The first order of business is to publicly acknowledge and thank my friend Mr. Paulboy the Sixth for suggesting that we put together these lists of Top Ten Favorite Drinking & Driving Songs. I had a lot of fun thinking up these titles and putting my lists together.
Of course, it’s never a good idea to listen to drinking songs while you’re driving - that can be very dangerous. And besides that, the last thing you want to do is make DADS “madd”. DADS, as everyone knows, is the acronym for the very influential activist group Dads Against Drinking Songs.
So, I figured the best thing to do in my effort to CYA (an acronym for “Cover Your Donkey”) is to post my driving songs first and my drinking songs second. After all, once we get where we’re going, we can drink as much as we want and don’t have to worry about Dads Against Drinking Songs (or Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
And, by the way, in case you’re wondering where we’re going . . . our destination for this trip is Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Once we get there, we’ll set up our tent, Pooh will lose our car keys, and we’ll just get falling-down liquored up until it starts raining and the mysterious musicians pack up their instruments and skedaddle. (Based on a true story.)
I would argue that what makes a particular musical piece a “driving song” is its steadily rockin’ beat or a kind of undulating rhythm that suggests motion. Slow and steady makes me think of being on the open road in a big white Cadillac with the cruise control activated. Fast and furious is reminiscent of racing along in a black Corvette – speed limit be damned. “Adios, Smokey! My regards to your wife and kids.”
Although it doesn’t really possess either the rockin’ beat or the undulating rhythm that makes a song “driving”, in putting together my list, I found it tempting to include the song “Mess Around” by Ray Charles solely because of that great scene in the movie ‘Planes, Trains And Automobiles’ in which John Candy plays the dashboard keyboards (as opposed to the air guitar) while the song plays through his radio and he drives through the night making those hysterically funny facial expressions. But in the end, I resisted the temptation.
No Driving Songs list from me is really complete without including the instrumental “Sarah’s Crime” by Toshi Hinata, which I often listened to while driving the Los Angeles freeways at night many long years ago. It’s really the ideal nighttime driving tune, but since few people have ever heard of Hinata and because I was unable to locate a song sample of “Sarah’s Crime”, I left this very deserving song off my list.
OK, enough of what I left off – let’s get to what I put on. I’ve alphabetized these songs and broken them into two different categories: the undulating rhythm of “Cruise Control”, and the rockin’ beat of “Pedal To The Metal”. The sooner we get to Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming the sooner we can start drinking. So, iz you ready to hit the road, Jack? Drive on! . . .
DRIVIN’ – CRUISE CONTROL:
“Are You Going With Me?”
The Pat Metheny Group
In another place on this blog I have written: “When I'm preparing for a road trip, the very first thing I pack in my suitcase is the Pat Metheny Group” and “The Rule Of The Road: Ninety-eight out of one hundered times, if Stephen T. McCarthy is driving, Pat Metheny is playing”. Even some of Pat Metheny’s song titles allude to movement over the landscape: “(Cross The) Heartland”; “Airstream”; “Last Train Home”, etc. And it would have been so easy to make 9 of the 10 songs on this list Metheny tunes – almost anything from the albums ‘First Circle’, ‘Still Life Talking’ or ‘Letter From Home’. But I decided to choose just one song to represent the Pat Metheny Group, and finally settled on the first PMG tune I ever heard: “Are You Going With Me?”
In looking for a song sample, I happened across this fabulous YouTube video put together by some cat calling himself Zelicaon. For decades I have been telling my friends that the ultimate road trip background music has been produced by the Pat Metheny Group. Somehow, strangely, whatever you see through your windshield seems like the ideal thing to be seeing at every point in the music. No one has ever understood me. But major, A-List kudos to Zelicaon because he ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT with this video he made! If you can watch this and still not “get it”, then you are never ever going to “get it”. Zelicaon drove from Los Angeles to Mount Whitney (twice!) in order to acquire this footage for “Are You Going With Me?” and with it, he created a wonderful video!
