Cars have provided a rich source of inspiration for musicians since the first mass produced units started rolling out of factories. In fact, the dawn of pop music and widespread availability of cars neatly coincide.
They've been used in music as symbols of freedom, escape and danger; of wealth and status, and occasionally envy, frustration and derision.
Maybe it’s because driving and music both are inherently emotional things – there’s aren't too many things quite as frustrating and monotonous as being stuck in a gridlock. But on the other hand, the feeling of adventure and liberation of setting off on a journey into the unknown is pretty unbeatable. And have you ever noticed how people tend to open up to each other when on long car journeys together?
We’ve racked our brains and and come up with our ten favourite songs about cars and driving. We've also made a Spotify playlist for you to listen to. What are your favourites?
Vince Taylor and his Playboys – Brand New Cadillac
Those greasy-quiffed rockabillies sure had a knack of conveying the danger and romance of the open road. Stick this on your car stereo and you’ll instantly be transported (in your head, at any rate) from that suburban ring road to Sunset Strip in 1959.
Key line: "Well the Cadi's rollin' rollin' 'bout ninety-five, Uh the Cadi's rollin' rollin' 'bout ninety-five, Well me and my boy, We'll ride by side.”
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
The 'Werk’s 22 minute long homage to the A555 from Cologne to Bonn documents being behind the wheel on a lenghty car journey – from setting off and tuning the car radio to the monotony and 'numb bum' of the midway point before finally arriving at the final destination. Brilliant, but probably not one to get a house party rocking.
Key line: “Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n, auf der Autobahn."
War – Low Rider
This deliciously funky paean to the hydraullicaly hot-rodded cars has been covered by everyone from Barry White to Korn. Like the low riders it pays tribute to, this isn’t so much about going hell for leather, but more about cruising, relaxing and indeed, maxing.
Key line: "Low rider drives a little slower, Low rider is a real goer"
Gary Numan - Cars
The ‘Numanoid’ didn’t just pay lip service to four-wheeled transport, he’s a certified petrolhead. He famously drove a white Porsche 911, and also competed in a motorsport competition on Sky 1 called The Race – coming second to AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson.
Key line: “Here in my car , I feel safest of all , I can lock all my doors, It's the only way to live , In cars.”
It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)
This oddball 1986 hit transplants a Western road movie to the slightly less romantic location of the M62. Understated, peculiar, and just a bit unsettling.
Key line: "Why don't we cross the city limit, and head on down the M62, It's only thirty nine miles. And forty five minutes to Manchester, and that's my birth-place, you know.”
Alexei Sayle – Hello John, Got A New Motor?
This novelty ‘song’ – essentially the scouse comedian shouting a surreal stream of consciousness over a limp funk backing track – is like subjecting your ears to a particularly brutal form of torture. But hey, it makes us laugh, so it gets on the list. The original isn’t on Spotify, so there’s a rather naff Karaoke version for your, er, enjoyment.
Key line: “Hello John, got a new motor. ” (Repeat ad nauseum)
Madness – Driving in My Car
While the romance of the road tends to be the preserve of American songs about driving, in the UK we tend to be have a slightly more prosaic approach. This knockabout everyman homage to Morris Minor ownership has struck a chord with millions of people who own something which are proud of whatever they’ve got, even if it isn’t quite a Jaguar.
Key line: “I like driving in my car, I’m satisfied I’ve got this far.”
Metallica – Fuel
Is Metallica’s 1998 banger a celebration of excessive speed or a grave warning? Probably a bit of both. Whatever, it rocks hard. The original isn’t on Spotify, so we’ve included Iron Horse’s novelty bluegrass interpretation of the song.
Key line: “Quench my thirst with gasoline”
Outkast – Two Dope Boys (in a Cadillac)
Big Boi and Andre 3000 are fond of making references to tricked-out Cadillacs throughout their oeuvre. This, the opening track to 1996’s ATLiens is one of our favourites.
Key line: “Just two dope boys in a Cadillac.”
David Hassellhoff – Jump in My Car
Who could resist an invitation to ride shotgun with the ‘The Hoff? Well, the unnamed lady in this cover of the 1975 hit of Australian rockers Ted Murly Gang seems wary of David's nefarious charms. After finally accepting a lift from the keen Hasselhoff, the protagonist dumps his screaming passenger by the side of the road. Sinister stuff...
Key Line: “Jump in my car, I wanna take you home, C'mon and jump in my car, it's way too far to walk on your own.”
What are your favourite songs about cars and driving? Join the discussion...