by Claxton Graham
I discovered at an early age a link between the rhythm of music and the rhythm of the road. Putting the two together has brought me a great deal of pleasure over the course of years, which is why I enjoy listening to music that matches up with the roads I travel regularly.
Selecting ten of my favorite driving songs was not an easy task. Because my driving usually involves traveling high-speed arterials and freeways, I thought of songs that would work under the widest variety of conditions. And just because these ten songs got the nod here, they by no means represent all the songs I enjoy while driving. There are many others.
Without further ado, here are my Ten To Drive To, in no particular order.
1. “Midnight Junction” (from Tokyo Highway Battle, 1996)
It’s only fitting that music from an auto-racing video game would be in a list of great songs to drive to. This instrumental is a fast-paced, high-energy cut that goes perfect with the drifting action required to win races on the freeways of one of the world’s largest cities – and in an American city, Charlotte, where the car is king. Take a listen to it here:
2. “1 Thing” (Amerie, 2005)
A percussionist’s dream, “1 Thing” has had serious exposure as part of the soundtracks to the Will Smith movie Hitch and the video games Saints Row 2 and Grand Theft Auto V. This is Amerie’s biggest hit to date, coming from her second album, Touch.
3. “The Rubberband Man” (The Spinners, 1976)
The Spinners cranked out a number of hits during the 1960s and 1970s, and this one got some love a few years ago from OfficeMax, who used it in some of its commercials. The seven-minute cut of this song, from the album Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, is a classic.
4. “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven” (Phil Collins, 1990)
The first time I heard this song was during my college days, when we were coming back to Raleigh from a student union board retreat, and driving along Interstate 40. This, along with the songs “Another Day in Paradise” and “I Wish It Would Rain Down”, came off Collins’s popular fourth album …But Seriously.
5. “Children Say” (Level 42, 1987)
One of several notable songs from the album Running in the Family, along with the title track and the popular “Lessons in Love”, “Children Say” features an upbeat driving tempo that runs counter to the story of the song, about adults living with the regrets of their decisions as seen through the eyes of their children.
6. “Breakout” (Swing Out Sister, 1986)
“Breakout” was the breakout hit for Swing Out Sister, at the time a trio fronted by Corinne Drewery. Released as a single first, it was the first song on their debut album It’s Better To Travel, which featured another popular song, “Twilight World”.
7. “Catch Us If You Can” (The Dave Clark Five, 1965)
The British Invasion of the 1960s yielded this peppy chart-topper, which was written by the band’s namesake, drummer Dave Clark, and guitarist Lenny Davidson. The single has enjoyed exposure outside of radio as well, notably as the theme song for the Shrewsbury Town Football Club.
8. “Moonlight Feels Right” (Starbuck, 1976)
An Atlanta-based band which originally performed from 1974 to 1980, Starbuck made a lasting contribution to driving music with this gem. The feature of this song is the marimba solo by band member Bo Wagner.
9. “Katamari on the Rocks” (from Katamari Damacy, 2004)
Namco’s sleeper hit video game for the PlayStation 2 console had players rolling up large balls of stuff – everything from pencils and paper clips to cruise ships and skyscrapers – while humming and singing along to some incredibly catchy music. “Katamari on the Rocks” is just one of a number of great tunes from this game, but beware that unless you know Japanese you won’t understand a thing they’re singing. Take a listen to it here:
10. “Escapade” (Janet Jackson, 1990)
Coming off the celebrated album Rhythm Nation 1814, “Escapade” earned an award from Broadcast Music, Inc., (BMI), one of the three American performing rights organizations, for being the most played song of 1990. And it’s easy to understand why. This upbeat, energetic song has a rhythm that is perfect for the road.