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Top Twelve Songs Featuring Cars
Famous Car Tracks
In music alongside love and rejection, one of the greatest topics up for lyrical discussions are cars. They are mentioned as vehicles to freedom, likened to both men and women, as well as forming the cause of heartbreak and tragedy. There are many references to travelling particular roads, route 66, highway to hell (M25) and the famous Beetles reference to Penny Lane. However, which are the most popular referred to cars in rock and pop music.
These may not be your personal favourite and there are a number of other lesser know artists and songs that have recorded car songs but these are the most well known cars mentioned in songs. Just click the titles to hear the tunes.
The Countdown Begins
12) “Pull Up to the Bumper” – Grace Jones 1981 - Limousine
Written by Jones and Sly Dumbar from the Nightclubbing album. This is one of those wonderfully undisguised sexual lyrics; she makes it quite obvious what she is on about in the line “pull up to my bumper baby, in your long black Limousine.”
While Limousine is not strictly a marque but a style of long saloon made since 1902 and the chosen form transport popularised by Hollywood stars.
11) “Red Barchetta” – Rush 1981 - Ferrari Barchetta
Released by Canadian progressive rock band, Rush in 1981 on the Moving Pictures album, the song talks of a time when classic cars have been banned by the “Motor Laws” and he visits his uncle to drive his secret red Barchetta. How close is that time from being a reality.
The Ferrari V-12 Barchetta (pronounced bar-KET-ta) meaning little boat, was a roadster that was first produced by the Italian manufacturer in 1947 and was the first Ferrari to win the Le Mans 24-hour race. Fiat later went on to produce a road version of the Barchetta between 1995 and 2005 but this is obviously to late for the one mentioned in the songs, 1981 lyrics.
In at Number Ten
10)“We Didn’t Start
The Fire”– Billy Joel 1989 -
Billy Joel recounts forty years of history between 1949 and 1989 in his song, among numerous well known events he mentions “Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television, North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Munroe.” And than later “Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, space monkey, Mafia, hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no go.”
Studebaker were an Indiana based company that started out building wagons and went into manufacturing automobiles in 1897, by the mid 50’s the company had hit hard times and finally announced their intention to close in 1959.
Edsel was a Ford produced car named after the founder’s son, Edsel B Ford. It first rolled off the production line in 1958 but never caught on with the public and was finally withdrawn two years later in 1960.
9)“Rapture”– Blondie 1981 - Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercury
New wave group Blondie with the distinct looking lead singer Debbie Harry released Rapture in 1981 and are credited with being the first major pop song to include rap lyrics. The song describes how a man from Mars comes down and consumes, quite literally popular culture, bars, guitars and cars. “You go out at night eating cars, you eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too, Mercuries and Subarus.”
Cadillac – One of the oldest brands in the
world, entered production in 1902. Named after the French founder of Detroit.
Lincoln – Founded in 1917 but acquired by Ford in 1922, famously provide official state cars for US Presidents since 1939.
Mercury – A Ford marque that was started in 1939 by Edsel Ford as an entry vehicle into the luxury car market but will be gradually phased out from 2020 onwards.
Subaru – Japanese aircraft manufacture that after the Second World War went into building cars, the first Subaru came off the production line in 1954 and still a popular marque today. Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star system.
An Old Classic at Number Eight
8)“Mercedes Benz”– Janice Joplin 1970 - Mercedes Benz, Porsche
An a cappella prayer was the last song that Janice Joplin ever recorded, just four days before she died on 4th October 1970. Completed in one take the song is meant to be a commentary on America’s obsession with material possessions and includes the lyric “Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.”
Mercedes Benz – German manufacturer has its origins in 1886 with Karl Benz patenting the first petrol engine. Along with Gottlieb Daimler they formed the company that started producing cars in 1926 and is recognised as the oldest automobile brand still in existence.
Porsche – Founded by Ferdinand Porsche in Stuttgard in 1931, who was the designer that created the first Volkswagen Beetle. The sleek, curvaceousness of the Porsche can be seen in the lines of the Beetle, which were produced by the same designer, Ervin Komenda.
7)“Lust For Life”– Iggy Pop 1977 - Pontiac GTO
A combination of work between Iggy Pop and David Bowie that received a second trip around the block when it was used in the 1996 cult film “Trainspotting.” The Morse code intro used on American Forces Network News in Berlin, where the track was recorded is said to have inspired Bowie’s pounding rhythm. The song includes the lyric “Drive a GTO, wear a uniform, all on a government loan.”
