Music to motor to: 25 essential classic hits for your driving playlist
Shahzad Sheikh – AKA Brown Car Guy – is an automotive journalist with three decades of experience on various titles including the Middle East edition of CAR Magazine and Used Car Buyer.
While reviewing new cars, I find that as much as anyone wants to know about how fast it is, if I can fit, will it pull and even whether it's green or not, what many car buyers and even enthusiasts are also keen to know is, how is the stereo and will it run their playlist?
Don't make me wait for the tunes - well scroll down then.
Admittedly when I first started testing cars, that was probably the least important factor because if you didn't like the sound system, you'd rip it out of the generically sized slot and replace it with something else, also switching out the speakers and tweeters and maybe grafting in some amps too. I remember testing the A70 Toyota Supra in 1990 - loving the car but hating the stereo.
Cool song, cool car, cool... cartoon?! Billy Ocean created a theme song for car lovers
These days the systems are so integrated you can't easily change them, so it's pretty vital they're good to start with. For the record the Burmester setup in a Mercedes S-Class is quite simply the best in my experience – I could make out lyrics and notes I'd never heard before in songs I'd been listening to since Tony Blackburn started presenting Top of the Pops!
Having said that all manufacturers have cottoned on, and even the Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione I currently have in for review, has a fantastic BEATs system competing with its very raucous Record Monza exhaust.
In a Diablo chased by an F40. And famously driving without a windscreen after it was damaged. Awesome Jay Kay
I have actually always checked the sound systems in cars – or maybe it's just that I always listen to music whilst driving. I'm not alone. Almost 95 per cent of drivers listen to either their own music or the radio according to one survey by Oponeo.co.uk. And 75 per cent of drivers admitted to staying in the car to finish a song even once they'd arrived at their destination – yeah I've done that!
The most seductive use of Jaguar XJ's ever thanks to Tawny Kitaen and Whitesnake
More than 79 per cent also admit to singing in the car – compared to less than 22 per cent in the shower. Guilty there too – though you would NOT ever want to behold that particular audio-visual spectacle, as it constitutes a unique but effective form or ear-pummelling torture!
It's not quite a Jaguar, but hey, if you love driving in your car...
Some studies have suggested that listening to songs with tempos that exceed 120 beats per minute can make you drive faster and by implication make you reckless. However the University of Groningen in the Netherlands (bless them!) found that far from having negative effects, listening to music could potentially improve driving focus on monotonous roads, such as motorways, because you experience a degree of arousal from the external stimuli that music provides to your brain – and that increases your alertness.
Life is a highway and wouldn't be cool to cruise it in these cars?
Earlier this year, SEAT working in partnership with Music 4 Mental Health, conducted a survey in which 90 per cent of drivers said that music made them happy, confirmed by the fact that listening to music releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine, increasingly by up to 9 per cent for your favourite songs – which presumably should reduce the likelihood of road rage too.
Another interesting fact to emerge, which even took SEAT by surprise, was that 'classic songs provide more of a mood-boost for drivers than modern day hits,' which endorses what I've been proclaiming for years – the old tunes are the best. In fact out of the top 10 songs noted in their survey, eight were from the 70s and 80s.
Jason Priestley drove all night. He must be tired.
Pop and rock music proved the most popular, and that's no surprise because fast-paced highly rhythmic music, often rising to a crescendo or at least seeming to race towards one (instigating some of that arousal mentioned earlier!), feels most right behind the wheel.
You'll forgive this song, because the video features this BB driven hard.
Thumping sing-alongs and feel-good anthems (particularly for that sustained hit of dopamine) also work. And finally the sentimental soundtracks to fonder days past, are also good for an invigorating or introspective run in your car - although those might be a very personal selection.
Does it get any cooler than ZZ Top?
Keeping this mind - here's my perfect playlist for a memorable road trip. Let me know in the comments below which are your favourites and which other's you'd add to the list!
1. Born to be wild – Steppenwolf
This should get your motor running at the start of every journey.
2. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins
You may not be Tom Cruise, but this one will surely make you feel the need for speed!
3. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean
I've got to be honest, this one was something of a theme song for me in the 80s.
4. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
You can party on to this tune, or is this just fantasy?
5. Life is a highway – Tom Cochrane & Rascal Flatts
I prefer the Rascal Flatts version, sorry Tom – one day here and the next day gone.
6. Rio – Duran Duran
Each twang is like a gear change as you drive the road twisting through a dusty land.
7. The Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy
Perfect to burn rubber in a red hot muscle car, I mean she was steaming.
8. Ace of Spades – Motorhead
A kicking overdriven base for when you really want to push up the ante.
9. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
Going down the only road you've ever known thinking of Tawny Kitaen cavorting on two Jag XJs.
10. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
When you're half way there, it won't matter if you make it or not, as long as you give it a shot.
11. I drove all night – Roy Orbison & Cyndi Lauper
If you're dying to get somewhere, choose between either of this epic versions – is that alright?
12. Don't Stop Me Now – Queen
Well you'll be having such a good time, you'll be travelling at the speed of light! Two from Queen, but if they're good enough for Crowley...
13. Black Betty – Ram Jam
Tom Jones' take on this is cool too, but the unrelenting rhythm of the Ram Jam version will keep that engine bam-a-lam.
14. Gimme All Your Lovin – ZZ Top
Cool cars, cool shades, cool beards - stick this song on and you got to whip it up!
15. The Power of Love – Huey Lewis & The News
It's strong and it's sudden and it can take you back to the future sometimes.
16. Road to hell – Chris Rea
Inspired by the M25: this ain't no upwardly mobile freeway, oh no, this is the road to hell.
17. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
No stop signs, speed limits, and if you paid your dues to satan, nobody's gonna slow you down!
18. Cosmic Girl – Jamiroquai
Car tune from a car guy – plus the video features a Ferrari F40 and a Diablo with no windscreen.
19. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
A good car on a good road, well don't it feel good?
20. Little Red Corvette – Prince
When things get passionate slow it down a little for when you need a drive that's going to last.
21. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
Sprung from cages on Highway 9, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line.
22. Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
When all you want to do is ride around Sally, this is the song for you.
23. Drive my car – The Beatles
Euphemism or not, if you want to be a star then your prospects are good with this one.
24. I can't drive 55 – Sammy Hagar
Hilariously channels the lament of every driver raging against speed limits. Plus Ferrari BB 512!
25. Driving in my car – Madness
I'm sorry I just inexplicably adore this song. Always have. Madness I know.