Saturday, July 17, 2010

Road Trip Music

“Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that 
Hot                            Rod                       Lincoln!”
Clearly, the greatest road trip song of all time. But even as great as Charlie Ryan’s (who sadly passed away this past February at the age of 92) anthem to the hot rod is, you can’t listen to it more than five of six times on a road trip without the danger of rebellion from the shotgun seat. So what other songs are essential on a road trip? Is, in fact, music even a necessary component to a road trip? If you drive a TR3 with Brooklands windscreens that make it impossible to hear (like we do), I’m guessing no. If your idea of a road trip involves anything that is red, Italian, and has 12 cylinders, you’ve got all the music you need from the tailpipes. If the V8 rumble and blower whine make you shout to be heard, probably not. But still, in most instances, music and road trip generally go together like Guinness and mussels in cream sauce. 
Now it used to be, before the advent of satellite radio, that half the fun of a road trip was finding a radio station. Any radio station! In the bad ol’ days of AM only radio, when there were three whole stations that were deemed acceptable to teens in LA (quick, for 50 points and a free trip to Pacoima, NAME THOSE STATIONS!) if you were off in the boonies, you might be able to catch a skip off the ionosphere (or what ever sphere it is, science isn’t my strong suit) and pick up Wolfman Jack, broadcasting from his secret lair somewhere around (so it was rumored) Waco, Texas. If you were unlucky, you got Grand Ol’ Opry. I got the opportunity to demonstrate this lost art to my daughter as we were driving her newly acquired ’62 Mercury Comet home from Hemet. We were cresting the Beaumont Pass and trying the radio. It only took 5 minutes for the tubes (Yes, TUBES!) to warm up, then with that old familiar: “WEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWEEEEUUUUUUUOOOOO” we managed to pick up something. A traffic report. For Salt Lake City! Needless to say, my daughter was impressed! But now we have multiple disc CD players, or iPods that can carry all the music of the Western World. What do you load in for that multi-day, cross country trek? 
Obviously, personal tastes play the most important role, but still, music that is maybe a bit out of your comfort zone can enhance a road trip in ways unimaginable. Time of day is also a factor. So is weather. So is the road. So is the car. The only types not allowed in my cars are Disco and Hip hop/Rap. I’m boycotting K-EARTH now that they’ve started to play the BeeGees as “Oldies.” Puh! Overall though, the more eclectic your play list, the better the experience. So here’s some of our favorites. Its far from a complete list. That would take enough space to fill several books, and ACE won’t devote an entire issue to one topic. 
For just plain cruisin’, even if its a day long drive, proper Rock and Roll is just the ticket.  After all, that’s how we all got started. Whether it was up and down Colorado in Pasadena or Whittier Blvd, or where ever, we all cruised to Rock and Roll. Windows down, arm hanging out, Just Cruisin’. Some of the best collections can be had from a local DJ everyone around here knows as LeRoy, the Milkman. You’ve probably seen and heard him at various car shows around SoCal. He puts together some amazing CDs. My favorite is called LeRoy’s Car Tunes. It’s got almost every great car song ever, including of course, “Hot Rod Lincoln.” There’s “Little Deuce Coupe.” “409,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Pretty much what HAS to be there is there (I can’t figure out why “Dead Man’s Curve: is missing, though), but he’s included other, more obscure stuff as well: “Pink Cadillac,”  “Rocket 88,” and “Bucket T,” for starters. My next favorite of his is “Surf Tunes.” A whole CD of the greatest surfer music ever. “Miserlou,”  “Wipe Out,” “Telstar Surf!” It doesn’t get much better than that! He also has several Doo-Wop CDs available, nice for the late night cruise, when you want to dial things back a bit on a warm summer night. 
My next Rock and Roll selection is a truly varied compilation. I bought it at the Rose Bowl Swap meet, but I’ve seen the guy at other events. Its a four CD set put out by Invicta Music, Ltd., up in Quebec, Canada (of all places!). Who, knows, these may not yet be “Oldies” up there in the Great White North! Anyway, this set has 103 songs. Its at least three hours of music. Volume One begins with Willie Nelson and “On the road Again”, proceeds through Freddy Fender (“Before the Next Tear Drop Falls”), Creedence (Bad Moon Rising”),  and The Diamonds (“Little Darlin’”), before hitting Duane Eddy, Jan and Dean, and Three Dog Night. It just gets better with Volume Two. Janis Joplin and “Bobby McGee” gives way to “Sixteen Tons” and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Bo Diddley, WAR, Chuck Berry and the Eagles also show up. Three and Four are equally as mixed up. Meatloaf, The Troggs, The Boss, Foghat, and the Vogues mix it up with Howlin’ Wolf, the Doobie Brothers, and ZZ Top. Whew, makes me tired just listing the stuff. I have to tell you too, all the cuts on these CDs aren’t in my comfort zone. Neil Diamond and Glen Campbell usually get bypassed, but that’s just me. 
Now so far, we’ve stayed in an area that I’m betting is safe for most of you. Good Ol’ Rock and Roll. Let’s push the boundaries. Late at night, on a long lonely road, maybe with enough rain to need the wipers on real slow, try Jazz. Smooth, Cool, Jazz. Dave Brubeck, Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobin. Spice it up a bit if you are really adventurous with some John Coltrain, or Miles Davis. There is something about 2 AM, an Open Road, and Jazz. 
OK, now let’s REALLY push the limits. Let’s go all out beyond what most people can deal with. It may surprise you. Opera. Yes, Opera. That-Thing-Foreigners-Do-Until-Your-Head-Hurts. In the words of Luciano Paverotti, “Controlled Screaming.” I’m telling you, there is nothing like flying down a back road with that same Paverotti belting “Vin-cher-a, Vin-cher-AA, vin-CHHEERR--ah!” at the end of “Nesun Dorma” or carving up Highway One in the fog with Maria Callas doing the Mad Scene from “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Its bloody MAGIC! Vocal Classical a bit too much for you? Fine, try some instrumental stuff. Mozart symphonies are great stuff. Not too heavy, actually hum-able, yet very satisfying. I’d suggest Ravel’s “Bolero,” but that’s not driving music, that’s parking music! 
The last genre I advise you to look into for variety is traditional Irish Music. Not “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” or “Danny Boy,” but the REAL stuff. Try the Chieftains, especially their early albums. Its easy to tell which ones they are, they’re numbered. As in “Chieftains 1”, “Chieftains 2,” and so on. Numbers 4, 5 and 8 are my personal favorites. Other groups like Dervish, Bothy Band, or Planxty are good bets. I’m telling ya, a good fast, hard reel has just the right rhythm for slamming up a mountain road. 
Since a good sound system seems necessary for a good ride, find some good music to play on it.  That’s the beauty of modern technology, you can burn your own mixes at the ‘puter. Van Morrison, Simon and Garfunkle, the Doors, some Motown. Throw in Cat Stevens and the Beatles and the Stones with Mozart and Puccini, a touch of Cannonball Adderly, a soupcon of Charlie Parker and you’ve got the right idea. Mix it up, and keep people guessing as they try to figure you out. And like they say, if its too loud, YOU’RE too old! 

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