Songs About Cars and Driving
I can still remember the first time I drove my first car, not the test drive, or the around the block try out, but that first night when I really drove it somewhere. My two best friends were along for the ride, and my Mother’s parting words to us was “don’t drive to LA” (I grew up in Orange County suburbia), so of course that is where we set off to go. I stalled out at the top of La Cienega Blvd., a stick-shift car that I had yet to master versus that stop light gone red at the top of a steep hill, well, I thought we would slide back down it, crashing into everything on the way, and that I’d be forced to call home and say “Mom, I know you said don’t go to LA, but...” Though I left a lot of rubber on the road from my spinning tires, I got us out of there and the night went on, a story forever embedded in my memories and a street that for years I found detours to arrive at because of that first night behind the wheel.
Having a car felt like a gift of freedom, and I spent more time on the road than at home once I had my own set of wheels. I often had two or three changes of clothes in my trunk, ice chests full of drinks in the backseat, a case full of mix tapes, and usually a couple of friends along with me. I was the first of my friends to have a car, so I was usually the driver, but I didn’t mind. Even now, with so many years driving, daily commutes in infamous LA traffic, and a variety of cars that I have called my own, I still love driving. Give me a full tank of gas and music to play, and I will drive anywhere. Road trips, even just a short afternoon one, are some of my favorite things in life. Cars give my gypsy soul a way out, an adventure waiting to begin, and a place to escape to, even if it is just to work and back.
I have so many memories that have taken place in cars of mine. First kisses in the front seat, pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of winter, snow falling and the windows fogging from the heat inside. Driving around with a best friend, or two, going nowhere in particular, just driving to drive, music playing to sing-a-long to, and conversations that really couldn’t happen anywhere else. Car talks are some of the best I’ve ever had. Making out (or more) in the backseat, I mean, I am the girl who lost her virginity at the drive-in, after all, but there were other unforgettable encounters, airport parking structures, beach parking lots, side streets in Hollywood and once parked behind a church.
I’ve shared more than one first kiss inside of cars, and been the other half of break-ups while sitting behind a steering wheel. I’ve also cried more times than I can count while driving, or parked somewhere that no one could see. Confessions traded and secrets shared in cars, some whispered, and some screamed with the windows rolled down. So many of my life moments have happened in cars.
My love of the road and driving started with my Grandfather. He would drive anywhere, and whilst everyone would be sleeping in the car, or later in the back of the RV, I would sit shotgun with him and talk about the road. He’d let me choose the stops we’d make, and the roadside diners we’d try out. He gave me little life lessons along the way that I’m not sure he thought I’d remember, but I did, I do still. Recently I drove through the desert alone and I thought about those drives with my Grandfather. As I watched the sunrise over the desert, the gorgeousness of it hard to articulate, I wished he’d been there with me to see. I feel like I inherited his love of getting in the car and getting lost.
I look forward to where the road will take me this year. Anyone up for a road trip? Anyone up for getting lost?
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” ~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“The concept of time, as it’s commonly understood by normal people with normal jobs and normal goddamn lives, doesn’t
exist on the road. The nights spread out like the dark, godforsaken highways that distinguish them, and the days run
together like Thanksgiving dinner smothered in gravy. You never really know where you are or what time it is, and the outside world starts to fade away. It’s cool.” ~ Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star
“It’s a road trip! It’s about adventure! . . . It’s not like we have somewhere to go.” ~ John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
“I love fast cars…and to go too fast in them.” ~ Lara Flynn Boyle
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson
“Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground. Birthday candles. Baby teeth.” ~ Francesca Lia Block
Here are my top five car songs for this week’s Friday Five. This one was hard to narrow down as I came up with enough to make a full playlist, or two. What are yours?
1. There is a Light That Never Goes Out :: The Smiths
“Driving in your car,
oh, please don’t drop me home,
because it’s not my home,
it’s their home,
and I’m welcome no more.”
2. 200 More Miles (live) :: Ryan Adams & Cowboy Junkies
“I got Willie on the radio,
a dozen things on my mind,
and number one is fleshing out,
these dreams of mine.”
3. You Can Sleep While I Drive :: Melissa Etheridge
“Come on baby,
let’s get out of this town,
I got a full tank of gas with the top rolled down.
There’s a chill in my bones, I
don’t wanna be left alone,
So baby you can sleep while I drive.”
4. Drive :: R.E.M.
“Maybe I ride,
maybe you walk,
maybe I drive to get off, baby.”
5. I Drove All Night :: Cyndi Lauper
“I drove all night,
to get to you,
is that alright?”