace Of Spades” by Motorhead
This is for serious metal heads, but Lemmy Kilmister is an icon and hero to those who liked their rock and roll heavy, coffee black, and no chasers for their bourbon. Sure, it’s raw as untanned leather. Take AC/DC up a notch or two and you have the idea. The “classic” line up however had a huge blues background, and guitar player of those first five studio albums and one of the greatest live rock and roll albums of all time, Fast Eddie Clark, had a sense of blues swing that gave the brutal playing real tempo variations, doing a ZZ Top style tune called “No Class” that closely resembled “Tush,” and Lemmy Kilmister admitted as much, and then could turn up the ferocity and jackhammer rhythms with “The Hammer,” “Overkill” and “Iron Fist.”
2) “Us And Them” by Pink Floyd
Sometimes real magic happens. No sleight of hand, mind you, but a gorgeous sunrise or sunset no photo could ever replicate, or perhaps a novel that is so compelling and deep it transforms how you think and perceive your world from then on. For music, Dark Side Of The Moon is surely one of, if not the most mystical, futuristic and timeless album in the history of recorded music. “Us And Them” is the pinnacle of that experience. We all know and love this album like probably no other rock album ever, The Beatles perhaps coming closest, but when Rick Wright starts that quiet organ chord as “Money” fades out, a change becomes the listener. They can become nearly hypnotized at the simple but effective arrangement, the quiet vocals of Roger Waters, and even when it does rock a bit during the chorus, nothing in this ambience is disturbed.
Perhaps the best way to listen to Us And Them is when the sun is long down. You’re well away from city lights and the stars are richer than ever before. If you can leave your vehicle, lay on a lawn chair or grass and just allow this song to sink in for a while you almost feel as you are part of the cosmos. The anti-war lyrics are a bit of a contradiction to the music, but this is a truly deep experience. That the album remained on the charts for 495 weeks and has sold 42 million copies shows just how far reaching it is.
1) “All Blues” by Miles Davis
From his legendary Miles Davis Kind Of Blue album, this is just one song that truly belongs to the night, along with the rest of the album. Its sparse approach known as “cool jazz” is refined enough to not scare those away who are usually a bit bored with some of the bop and bebop music that while loved by millions could be a bit on the solo-heavy side. This album though has a cool groove that made Steely Dan possible. Again, you feel timeless, maybe even a bit ageless as this song gradually builds but never boils over. This time, a night drive in the city, with its lights, neon, empty freeways, and glittering skyscrapers that let us just cruise around a bit without the daytime traffic hassles and enjoy the vibe of the night is a perfect time for “All Blues.” Jazz was never cooler, never more sophisticated.
10 Best Road Songs For Riding Alone In Your Automobile article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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