By Nick Licata
Hot rods and rock ’n’ roll–they go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly, chips and salsa, bangers and mash, rum and coke, you get the idea. Rock music was and continues to be the soundtrack of car culture throughout the country. Looking back at the movie American Graffiti, where ’50s rock music was mixed into the scenes. It was as if there were speakers wired up and down the boulevard–wired because, you know, no Bluetooth.
With music playing such an important role in the car scene, I’ve decided to put together a Top 10 list of songs that, to me, characterize hot rodding and/or make great driving songs.
Now, I know your list will be different than mine, and it should be. Many of you will be thinking ”Dude, how could you leave that song off the list?” Knowing this, I’m probably putting my life at risk, but this is my list and there is only room for 10. It was difficult to leave off so many great songs, as I could have easily listed hundreds more.
Here is my Top 10 hot rod/driving songs in no particular order:
01. “Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys. This song always makes me think about one day owing a 1932 Ford, but I’d have to sell my 1971 Camaro—and that ain’t happening.
02. “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots. This song has one of the coolest driving guitar riffs. It starts out mellow then the guitar hook grabs hold and keeps driving through the whole song. The video of Scott Weiland driving through the desert in a crusty old Cadillac adds to the experience.
03. “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. The lyrics, the heavy guitar, the big drums, the driving bass. It’s all here. Next!
04. “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. Yes, another one by AC/DC, but in my defense, it’s pretty much impossible to listen to this song and not mimic the drums at the beginning on your steering wheel. It’s also unimaginable listening to without playing air guitar. This song must be turned up to 11–it’s mandatory.
05. “Heading out to the Highway” by Judas Priest. Not the most famous ’Priest song but the dueling guitars by K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are epic on this track. Don’t watch the video, though; it’s super cheesy. You’ve been warned.
06. “Slow Ride” by Foghat. This song is a staple of the mid ’70s. Just about everyone had it blasting from their car stereo’s 8-track player at the time, so it makes the list by default.
07. “Lowrider” by War. This one makes the list because it’s just so damn cool. Growing up in Southern California during the ’70s lowriders were a huge part of the local car culture—they still are. Besides, I don’t recall anyone ever changing the channel when this song came on the radio.
08. “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe. This one from the bad boys of L.A. starts out with a guitar emulating the sound of a car banging through the gears (à la Ronnie Montrose on Bad Motor Scooter). The booming bass and drums are relentless and make you want to drive faster than you should.
09. “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. This one is grandfathered in. It’s pretty much mandatory on every driving-related list.
10. “Maybellene” by Chuck Berry. This one gets in by lyrical content, alone, as it sounds like Mr. Berry was going 110 mph in his Cadillac to catch Maybelline at the top of the hill. If you know how brakes work on an old Cadillac, we are betting it took old Chuckie a good quarter-mile to get that thing to a stop. Musically, the song just chugs along like a big ol’ steam train. Good stuff.
I could have included a few more older songs from the ’50s and ’60s and even some from today, but the songs on this list represents an era of music that I remember as a teenager growing up in the ’70s. With that said, email me your Top 10 list of favorite hot rod or driving songs. I bet you have some good ones.