RCN’s Offbeat Driving Playlist

Posted April 13, 2020

By Dean Larson and Carly Ratliff

Photos by Dean Larson

Smack dab in the middle of a home quarantine for the nation, the idea hit us like a June bug on a windshield a 50 mph. What we need right now, and what all of our readers need right now, is a new playlist. RCN’s finest driving tunes as it were, a bit ironic considering the timing, so we’ll consider it “driving music to kickstart your quarantine playlist.”

Driving music can be somewhat of a tough genre to corner, we’re generally looking at select rock and some country from the late 1950s through the early ’80s. It can be fast paced to encourage your right foot like Golden Earring’s Radar Love, funky like War’s Low Rider, or even vast and easy going like Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again. But when we decided to compose our own playlist of driving tracks, we wanted to do something original; something more unique than listing the same few dozen songs that are on every other playlist for the road.

Admittedly, the tracks we came up with are a little offbeat, just how I like it, and I hope you’ll agree. Our playlist has over 50 songs spanning eras and genres, with everything from James Gang and Jimi Hendrix, to White Zombie and Queens of the Stone Age. We tried to pick songs that feel like the open road, more so than the tracks that are explicitly about it. After all, anyone can throw I Can’t Drive 55, Mustang Sally and Little Deuce Coupe on a Spotify playlist. This running tally of road tracks was compiled by Carly and myself with some buzzer beaters from Jeff, and I thought it might be interesting to detail a few highlights below.

Dean:

When I think about what constitutes driving music, I think of my favorite classic films, a few records in my collection that have always made the grade and my own hair-raising driving experiences in years past. And I wanted to base my selections on those things alone, even at the cost of ignoring the “must have” driving songs like the ones I listed above.

Even so, I think the five classics I’ve listed below will find favor with just about any enthusiast. If you’re a rocker at heart, the steady vibes from Ride on Josephine and Roadhouse Blues are sure to mesh with a good Friday night cruise. Flirtin’ With Disaster and Fool For the City are a bit more fast-paced, more inline with a vast stretch of pavement — straight as far as the eye can see. East Bound and Down might strike you as a bit too obvious, but I owe it to the 8 year old in me to include it.


Five Classic Tracks

- Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

- Fool For the City – Foghat

- Ride on Josephine – George Thorogood & the Destroyers

- East Bound and Down – Jerry Reed

- Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet


In looking through the 40 plus songs I picked for my list, I found it a lot harder to highlight just five of my oddball tracks. I like a lot of weird music and let a few songs slip onto the list, so we’ll see how that goes over. The songs listed below aren’t necessarily oddball tracks, but I feel that they’re not likely to be found on any other list out there (possibly with the exception of Show Me How To Live). As a final note, I’ll go on the record and state that if you’re about to do something foolish in a car off-road, Guitar Man is simply impossible to beat.


Five Oddball Tracks

- Guitar Man – Jerry Reed

- She Keeps Me High – King Harvest

- Show Me How To Live – Audioslave

- Go With the Flow – Queens of the Stone Age

- 8 Miles a Gallon – Scott Miller & the Commonwealth

Etype Drive 1

Carly:

Driving and music is like wine and cheese: always complementary, but transformative with the correct pairing. For example, power chords in songs like Link Wray’s Rumble pair well with powershifting. Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On is great for the start of a road trip, whereas Kashmir is best reserved for hour 12 of crossing the Great Northern Plains. Ditto Iggy Pop’s The Passenger.

Looking to distract the backseat-whiners on a long haul? Try engaging everyone in a karaoke session with Somebody to Love, Spirit In The Sky or Mercedes Benz, all crowd-pleasers. Or just drown them out with a Tom Petty song, driver’s choice.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a gluttonous connoisseur with a soft spot for blues-ier tunes when it comes to driving music. I like my music to make me sing-along, strum along, get the adrenaline pumping, or just get lost in the groove and the journey. I tried to capture the spectrum with my picks and am more than curious to see what RCN readers have to say or what songs they would include.

My classic track selections are straight from the memory bank and your local classic rock station, each one is entwined with specific car- and road trip-related memories. These songs span from the ’50s to the ’70s, and should be more than a little familiar to the crowd.


Five Classic Tracks

- Rumble – Link Wray & His Ray Men

- Green Onions – Booker T & the M.G.s

- The Passenger – Iggy Pop

- La Grange – ZZ Top

- Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave


Doing a mental evaluation of my favorite driving music, I pulled this assortment out as my oddball picks. There’s no rhyme or reason here, just good jams for an even better stretch of open road.


Five Oddball Tracks

- Ball And Biscuit – The White Stripes

- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly

- Stealin’ – Uriah Heep

- Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys

- Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin

Etype Drive3

Jeff:

Down and dirty, these are my road jams.


Five Classic Tracks

- Take the Money and Run - Steve Miller Band

- Life’s Been Good – Eagles

- Enter Sandman – Metallica

- American Pie – Don McLean

- I’m in Love with my Car – Queen



Five Oddball Tracks

- Zamboni – Gear Daddies

- Backwater – Meat Puppets

- Dune Buggy – Presidents of the United States of America

- 409 – Beach Boys

- Pickup Man – Joe Diffie (R.I.P.)

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Driving Music