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Driving Music

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A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from an evening event: windows down, cool breeze alternating with pockets of warm air left over from the summer-like day, heady scent of just-bloomed honeysuckle wafting in and out of the car.

Suddenly a song starts playing and I’m transported back to a summer during college, driving these same roads, and it’s like no time passed at all.

I take music pretty seriously.  Certain songs are more powerful even than scents in placing me inside a memory – a certain day, a certain place – it’s like I’m there.

I started considering driving music – what is it? How is it defined?  It’s not just a favorite song – I have plenty of favorite songs that I don’t consider to be “driving music”.  It’s not necessarily upbeat, or slow, or in-between.  Some are songs I know all the words to, the kind that beg me to sing-along.  Others call for reflective listening.  They vary based on mood: some evoke joy, some sadness, some nostalgia.  But I’ve noticed that there are certain songs in my music library that automatically call for windows down, arm outside, hand snaking up and down in the air currents no matter when I hear them.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Cuts You Up – Peter Murphy
Susquehanna Hat Company – Too Much Joy
Until I Fall Away – Gin Blossoms
Trail of Tears – Guadalcanal Diary
Bittersweet – Hoodoo Gurus
Take Back Everything – Salt Chunk Mary
ZZQ – Blue Mountain
In the Blood – Better Than Ezra
When You Were Young – The Killers
Recurring Dream – Crowded House
Thomastown – Not Drowning, Waving
Windfall – Sonvolt
Witchdoctor – Sidewinders
Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio
Yesterday Girl – Smithereens
Wolves, Lower – REM
Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Windmills – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
Bedlam Bridge – Midnight Oil
Achin’ To Be – The Replacements
Dead Heart (alternate) – Midnight Oil
I’d Run Away – The Jayhawks
Love in a Trashcan – The Raveonettes
Cannonball – The Breeders
Darker Days – The Connells
Marker in the Sand – Pearl Jam
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John
Singing in My Sleep – Semisonic
Sun Gone Down – House of Freaks
Ain’t It Strange – Driving’ N Cryin’
Santa Maria Street – Sand Rubies
Nosebleed Section – Hilltop Hoods
Mighty KC – For Squirrels
I’m Not Over – Carolina Liar
Lone Star Song – Grant Lee Buffalo

Please feel free to add yours in the comments below. Thanks, and happy listening!

Photo credit: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by mallix


I firmly believe that every one of us has something to offer, and that each of us can make a difference in this world. I also believe that it’s vitally important that we not take ourselves too seriously, enjoy life, and have fun.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kevin Guyer

    Fantastic list. I almost tear up when I hear the Sand Rubies… I have some music purchases ahead of me I see. =)

    1. Mickey

      Not a day goes by that I don’t add another song to the mental list, Kev. I can’t believe I missed Roger Clyne’s version of “Tributary Otis”, for example, or Sugarcult’s “Los Angeles” or Idlewild’s “Ghost in the Arcade” or “Swollen Summer” by the Bravery. I’m mildly shocked that U2 didn’t make it, either – not sure which I’d pick, though. I am pleased the Sand Rubies made it on there (even if they’re technically on the list twice, once as the Sidewinders). We’ll have to compare notes!

    1. Mickey

      John, you couldn’t have made me happier, linking both to your beautifully written review of Salt Chunk Mary AND links to mp3s of their songs! I have demo tapes for The Johnson Family (November 1989) and Salt Chunk Mary, and I’ve been meaning to get them digitized. I’d somehow forgotten about “Rest Your Worried Mind”, which was another favorite. “I Take Back Everything” is every bit as good as I remembered. Thank you thank you thank you!

  2. Mickey

    Thanks, Sensh! I was hoping you’d see it (and add to it).

    “Place in the Sun” is an excellent choice. “Middle of the Land” is another great one (for the drums) – incredibly difficult to pick one per band, but I did my best.

    I could also go in and edit it almost daily as I think of others I missed, but I’ve resisted the urge (so far, anyway).

  3. Sensh

    My current Hoodoo Gurus driving track is “Place In The Sun.” Great list, woman.

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