It’s a song based upon a vamp that slowly builds and evolves over a span of nine minutes until Pat Metheny’s guitar synthesizer just sings and sings at the end. Zelicaon utilized the studio take of this instrumental, and although I prefer the live version, his video is nearly perfect. Give yourself a wonderful gift today: Despite your busy schedule, take a short break, relax, and enjoy a nine-minute trip to Mount Whitney with Zelicaon and the Pat Metheny Group. This is the highlight of today’s Blog Bit, but if you want to wait until reading the entire list before viewing it, I guess that will be alright.
Video: Are You Going With Me?
Booker T And The MGs
If you don’t think this is “driving” music, tell that to George Lucas who used it in 'American Graffiti' as the background music for when John Milner decides to have it out once and for all with the cowboy in the hot rod (Harrison Ford). This is the music being played at dawn as everyone drives out to the drag strip for the big showdown.
Video: Green Onions
Low rider don't use no gas now
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and this is the city’s official theme song. This is what L.A. mama’s softly sing while rocking their babies to sleep.
Song Sample: Low Rider
DRIVIN’ – PEDAL TO THE METAL:
I like smoke and lightning
“Born To Be Wild”
“Born To Be Wild” on a Top Ten Driving Songs list? Who’d-a thunk it? By the way, it’s rumored that this is where the term “heavy metal” first acquired a musical context.
Song Sample: Born To Be Wild
When the sun comes up on a sleepy little town
The Doobie Brothers
A few Doobie songs had a shot at this list, but this one, in my opinion, is the drivingest of their driving songs.
Song Sample: China Grove
Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven
I was supposed to be the next James Dean. It didn’t happen that way. But for awhile, I was very serious about an acting career and did manage to score a few extremely small professional roles. Ironically, however, the last part I ever played was performed free as a favor to a friend in film school. Her name was Lin and she later went on to become an editor for Harold Ramis.
It was probably 1984 and Lin needed to produce a 15-20 minute movie for her film school final. She asked me to write a screenplay for her, which I did. Basically it was ‘A Day In The Life Of Jim Morrison’. Then later she tried to convince me to play the part of Morrison. I resisted . . . until one night we were driving around town in her VW Bug with a keg of beer in the back seat and the dispensing hose running up to us in the front seats. Whenever we wanted a beer, we’d just pour it into our cups straight from the keg. Ha! Talk about the mother of all “open container” charges!
So there we were, parked in front of the Sunset Grill on Sunset Boulevard (remember that song by Don Henley?), drinking beer from the keg, and having a fairly decent glow, my will power was weak and I finally gave in and agreed to play the part of Jim Morrison (beating Val Kilmer to the punch by 6 or 7 years). After completing that project, to my great surprise, I realized suddenly that I no longer really enjoyed acting and I quit, tossing that dream out the window [Bang! Crash!].
I thought the best idea I came up with for the Morrison screenplay was the scene we shot up near the famous 'Hollywood' sign. There are oodles and oodles of skinny streets that wind all over the Hollywood Hills like a mound of spaghetti on a plate. I suggested we attach the camera to a car and film those streets in fast-motion as we drove down from the Hills. Then we’d use The Doors’ song “Peace Frog” for the background music.
Sadly, I never did get to see the finished product because one of Lin’s co-producers - who had provided most of the funding - moved to Lake Tahoe immediately after the class came to a close, taking the movie with him. I was none too happy about that. After writing the screenplay and reluctantly playing the lead role, I thought I was owed a chance to see the end result. What I was especially eager to see was that “Peace Frog” sequence. Oh well. We can all listen to the song sample and just use our imaginations to get an idea of how cool it must have looked.
Song Sample: Peace Frog
I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
When my friend Mr. Paulboy 6 proposed the idea of making a list of 10 favorite Driving Songs, he also suggested considering Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” for inclusion. I wrote back that this was “the no-brainer of no-brainers”. When someone says to me, “Make a list of top ten driving songs”, my first thought is: OK. “Radar Love” and which nine Pat Metheny Group tunes?
In the comment section of one YouTube video for “Radar Love”, some bloke wrote: “Thumbs up if you think this song will get you a very expensive speeding ticket someday”. Ha! On the nose! You simply have to like a song that mentions Brenda Lee and her tune “Comin’ On Strong”. Golden Earring – yes, no doubt about it, those girls really rocked.
Video: Radar Love
I rolled on as the sky grew dark
“Runnin’ Down A Dream”
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Get in, shut up, and hang on!
