Top Ten Thursday: Life is a Highway (Best Road Trip Songs)

road trippin'

Wes is on a pretty epic 12-day road trip out to Seattle, then up to Vancouver, and back to Chicago.  Along the way, him and Jackie (his wife for the uninitiated) are stopping at Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and many other beautiful places along the way.  In honor of this trip, and in hopes of his safe return, we put our heads together to come up with the top ten road trip songs to keep Wes and Jackie alert, energized, and most importantly awake on this endeavor.

We tried to limit our choices for this list to songs actually about traveling to some degree.  There are many songs and albums that we more abstractly view as road trip songs, but that would have opened this list up to too many options.  We hope you enjoy these songs of the road, and as always feel free to bring more road trip songs of your preference to our attention.

10. Chuck Berry – “No Particular Place to Go”

To my knowledge, Chuck Berry made the first vague reference to “blue balls” in rock n’ roll history.  “All the way home I held a grudge, for that seat belt that wouldn’t budge”, are a couple lines of truth that will continue to relate to every young man, so long as across-the-board castration is not pursued by the winner of the upcoming election.

9.  Beastie Boys – “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”

Man, the life of the Beastie Boys during their heyday must have been rough.  Drugs, girls, booze and a whole lot of traveling were the name of the game for Brooklyn’s favorite rap trio.  Fortunately, the excess didn’t ruin the creative spirit of the Beasties, and they could finish every substance-fueled trip home with “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”.

8.  The Grateful Dead – “Truckin’ “

grateful dead photograph

Another song of life on the road, with lyrics once again expertly written by the wonderful Robert Hunter.  “Truckin’ ” was just one of many Grateful Dead songs considered, but the pure literacy took it over the edge.  Also, bonus points for Todd, Wes, and me all got to see Phil Lesh & Friends perform this one live at Bonnaroo.

7.  Kraftwerk – “Autobahn”

Kraut-rock is a signature of the road for LxL, and no one does it better than Kraftwerk.  Hit the highway during the dead of night and start hallucinating while listening to “Autobahn”, and you may then have some idea what it is like to be in a real-life version of Tron.

6.  My Morning Jacket – “Golden”

“Watchin’ a stretch of road, miles of light explode” opens MMJ’s prettiest song to date, and perfectly accompanies a long winding drive through the U – S of A.  The hopefulness of Jim James lyrics accompanied by the lilting guitar throughout makes “Golden” the perfect highway companion.

5.  Iggy Pop – “The Passenger”

Iggy Pop probably doesn’t get enough attention on LxL, but on “The Passenger” he channels his inner Jim Morrison, and gives us a road trip with a more foreboding tone than the other entries on this list.  You can just picture the music video.  Iggy cruising along in some American muscle car, no shirt, and cigarette hanging out his mouth as he sings “The Passenger” to no one in particular.

4.  The Band – “Endless Highway”

“Endless Highway” is just one of many of The Band’s endless string of timeless road songs.  The Band is proof in point that a little organ and a simple guitar riff can go a long way when executed correctly.  No need to muddle things up with much more than that when cruising along.

3.  The Allman Brothers Band – “Ramblin’ Man”

I don’t know that there is any particular back story to this song, but I like to think it was Dickey Betts and company’s tribute to Duane Allman.  Allman was a man too cool to comfortably walk the earth, so now he is just ramblin’ along wherever he may go, through the cosmos and galaxies.

2.  Led Zeppelin – “Going to California”

For my money, the most beautiful song to make its way out of the 70’s, “Going to California” is the pinnacle of Led Zeppelin’s lighter fare.  Broken heart, bad run of luck, dog died?  “F*** It”, make your way out to California where “there’s a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.”

1.  Bruce Springsteen – “Born to Run”

Too much triangle?  “No such thing!” says The Boss on “Born to Run”.  So, obviously I think Bruce Springsteen is a bit of a douche based on that first sentiment, but man did he know how to write a compelling rock song for the masses.  In particular, those more restless of Boss fans were sated with his road trip classic, “Born to Run”.

Just Missed

Wes:  Talking Heads – “The Big Country”

With Wilco’s special brand of “dad-rock”, I’m surprised Wes didn’t select a Wilco track as an homage to the serenade he receives on the road while traveling to a model airplane expo.  Instead, Wes paid respect to “The Big Country” while, in fact, making the way across the country and back with his lovely wife.

Todd:  Golden Earring – “Radar Love”

Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” is a classic one-hit-wonder track that just missed the list.  The photo above was selected by Todd because he loves it when every member of a band is staring straight into his soul.  I won’t pretend to know anything more about Golden Earring, but am glad they exist for just this song.  Watch the video below for more info.

Austin:  The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”

I, on the other hand, prefer my band members being identical twins, and staring straight into each others’ souls.  The Proclaimers are another one-hit-wonder that tell a lovelorn story of traveling the road, in much the same upbeat manner as Todd’s “just missed” selection.

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5 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: Life is a Highway (Best Road Trip Songs)”

  1. “Roadrunner” – Jonathan Richmann. “Road to Nowhere” – Talking Heads. ‘Pink Cadillac” – Bruce Springsteen. “Route 66” – Chuck Berry. “Cars and Girls” – Prefab Sprout. “Driving in my Car” – Madness. “A13” – Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart. And many, many more!

  2. When I started reading this post, the first song that came to mind was “Ramblin’ Man”, and there it was at no. 3.

    You wouldn’t want to put in Chris Rea’s ‘Road To Hell’, would ya?

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