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The Best Driving Music Ever

This is a list that isnt a list but really is the definitive list…no question.

Some bright spark once said that history is just boring old stuff that’s already happened. Well, like it or not I’m going to give you a bit of a history lesson now. As an, ahem, experienced gentleman, I can confidently claim to know a thing or two about proper music and certainly much more than young people under the age of thirty. If you are over thirty, frankly, you are no longer considered to be a young person – being as you are already on the slippery slope to the comfy slippers and the warm hearth of decrepitude. However, on a more positive note, music helps to keep you young and, seriously, it is a well known medical fact that driving fast cars actually makes men more virile and thus better lovers and also provides the added bonus of making you a better driver.

Most of you will know that a certain popular motoring journalist favours the music of Pink Floyd, Yes and the like. Well, I say to you that this is wrong-headed thinking. I say that the chap in question and the rest of you so disposed need to get that prog rock crap off your players right now and get some real music in. Try this test as an example of what I mean. This experiment requires a copy of Deep Purples’ album Machine Head, preferably the ‘97 remix, and probably the greatest record ever made. Now go to your car, select Highway Star, turn the volume up and go for a drive. Astonishingly, this track is known to add 20bhp to the average car’s performance and it’s a fact that traffic police, on hearing it coming through the necessarily open windows of your car, will smile, nod sagely, and realise that all is right with the world. They may even wave cheerily. In truth, you might as well play the whole album. Pictures of Home and the classic Smoke on the Water are two more of the many delights that this compilation offers. In fact, ownership of this album should be mandatory by law.

Moving on; no collection should be without a couple of tracks from The Who. Your columnist recommends the long version of Wont Get Fooled Again and a stunning cover of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. Now before you start thinking that this guy is stuck in some kind of historical time warp you have to look at the tripe that is being fobbed off on us today in the name of music. Today’s music all sounds the same; whether it’s pop, contemporary R&B or dance music. Where’s the credibility and longevity in that? How many of the recent bands have truly stood the test of time? Ok, so the Stone Roses may have returned but it’s hardly spectacular news. Why is it that the cognoscenti still clamour for Eric Clapton (started with the Yardbirds in 1963 – count the years), Jimmy Page; Pete Townsend? You’ll find no misery music from Coldplay here. No slushy Snow Patrol. Need I say more? Ok, I will.

Your next track to savour comes from an American band called The Knack. My Sharona, released in 1979, is still so popular that it’s on George Bush Junior’s iPod. Mind you, they had to steal a riff from The Spencer Davies Group’s Gimme Some Loving, a classic from some years before and recently featured on Billy Connelly‘s Route 66 TV programme. British music, you see, influences the world. Whilst you’re downloading these gems, seek out Radar Love by the preposterously named Golden Earring. This Dutch band weren’t great, if I’m honest, but they managed to pull one out of the bag with this track. To give you some idea of their usual standard, their first hit in Holland was called ‘Dong Dong Diki Digi Dong‘. Despite this, it’s amazing to note that they are still going fifty years after their inception! They’ve got a website!

Just to introduce a refreshing change of pace, I commend to you Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road and, while we’re in that neighbourhood, add Bad Things from Jace Everett. You’ll know this one as the theme tune to the TV show True Blood.

No compilation can possibly be complete without some soul and it doesn’t get any better than Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally – a salutary lesson in what happens when you buy your best girl a car – and, despite my earlier warnings about machismo, you need to have a copy of Sex Machine from James Brown. Just don’t play it when you’re in the company of someone you fancy, thus avoiding the pitfall of looking a bit of a tit.

Smells Like Teen Spirit from the late lamented Nirvana, has to feature, obviously. It’s interesting to note that the aforementioned My Sharona was covered by Kurt and the boys, demonstrating the influence of this historic track in all areas. You’ll need to add Legs from ZZ Top and, naturally, Highway to Hell from AC/DC has to find a home in any collection. My daughter has insisted that Flower from Moby needs to be included. So wise for one so young.

There you go. Fifteen tracks, an album full, to make your drive a thing of beauty and joy unbounded. Just put it on loop. No doubt you’ll have other suggestions and preferences but you will, of course, be entirely wrong. So this is my absolute definitive list until my next definitive list. And who said history was boring?

Geoff Maxted is a freelance writer and photographer.

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  1. Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” was a Top 10 hit in 1966, written and first recorded by R&B great Sir Mack Rice in 1965. The song’s title was “Mustang Mama” until Rice played it for Aretha Franklin, who suggested “Mustang Sally.” On Rockaeology at Rice says that Pickett, a last-minute replacement for Clyde McPhatter, covered the song after hearing Rice sing it at the Apollo Theater.

  2. It might be too modern but I find anything by Maroon 5 specially enjoyable while driving. I usually play “Moves like Jagger”. Well just thought I pitch mine into the pool. Great post by the way. Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

    Kevin Akins –

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