The Pontiac GTO was built between 1964 and 1974, a classic American “muscle car” often found in popular culture films and is mentioned by a number of musicians, Jan & Dean, Rory Gallagher, Ronnie & the Daytones. It also appears in Vin Diesels “XXX” movie and one is driven by Mathew McConehy in Dazed and confused.
Beach Boys at Number Six
6)“Fun, Fun, Fun”– Beach Boys 1964 - Thunder Bird
There are a whole host of Beach Boys songs you could include “Little Douce Coupe”, “Little Honda” or “Custom Machine” but one tune is pure west coast surf time. When you have “fun, fun, fun, ‘till her daddy takes the T-Bird away.” Shirley England the daughter of radio station KNAK owner inspired the song when she took her fathers Ford Thunderbird to a burger stand instead of going to the library. The Beach Boys overheard the argument while appearing at the station and the song was the result.
Ford Thunderbird aka T-Bird was first produced in 1955 until 2005, typical big American car of the 50’s and 60’s. The early models were stylised by massive bonnets, long wheelbase and short roofs. A regular walk on part in any movie or TV show is guaranteed for this car.
5)“American Pie”– Don McLean 1970 – Chevrolet, Chevy
Don McLean’s classic tribute to the news that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper had been killed when the airplane they were travelling on went down. In the song he says “drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.” McLean has always maintained his silence about the exact meaning of any of the lyrics, only acknowledging that he heard the news whilst on his paper round.
Racecar driver Louis Chevrolet and GM founder William Durant started Chevrolet in 1910. The famous bowtie logo, Durant spotted in the wallpaper of a Parisian hotel he stayed in, in 1913. By the 1960’s one in ten cars sold in the US was a Chevy and the basic Chevrolet V8 first produced in 1955 is the longest ever run of a car and is still in production today but has been much modified over time.
Cruising Tune at Number Four
4) “Love Shack” – B52’s 1989 – Chrysler
From the album Cosmic thing, the song talks of a road trip in a “Chrysler as big as a whale and its about to set sail,” down the Atlanta highway to the Love shack. The song performed well in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and is now a firm favourite in karaoke bars the world over.
Detroit based Chrysler had their first car roll off the production lines in 1925, although now they are part of the Italian Fiat group. An innovative company that was first to produce hydraulic brakes and the safety wheel that prevented tyres from shredding when punctured.
3) “Pink Cadillac” – Bruce Springstein 1984 – Cadillac, Honda,
Another song that uses the car as a sexual metaphor, in which Springstein suggests that “Eve tempted Adam with an apple, but man I ain’t going for that. I know it was her Pink Cadillac.” First sung live on the “Born in the USA” tour ’84-85 and although it didn’t make the final cut on the album list was released as a B-side to “Dancing in the Dark.”
Cadillac design after the Second World War was famous for its Lockheed Lightning jet inspired tailfins and the big front grille and iconic bumpers, known as Dagmar bumpers after the busty blonde 50’s TV personality Dagmar Lewis.
Wilson Pickett At the Top Slot
2)“Little Red Corvertte”– Prince - Corvette 1982, Limousine
As subtle as a brick to the head, Princes lyrics from the album 1999 are pure Saturday night making out, one-night stands and having fun with your “little red corvette.” It balances perfectly the motor inspired words with sexual innuendo but leaves nothing beyond doubt as to his intentions. He also mentions the limo with the line “I say the ride is so smooth, you must be a limousine.”
Chevrolet Corvette was first designed in 1953 as a small, fast, manoeuvrable vehicle and marketed it as “America’s Sports Car.” Every likely it’s got the bad girl reputation is has. Originally the Corvette was a small lightly armed but fast and deadly warship from the 1650’s onwards.
1)“Mustang Sally”– Wilson Pickett 1967 - Mustang
Mack Rice first released the ultimate track in, car cruising, girl euphemisms in 1965 but the best-known version is that of Wilson Pickett’s in 1967. The original song was going to be called “Mustang Mama” but at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin it became “Mustang Sally.”
Ford’s Mustang was the first of the Pony class, small, fast sports cars with long bonnets and sweeping lines. They wanted to create a car that would appeal to women and have a European feel, capable of competing with Ferrari and Maserati. Mustang’s were first shown in 1964 and appeared on the road the following year. Still in production and still winning awards, as recently as 2006 was on the Car ^ Driver top ten list.
I know there will be cries of derision saying why wasn’t Madness, “I like Driving in my Car” (Jaguar), Squeeze “Slap and Tickle” (Ford Zephyr” or the Dead Milkmen “Bitchin Camero” there but I had to end at some point and these are ones I hope most people have heard. If not there is a link so you can familiarise yourself.