Americans sure do love their cars, so it’s not surprising that popular music is littered with references to them. Personally, I find cars annoying and expensive but, ultimately, necessary for our modern life. I hadn’t done a 7 Songs post in a while and thought this could be fun. Actually, I had one all thought up and then realized it was impossible to find the YouTube clips that I like to include in these posts, so I nixed the whole thing and started from scratch. That was the point at which I got to thinking about songs with cars. I tried to shy away from obvious choices – “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Fun Fun Fun” (clearly I have something against the Beach Boys.) I have to admit that “Little Red Corvette” made the original version of this list, but because Prince is a dick and won’t allow any of his music on YouTube, he got jettisoned as well. So here are 7 songs about cars that I came up with on the spur of the moment. Did I forget your favorite car song?
1. “Fast Car” / Tracy Chapman
One of those songs that defined my high school years, even though it sounded like exactly nothing else that was in the top 10 in 1988. I still love Tracy Chapman’s debut album – one of those quintessential fall albums in the life of Dan. And the bridge is so nice, she sang it thrice. (extra points if you get that reference!)
2. “Drive” / R.E.M.
It’s not just Erotica that’s turning 20 this year. Automatic For The People, arguably R.E.M.’s best album, also hit the two decade mark earlier this month. While it was not on my pop culture radar at all when it was released, it’s become another quintessential fall album. I have yet to pull this one out this fall, but I’m sure I will before too much longer. “Drive” was the first single from AFTP and I’m not really sure that it was what R.E.M. fans were expecting.
3. “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” / Billy Ocean
Now for something completely different – or at least more in line with the cheesy pop you have come to expect from me. I once read that Billy Ocean’s songs sound like they were written by a committee, and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” is certainly no exception. From the summer of 1988, it was one of his last hit singles. I have to say that
even though because it’s cheesy, I still kind of have a soft spot for it, so much so that I have a 9 minute dance version of it. I don’t think that even I need a 9 minute version of this song.
4. “Pink Cadillac” / Natalie Cole
Bruce Springsteen recorded this song originally, but this is the version I know. From the spring of 1988, it returned Natalie Cole to the top ten after decade long absence. Gotta say, I like her version better.
5. “White Limozeen” / Dolly Parton
This was the song that inspired this set of 7 songs. I recently rediscovered this album because I was introducing my daughter to the song “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That” and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it has held up over the course of nearly a quarter century. This was Dolly’s return to country after the disastrous pop album Rainbow, an album that, not surprisingly, I love. This is the title track.
6. “Drive” / The Cars
RIP Benjamin Orr. Were there any other Cars songs that featured him on lead vocal? (Wikipedia says “Just What I Needed” and “Let’s Go.” You learn something new every day. A great 80s song.
7. “Pull Up To The Bumper” / Grace Jones
Oh wait. You mean this song isn’t really about cars? Silly me. I guess file this under “car as metaphor”
“Driving Music” / Olivia Newton-John
From her critically-maligned Soul Kiss album, Olivia is a taxi driver trying to stay awake. She’s begging the DJ to play her some driving music. Really, the song speaks for itself.