Video: Runnin’ Down A Dream
I'd rather drink your muddy water, sleep down in a hollow log
“T For Texas”
It’s 1986 and Pooh and I are on an A-List Road Trip, on our way from Los Angeles to the Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Along the way we’re playing Skynyrd’s live album ‘One More From The Road’ and IT WORKS! Probably the best driving song in the set is “T For Texas”. It works and it works well! It blends with the road the way gin blends with vermouth.
All these years later, I can still distinctly recall Pooh and I flying along that old section of the original Route 66 that still exists in Arizona between Kingman and Seligman. We were young and we were free. It was ROUTE 66, we had a 6-pack of C66RS B66R, and everything was right with the world!
Video: T For Texas
Well, on a train, I met a dame,
“Train Kept A-Rollin’”
It's got a good beat and you can drive to it.
Video: Train Kept A-Rollin’
I’m adding a couple of ‘Honorable Mentions’ because these songs only missed making my list by the mere width of a supermodel’s wrist :
I'm worth a million in prizes
I'm worth a million in prizes
“Lust For Life”
Song Sample: Lust For Life
Rosanna's daddy had a car she loved to drive
Song Sample: Shakin’
It was very difficult for me to come up with good drinking songs because, hell, I was never a drinking sort of man [Big Ol’ Grin!], but I did the best I could.
As I did with my driving songs, I broke my drinking songs into two categories. The first I call “THERE'S A TEAR IN MY BEER”; these are songs you might listen to when you’re alone and wallowing in self-pity, or maybe you’re kickin’ back with one or two good friends and it’s One O’Clock in the afternoon and you’re already on your way to the total Liquidated Condition, and you’re watching the girls walking home from school and wishing you were 16 again and sober enough to say, “Shay, baby, wha’s shakin’?” These are more mellow stuffs, good for meditatin’, ruminatin’, and Walter Payton …at the beach. Got that?
The second grouping of songs is titled “ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT TO WATCH MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL AND TO BREAK OUT ALL THE WINDOWS AND KICK DOWN ALL THE DOORS”. Well, that’s the unabridged title.
OK, I’m gonna level with ya now: At one time or another in my life (and in some cases, for years and years of my life) I imbibed to every one of the songs on this list. They have all been battle-tested and bottle-tested by me just for you. So you can drink to these songs with great confidence and with my every assurance that they will mix real good with that 80 proof stuffs in yer glass. Oh, yes, you can drink quite comfortably to all of these tunes.
I was so very tempted to include a track or two from Bob Dylan’s album ‘Blood On The Tracks’ because that’s a record I’ve never put on until first making up my mind what to drink with it. But I’ve decided to save ‘Blood On The Tracks’ for my list of Top Ten Breakup Songs, scheduled for posting on June 28th.
Also, two songs that could very easily have been included are “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles and “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors. But I’ve always thought of these more as “Hangover Tunes” – songs that you listen to while having some hair of the dog that bit ya. I have probably drunk and danced to “Rocky Raccoon” more than to any other song ever recorded, but always on the “morning after” the night before.
Anyway, we made it all the way to Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming, and so it’s time we joined Pooh in some serious drinking:
DRINKIN’ SONGS – “THERE’S A TEAR IN MY BEER” (Or, “I DRINK ALONE”) :
If I ventured in the slipstream
How many times in the very early 1980s did I hang that “Do Not Disturb” sign (which I had stolen from a hotel) on my bedroom door and drink alone while contemplating Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ album? Anyone? Take a guess. No, more than that!
Song Sample: Astral Weeks
Rain came down, pitter-pat
You turned the record player on
A kitty stepped into the hall
"I just got back from down the road
“The Back Room”
It’s one of the all-time greatest drinking songs and hardly anyone even knows about it! Pooh and I murdered a lot of brain cells while listening to this one.
Song Sample: The Back Room
So, I stop in the local bar, you know, people
“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”
Well, duh! Did you really think there was ANY chance this song wasn’t going to make my list?
Video: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
DRINKIN’ – “ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE COMING OVER TONIGHT” (Or, “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”) :
We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down.
