- 1 ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen
- 2 ‘Here I Go Again’ by Whitesnake
- 3 ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s
- 4 ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman
- 5 ‘Keep the Car Running’ by Arcade Fire
- 6 ‘Holiday Road’ by Lindsey Buckingham
- 7 ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ by Tom Petty
- 8 ‘Radar Love’ by Golden Earring
- 9 ‘Mustang Sally’ by Wilson Pickett
- 10 ‘Roadrunner’ by the Modern Lovers
‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen
‘Born to Run,’ like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ is darker than it appears. A strong blend of rebellion, sensuality and hatred, brought to life by Springsteen’s vocals, Clarence Clemons’s liberated sax and the sheer might of the E Street Band’s backing, is found in the lyrics. As Springsteen sings, “Someday, girl, I don’t know when/We’ll arrive to the spot where we truly want.” Born to Run, no matter how many spikes, brings you there. You can adore it, you can weep it out, and you can put your pedal to the metal to it.
‘Here I Go Again’ by Whitesnake
Recently been dumped? Go for a drive to clear your head (preferably in a Jaguar XJ). Your decision is finalized. You’re not squandering any more of your precious time. Try not to get trapped in traffic when you’re listening to this 1982 hit with your hair in a ponytail and your pleather jacket on. On the broad road, this power ballad shines (with no adjacent drivers to judge your Coverdale cover moves).
‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s
In my Chrysler, please!’ There is a ship the size of a whale poised to set sail!’ This is one of the greatest party anthems of all time, according to Fred Schneider. Driving a Chrysler (or a Fiat Punto, for that matter) may make it difficult to dance like no one is seeing, but the song ‘Love Shack’ can brighten any road trip. If you’re feeling a bit numb in the rear or in the front, all you have to do is turn it on.
‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman
The poignantly straightforward 1988 smash single from Tracy Chapman’s self-titled first album provides escapism a melancholy twist. You cannot separate the speeding car and its romantic freedom (‘City lights stretched out before us/Your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder’), which is bound up in a life of urban poverty, caring for deadbeats—first a drunk father and then, at the end, the very driver she had dreamed might carry her to rescue.
‘Keep the Car Running’ by Arcade Fire
When it comes to Arcade Fire’s music, urgency is a defining characteristic, and the band’s 2007 album ‘Neon Bible,’ which featured the single ‘Keep the Car Running,’ is no exception. Maintaining its roots in vocalist Win Butler’s childhood nightmares (‘Men are coming to take me away, I beg of you!’) and expanding these concerns into a sense of worldwide worry, ‘Keep the Car Running’ transforms these anxieties into a conviction that there must be something better to come. What an incredible surprise for Bruce Springsteen’s audience when he and Chris Butler surprised them by joining him on stage for a rendition of “Born in the USA” off the new album. Warning: If you listen to this music while driving, you’ll need to be extremely careful not to exceed the speed limit.
‘Holiday Road’ by Lindsey Buckingham
I can’t help but think of the Griswold family station wagon while I listen to this supposedly pleasant sock hop. The lyrics express a sense of being unable to break free, as the song’s ominous music video serves to emphasize. Fleetwood Mac’s lead singer was a master at masking his tenderness beneath a grin. That’s why this song about a road trip is so brilliant: Working at an office with no escape is no different from being on the road, shooting to who knows where with no destination in mind.
‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ by Tom Petty
It’s possible that we could have compiled this entire list purely from Petty songs, but we had to make a choice, and we went with this 1989 single from the singer-debut songwriter’s solo album, “Full Moon Fever.” The song’s allusion to Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ and killer guitar solo make it a perfect match for blasting out of your speakers while driving down the interstate in quest of the American dream, your future destination, or simply the next roadside burger.
‘Radar Love’ by Golden Earring
In the context of a song about driving, Golden Earring’s “Road Trip” is one of the greatest ever composed. When Barry Hay sings, “The road has got me hypnotized, I’m rushing towards the new daybreak!” your head nods, and your foot reflexively presses the throttle pedal. The breakdown in ‘Radar Love’ is one of the finest in rock history. This is a proven truth of science.
‘Mustang Sally’ by Wilson Pickett
Censorship may be to fault for our car obsession ities. To avoid singing about sexuality, early rock n’ rollers chose to sing about their cars…with some not-so-subtle references. She just wants to “ride about,” while Pickett screams with his thumb out, searching for a ride. Never allow the fact that this song is so ubiquitous among karaoke enthusiasts fool you about what it’s about.
‘Roadrunner’ by the Modern Lovers
It’s a stunning combination: A 1972 song by 19-year-old Jonathan Richman brilliantly contrasts the Velvet Underground’s bare-bones, dirty-as-hell chugalug sound with a suburbia theme that Richman’s heroes Lou Reed & Co. wouldn’t dare touch: The rush of being a teenager, behind the wheel of a car, and cranking up the music. The song’s two-chord momentum is ideal for late-night vehicle trips since it is so upbeat and comforting. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ cover is also worth a look.