Whenever I get in my car, I always feel the need to crank the stereo with classic rock. There's a freedom associated with driving, and that freedom goes hand in hand with classic rock if you ask me. Many with me feel that music sounds better in the confined space of a car, where you can get completely surrounded by nothing but heavy guitars and great vocals. Today I am listing ten of my favorite songs to listen to while going out on a little road trip. It was tough to pick just ten songs, especially leaving off classics like Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” and Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen,” but I tried to make the list as diverse as possible. Maybe it’ll turn you on to some music you hadn’t thought of putting on that car stereo of yours before.
AC/DC - “Highway to Hell”
You could basically pop any AC/DC album in to your car stereo and you’d be good to go, but if you can only choose one song, it has to be “Highway to Hell.” It’s perfect in every way; the pounding rhythm, Angus Young’s guitar work, and simply the title itself.
Check out this live video of “Highway to Hell” with Angus and his trusty Gibson SG taking center stage:
Sammy Hagar - “I Can’t Drive 55”
Red Rocker and Gibson Les Paul player Sammy Hagar wrote the ultimate driving anthem for his VOA album in 1984. There is no doubt what the song is about. Hagar, who is a car enthusiast, has compared the Gibson Les Paul to a muscle car, as we pointed out in a recent feature on the musician. Since the song was written, Hagar has been forced to update the song to “I Can’t Drive 65” when he plays it live. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.
Ted Nugent - “Stranglehold”
Ted Nugent’s 8 minute blues rock feast “Stranglehold,” with it’s pumping bass rhythm is just perfect for driving. Talking to Guitar World, who put the song at number 31 on their 50 Greatest Guitar Solos list, Nugent said about the song’s recording: “We were in the Sound Pit in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was showing my rhythm section of Cliff Davies [drums] and Rob DeLaGrange [bass] the right groove for the song. [...] Then I started playing lead work, just kind of filling in and though I had never played those licks before in my life, they all just came to me. And because I got so inspired and because they followed me so perfectly, that demo is exactly what you hear on the record today.”
Def Leppard - “Pour Some Sugar On Me”
Rick Allen’s electric drum sound sets the tone for one of Def Leppard’s biggest hits. The bombastic production by Mutt Lange make “Pour Some Sugar On Me” as well as the rest of the Hysteria album particularly well suited for a car stereo system.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - “Free Bird”
Lynyrd Skynyrd music is great on road trips, and “Free Bird” especially so. Just cruising in the countryside to the sweet sounds of Gibson Les Paul player Gary Rossington’s classic lick bring on a certain feeling of freedom that is hard to find.
Nickelback - “Follow You Home”
Say what you will about Nickelback, but Chad Kroeger has a talent when it comes to writing catchy rock songs. But what might pass the casual listener by is the fact that aside from the obligatory radio hits, each Nickelback album has had its fair share of heavy rock songs. Case in point - “Follow You Home,” the opening track from their 2005 album All The Right Reasons. From Daniel Adair’s super-heavy double-bass drum intro to the riffing by guitarist Ryan Peake, “Follow You Home” completely engulfs you in the space of your car, providing the perfect soundtrack for cruising down an empty highway.
Jimi Hendrix - “All Along The Watchtower”
When Jimi Hendrix covered Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” on his Electric Ladyland album he basically transformed the somber acoustic number in to a whole new song. Hendrix’ blistering riffs and solos sound as fresh today as they did back in 1968, and cranked over the car stereo, the song really comes to life.
Elton John - “Tiny Dancer”
Elton John’s piano classic “Tiny Dancer” got a resurrection thanks to Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.” The scene with fictional band Stillwater and their “bandaids” singing the song in their tour bus on a hungover drive between gigs in middle america somehow transform this delicate ballad in to a song of hope for the future. The perfect singalong for a road trip with your friends.
Bruce Springsteen - “Racing in the Street”
When it comes to Bruce Springsteen, there are several songs by The Boss that are great for road trips. How about “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland” for example? But there’s no denying the power of Springsteen’s street racing anthem “Racing in the Street.” It’s a low-key affair that is best suited for a late night drive as you contemplate the events of the day.
U2 - “Where The Streets Have No Name”
Imagine driving along a desolate road in the desert somewhere outside of Vegas, as you hear The Edge’s classic 6/8 time signature guitar intro come over the sound system. There’s just the road in front of you and Joshua Trees on both sides of the road. Now you’re really driving where the streets have no name.