Cars and music go together like peanut butter and chocolate, or, for our peanut-intolerant readers, peas and carrots. The automobile has been romanticized in song for nearly a century. In the early days of the automobile, audiophiles adapted home equipment to work on the road. In 1930 the Motorola 5T71 was introduced giving car buyers a factory-installed radio. Over time the capabilities of automotive audio systems grew to include record players from Chrysler in 1956 to cassette decks in the ’60s to CD players in the ’80s and finally arriving at the MP3 player capability offered in most new cars today. Throughout all of this one thing has remained: the alluring combination of cars and music.
Much like music, driving has moods. There are times where we like the soft and soothing tones of classical or soft jazz, but other times something more urban is desired. Much like the diametrically opposite musical moods, the moods of driving can be very different.
Last October our illustrious editor-in-chief, Suzanne Denbow, put together the 10 Best Car Songs Of All Time. It’s a great list and, if you haven’t already, you should read through it and listen to the songs she puts out there. I’m going to take this opportunity, though, to offer up a couple different selections. Instead of just the best car songs ever, I’ve carefully crafted two lists – one for hoonage and one for when you just want to ride low and slow.
THE 10 BEST HOON SONGS
Hoon, as the Aussies call it, is used to refer to one who drives in a way that most of society would find offensive, including fast, noisy or dangerous. The list below represents my favorite songs for those times where we exploit the power available at the press of the foot and a flick of the gearshift.
10. Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner
Used in everything from Apocalypse Now to The Blues Brothers, Ride of the Valkyries is probably one of the best known opera pieces ever written. It is also a lot of fun to blast through a set of car speakers while taking corners at twice the suggested speed.
9. History Repeating by Propellerheads with Shirley Bassey
Ever since it was featured in an advertisement for the Jaguar S-Type (go here to see the ad) History Repeating has been inextricably linked in my mind to hoonage. The past Jaguars shown in the commercial were both powerful and luxurious, and while driving in anger with this blaring you can’t help but feel the exhilaration of driving.
8. Mission Impossible Theme
Put this song on and tackle the Tail of the Dragon. Really, do it. Do it now! I’ll wait…are you back? Good. See what I mean?
7. Still Waiting – Sum 41
Guitars, hard-hitting riffs and fine Corinthian leather make this song a natural for any hoon list. You put this in and you can’t help but to push your car into that next corner. Besides, every hoon is waiting for this world to stop hating.
6. Country Grammar – Nelly
Before his music got methodical and, frankly, dull, Nelly had some of the most hoonerific music out there. Take this song, for example, it’s fun and up-tempo but not too heavy. Listen to it all the way through and tell us if you’re not at least moving a little bit by the end. Now play it in the car and tell us if you’re not at least getting a little frustrated at the blue hair blocking the fast lane.
5. Paralyzer – Finger Eleven
As we get into the top 5 you’ll see a change. The songs get harder hitting and more aggressive. Starting off the top 5 is Finger Eleven’s Paralyzer. I’ve played this while driving I-696 through Detroit, and was subsequently pulled over. Don’t worry, I got a warning. So, I would be careful where and when you put this song on.
4. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
Wow, we’ve made it all the way to the 4-spot without any 80’s rock. Well, what better to represent rock hoonage than Guns N’ Roses? Nelly preached big wheels, Axl Rose shows off big hair, and if you’re not careful this song will lead to big traffic tickets. This song, for many years, was my hoonin’ anthem.
3. The Rockafeller Skank – Fatboy Slim
There are several from Fatboy Slim that we had to decide between. Rockefeller Skank barely beat out Weapon of Choice, mostly for the boattail Riviera (is that a ’72?).
2. I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys
Featured in The Departed, this song from Irish-punk band Dropkick Murphys gets regular play on the drive home from work or when we just need to blow off some steam. Just don’t lose a leg.
1. Party Up (In Here) – DMX
The urban sounds of DMX combined with the anger that comes through in both tone and lyrics makes this the ultimate hoon song. Drive in anger, my friends, or you’ll be accused of being soft.
THE 10 BEST LOW & SLOW SONGS
Low and slow, as the lowriders call it. Cruisin’ and enjoying the scenery, or cruising to forget. The songs below won’t put you to sleep, but they won’t necessarily want to force you into committing a James Dean, either. You’ll see a heavy grunge influence in this list. Chalk that up to our musical tastes being traced back to the ’90s.
10. Dead and Gone – T.I. with Justin Timberlake
The song may feature JT, but the video features a ’67 Camaro. Maybe we watch too many music videos and let the cars distract us, but ya gotta admit that any song you can cruise to in vintage Detroit steel ought to be on this list.
9. Fade to Black – Metallica
We have fond memories of this song. Put the cassette in, cruise across the desert on I-10 from LA to Arizona, play the air guitar and slam Mountain Dew to keep awake, and arrive at school with 30 minutes to spare before the first class.
8. Drift Away – Uncle Kracker
A great cruising song. Drop the top or roll down the windows on a warm summer night, and drift away. The Uncle Kracker cover is our personal favorite, no offense Dobie Gray. Soothing melodies and easy lyrics make this a sure thing on any Low and Slow list.
7. Simple Man – Shinedown
Before you accuse us of trying to put you to sleep, listen to the whole thing. Brent Smith’s rendition of Lynard Skynards song is powerful and relaxing. Perfect for cruising a lonely two-lane road.
6. Better Man – Pearl Jam
Another good one for relaxing cruises. Put this on, set the cruise control and drive away all those inner demons. The drums and guitar will make sure you don’t fall asleep while the lyrics and rhythm will carry your tortured soul.
5. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Often imitated, but never duplicated. Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ is still the quintessential California cruising song. We’d love to take the blue ’63 Thunderbird convertible from the video, put this song on, and cruise down to the Crystal Cove Cars and Coffee then head up PCH to Ruby’s on the Pier for a burger and Strawberry shake.
4. Rooster – Alice in Chains
Maybe it’s the guitars or the message of hope and healing. Maybe it’s just a bad ass song perfect for clipping along at a steady pace. Maybe we’re just crazy.
3. Jeremy – Pearl Jam
We warned you about the grunge influence. Pearl Jam shows up again with this more up-tempo selection perfect for times where you just want to let your mind go and forget the week behind you and look forward to the weekend ahead.
2. Cats In The Cradle – Ugly Kid Joe
Another cover of a classic rock song by a ’90s rock band. A fast enough beat to keep you awake, with a message that is mixed with optimism and heartbreak — much like a relationship with a car.
1. The Sopranos Theme – Alabama 3
Rob Spragg and Jake Black’s theme for the HBO hit series The Sopranos is the pinnacle of cruising songs. The beat and melody are even and laid back, exactly how cruising should be.
There you have it. Put these songs together on a playlist and you’ll find yourself longing for that twisty mountain road or that long straight boulevard so you can show your buddies what fine and varied musical taste you have.