A quick note about genres. I try to stay within the criteria as used by iTunes as it is widely known and generally accepted. However, applying a label to a piece of music is just as subjective as the music itself. Feel free to disagree with my terminology. Feel free to dislike my selections. Most importantly, feel free to make suggestions and add your comments - and enjoy music!
These first five songs are the expected automotive hard rock classics. Songs that will wake you up, get you moving, have you singing and perhaps driving too fast. Trite, perhaps. Cliche, most likely. But required? Absolutely.
#1 song - RADAR LOVE artist - GOLDEN EARRING date - 1973
Apart from the many Beach Boys car hits (Fun, Fun, Fun, Little Deuce Coupe, etc. etc. which will have their own category soon enough on these pages) Radar Love may be the best known car song in the universe, and so deserves the topmost position it gets here. For something a little different, watch this live recording from 1973: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6bDe9Dgn6g
Memorable line: "I've been driving all night, my hand's wet on the wheel"
#2 song - HIGHWAY STAR artist - DEEP PURPLE date - 1972
Highway Star is a quintessential rock song. It was written in the spur of the moment when Richie Blackmore was asked how he wrote songs. Instead of answering, he just picked up a guitar and began playing - and Highway Star was born. Great song in it's original recorded version, it is arguably even better in the many live versions available. My favorite is from the 'Made in Japan' album, though Sammy Hagar's supergroup 'Chickenfoot' does a pretty good job too. Cut and paste the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQVTtpE9J7s
Memorable line: "Nobody gonna take my car, I'm gonna race it to the ground"
#3 song - 2-4-6-8 MOTORWAY artist - TOM ROBINSON BAND date - 1978
I will now deviate a bit from the usual. Most 'top five car rock songs' lists will start off with some variation in the order of Radar Love and Highway Star, but the third song... well that can be anything from 'Drive My Car' by the Beatles to 'Bitchin' Camaro' by the Dead Milkmen. Even some pokey regional car show called 'Top Gear' put Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' as their pick for third. Well they are ALL WRONG. 'Motorway' has a lot going for it - a driving guitar riff, simplicity in lyric (based on a gay rights chant!) and was written while trying to remember the chords to another great song 'Couldn't Get It Right' by the Climax Blues Band. If you don't have this song on your driving playlist, get it right now! (Instead of linking to some obscure cover of the song, here is the original in all its glory: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar_saHB60qU
Memorable line: "Headlights shining driving rain on the window frame, little young lady stardust hitching' a ride."
#4 song - PANAMA artist - VAN HALEN date - 1984
In order to prove my magnanimous impartiality, I now include a song that I don't particularly like. 'Panama' is on a great many car songs lists - making it to number one on over a dozen of them! - and I have no idea why. Is it simply that the song has a suggestive interlude where David Lee Roth croons about you reaching between his legs (to ease his seat back)? Or perhaps it is because at 2:48 in the song you can hear Eddie Van Halen revving his Lamborghini Miura S? Come to think about it, that makes the most sense. Here's the video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-NshzYK9y0
Memorable line: "Yeah, we're runnin' a little bit hot tonight
I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off of it
Ah, you reach down, between my legs
Ease the seat back"
#5 song - LET'S GO FOR A RIDE artist - CRACKER date - 1993
Controversy may follow, but this is the song I choose to close this list. It is very straightforward rock and roll with a walking base line (in fact it could be a tutorial for how to do a walking base line) and a classic percussion beat. It is also, by far, my favorite song on this list - and would in fact make it into the top five any car song list for me - not just the genre of classic rock. And the reason why is simply this lyric.....
Memorable line: "So, drive real fast through the underpass
And if we die or if we crash.
Well I'd be flattered to
be buried right next to you.
Let's go for a ride."