Here’s my general disclaimer on the list, as covered by Autoblog: AOL Radio listeners were asked to pick the top ten “Car Songs”, which really translated to the first ten songs they could name with cars in them. These aren’t the top ten driving songs, since most don’t inspire you to drop the hammer and light the tires. I’m not even sure I’d count most as being about cars, but sometimes lyrics are open for interpretation. There are some obvious omissions (like Springsteen’s ‘Pink Cadillac’ or Commander Cody’s ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’) as well as surprise picks. My thoughts are below, but I’d love to hear your take on the top ten car songs.
Number 10: ‘Chevy Van’, by Sammy Johns
This 70s pop bomb may have been the reason for the decline of the whole “custom van” craze. Overnight, custom vans went from rolling bedrooms to guaranteed booty repellant, thanks to the twangy vocals and saccharine lyrics of this god-awful song. His followup single, ‘I Caught The Clap From A Hitchhiker In My Chevy Van’, never got the airplay of his first song.
Number 9: ‘Fast Car’, by Tracy Chapman
Songs about cars should not be music to slit your wrists by. You simply couldn’t get away from this song in the late ‘80s, since it got airplay on just about every format except perhaps latin dance stations. It tells the tale of a bad relationship with an alcoholic boyfriend, and leaves you looking for a sharp knife, bottle of pills or length of rope. The fast car is ancillary to the song, and sadly wasn’t used by the boyfriend to drive into a bridge abutment at high speeds.
Number 8: ‘New Cadillac’, by The Clash
I’m probably more of a fan of The Clash than most, but even I shy away from this song. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the lyrics and vocals are hardly inspiring and it’s certainly not one of their best works. Instead of picking an uninspired cover to represent the punk scene, how about “Jesus Built My Hotrod” by Ministry, instead.
Number 7: ‘Slow Ride’, by Foghat
Foghat, like Boston, is a band that I never need to hear again. All their songs sound alike, and both bands confuse distortion with musical genius. I have no idea how this song has any staying power, and I have no idea why anyone would think this song is about driving or cars. Cocaine-fueled all night romp between the sheets with a groupie, anyone?
Number 6: ‘Cars’, by Gary Numan
I’ll give them this one. The song is a new wave classic, and it’s really about the car’s role in the decline of Western civilization. “Here in my car / I feel safest of all / I can lock all the doors / It’s the only way to live / In cars”, highlights what Roger Waters called “The Bravery of Being Out of Range”. Would you act the same, face to face with another person, as you do behind the wheel of your car? Probably not.
Number 5: ‘Fuel’, by Metallica
Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire? Give me a break. I’d have opted for Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” as the obligatory metal song. How can you possibly beat lyrics like, “Trouble-free transmission, helps your oil’s flow / Mama, let me pump your gas, mama, let me do it all”?
Number 4: ‘Mustang Sally’, by Wilson Pickett
It’s an R&B classic, but it’s not about a car. It’s about a guy who bought his girlfriend a new Mustang, only to find out that she’s ‘heels-to-Jesus’ with half the guys in town. Does it teach us a lesson? Yeah, don’t buy a girl a new car even if she can suck the chrome off of a trailer hitch. Is it a car song? No, not really.
Number 3: ‘Drive My Car’, by The Beatles
It’s the classic story of boy-meets-girl, girl-seduces-boy-into-thinking-she’s-got-money, girl-comes-clean-about-being-broke-and-gives-up-the-pooty. Aside from the title, there isn’t a car in the entire song, so I’ve got to call this one a “fail”.
Number 2: ‘Little Deuce Coupe’, by The Beach Boys
It may be poppy, it may be way out of date, but it’s one of the few songs about cars on the list. The Beach Boys were gear heads and wrote more songs about cars, street racing and general hoonage than any other band since. “Just a little deuce coupe with a flathead mill / But she’ll walk a Thunderbird like she’s standing still / She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored / She’ll do a hundred and forty in the top end, floored”; if you don’t know what those lyrics mean, you can’t possibly call yourself a gearhead.
Number 1: ‘Low Rider’, by War
This funk classic has as much staying power as the lowrider trend. I’m not sure I would have put it at number 1, but I’d reluctantly agree it should be on any ‘top ten songs about cars’ list.
What say you, fellow gear heads? What included songs should have been dropped and what obvious choices were missed?