“The Battle Of New Orleans"
A few of you already know this story (and it is destined to be retold on the day I post a Blog Bit about my all-time favorite drinking establishments), but for now I’ll just simply restate that it is my belief that no song will wake up a sleepy American bar faster than Johnny Horton’s “The Battle Of New Orleans”. Try it sometime and see for yourself.
Video: The Battle Of New Orleans
I got an axe handle pistol on a graveyard frame
Oh, sheesh, do I ever love this song! Muddy wuz THE MAN!
Song Sample: I'm Ready
Just came in here to have whiskey an’ beer
“My Name Is Bocephus” [Live version]
Hank Williams Junior
Here we have Hank Junior doing a kind of Muddy Waters “Mannish Boy” / “Hoochie Coochie Man” thing. On his list of Desert Island Music Albums, my friend Mr. Paulboy wrote of The Who’s music: “When I hear The Who I want to kick somebody’s ass. Too bad I’m alone on this island. Heck... pause the music, I’m gonna walk around and see who I can find!”
Ha! Well, that’s kind of the way I feel when I hear “My Name Is Bocephus”, only I don’t have to go to the other side of an island to find some dude to fight – I just gotta walk around to the other side of the bar. “YOU! I’m talkin’ to YOU! …No, not you; you’re too big. I’m talkin’ to that little guy standing next to you.”
Video: My Name Is Bocephus
We'll give you the business
“Step Right Up”
Look, let’s be honest with each other, Tom Waits is to drinking songs what “Radar Love” is to driving songs. He could very easily monopolize this category to the point that this list might have been comprised of ten Tom Waits songs taken from any one of his first eight albums. But for variety’s sake, I’ve decided to select just one Tom Waits song to represent them all. It was my dear ol’ friend Pooh who turned me on to Waits. We used to sit around at his place for hours listening to the ‘Small Change’ album while doing what that album most often advertises: drinking.
Up until the 11th hour I was planning to use “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” from ‘Small Change’. But at the last moment I decided instead to drink to “Step Right Up” from the same album, primarily because this song was played at the last party ever thrown at the REAL “Animal House” – 824 Bay Street in Santa Monica. And also because the lyrics in this song truly illustrate the genius that was Tom Waits.
Song Sample: Step Right Up
Tell Kudu-Crawlin' Red, tell Abyssinian Ned
"Wang Dang Doodle”
If ever there was a song that described the goings on at 824 Bay Street for those few years at the start of the 1980s, this song is IT! I loves me some Wolf!
Song Sample: Wang Dang Doodle
I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a pina colada at Trader Vic's
“Werewolves Of London”
Ah, come on now! Who doesn’t love to sing “Ahhh-Wooo!” while waving a mug of beer in his hand?
Song Sample: Werewolves Of London
We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves.
We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads,
“Yo-Ho! (A Pirate’s Life For Me)”The Pirates Of The Caribbean
Believe it or not, the boys and I really did drink to this song. Well, we didn’t play it, we sang it. Not one of us was ambitious enough to go out and actually learn the lyrics, so we’d all just “La-La-La” our way through it until we got to the chorus. Really, has there ever been a better drinking song? (Mmm... Well, maybe "The Battle Of New Orleans".)
Video: Yo-Ho! (A Pirate’s Life For Me)
I’m adding a couple of ‘Honorable Mentions’ because these songs only missed making my list by the mere width of a midget’s toenail clipping :
You know the story how the wheel goes 'round
“I Ain’t Living Long Like This”
Country music don’t rock like THIS no more, and it never did!
Video: I Ain’t Living Long Like This
Now, there ain't but the one thing
“Kind Hearted Woman Blues”
Twinkie Johnson and I used to drink to this one in the wee small hours of the morning in an otherwise passed-out house.
Song Sample: Kind Hearted Woman Blues
Well, I hope you didn’t drink so much that you wound up hungover . . . like me.
OK, it’s now time that you took that 9-minute trip to Mount Whitney with the Pat Metheny Group. (You thought I was going to forget about it and inadvertently let you off the hook, didn’t you? Silly people. Silly, silly, silly!) From Wikipedia: “Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet. It is located at the boundary between California's Inyo and Tulare counties, just 76 miles west of the lowest point in North America at Badwater in Death Valley National Park (282 feet below sea level).” Enjoy your trip!
Video: Are You Going With Me?
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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