Valentine and VerminBravo to those that waded into the Neil Young debate with my blog from last week. I’m still getting hate mail so clearly it hit a nerve. When Neil solves the energy crisis, world peace and how to tune a guitar, let me know. I’ll retract the entire piece. Now on to something a little more frivolous…

This week Forbes magazine released their straw poll of the Top 20 best driving songs. The list is here. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2014/01/14/journey-places-two-hits-among-best-driving-songs-list-really/

DrivingReally? “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey makes people want to gank the accelerator?  I get that it makes people want to crank up the car stereo and sing along…but as a motivation for driving?  Well, maybe if you’re judging the beats per minute. The tune clocks in at 120 BPMs – the same as Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. And yet, Journey’s track doesn’t seem as “fast”. I blame it on the 4/4 beat versus Jackson’s eclectic back beat rhythm courtesy of Quincy Jones.

VanillaThere’s nothing wrong with the list per se. Whatever floats your boat (and makes you a danger on the road) seems to differ depending on who you ask. But the list reads like any vanilla day on any FM radio station in North America.  The list is, well, Grandma safe.

Many years ago a long forgotten university studied the tempo and beats for every Top40 hit going as far back as Billboard magazine had hits. The majority of every song that you and I have ever loved clocks in around 120-122 Beats Per Minute. That jives with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and our generation’s dance floor hits (today’s dance floor hits clock in much slower). So maybe the safe driving tunes are those that mimic our love of pop music and dancing.

Born To RunThe only real ‘mover’ tracks on the list that would set a pulse, and therefore a vehicle, racing are AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” [128 BPM], Journey’s other track (“Anyway You Want It”) [138 BPMs], Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream” [168 BPMs] and Springsteen’s “Born To Run” [150 BPMs]. I’d even give points to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” just for the horn triplets [126 BPMs] and the last third of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” when the band kicks in [144 BPMs].

In contrast, I thought I’d share my Top20 driving songs and was curious to see how much rump busting they entail. Or is it just pure adrenalin. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a guy thing (how about it ladies?).

Alarm20) The Alarm’s “Rain In The Summer Time” is always a favourite to sing aloud on a long drive. But it doesn’t pump. However, the band has two tracks off the ‘Change’ album that, beat for beat, could be played back to back in a power medley while hitting the road: “Sold Me Down The River” and “Devolution Working Man Blues”.

19) Jude Cole worked initially as guitarist for Moon Martin and then made a name for himself as a pop songwriter  eventually releasing some critically acclaimed solo albums along with a co-writing venture with Canada’s very own The Jitters. However, it was his single with another Canadian, Sass Jordan, that caught my ears…and my lead foot. As the man says: “Start The Car”. [note: Sass does not appear in the video]. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2KPsBKvi8I

Sass18) Speaking of Sass Jordan…she’s one of my favourite female artists. After a particularly rocky relationship with Arc Angels’ Doyle Bramhall II she recorded one of her most autobiographical albums – ‘Rats’. The lead single and foot stomper from it was “High Road Easy”.

17) And speaking of Doyle Bramhall II (most recently dating actress Renee Zellweger), his old band Arc Angels – featuring former members of Double Trouble and Charlie Sexton – had a flash and burn moment with their self-titled debut album back in the early 1990’s. “Too Many Ways To Fall” has a gritty, sleazy bump and grind that begs to be listened to while driving through the Texas oil fields in a 1969 Impala. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4wnHLtwR8o

Colin James16) Canada also has its own wonder bluesmen from Jeff Healey to Morgan Davis to Powder Blues frontman/guitarist Tom Lavin. But the genius I always turn to is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s favourite touring buddy Colin James (Vaughn gave him his name). His debut album in the late 1980s was straight-up blues pop record. But his follow-up album, ‘Sudden Stop’, with legendary ZZTop producer Joe Hardy yielded this piece of sonic drive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NetqMq8e31k

15) The White Stripes? The Black Keys? Fuck that. Minimalist rock doesn’t come much more raw than T Rex. Bolan’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” was a glimpse into the wunderkind. “20th Century Boy” was Bolan marking his territory and announcing to the 1970s that he’d arrived. And you can push not only a drum pedal, but a gas pedal on this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylww2dOW7fg

Chalk Circle14) Newcastle, Ontario break-outs Chalk Circle had a weird novelty radio hit with a studio outtake of T Rex’s “20th Century Boy” – which truly kicked ass. But it was the first single off their ‘Mending Wall’ album that left an indelible mark. “This Mourning” was a vague musical nod to Ireland’s U2, but the snare drum and funk bass is so incessant you can’t help but speed up to match it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XJGNNgRiuM

13) And yes, U2 can truly rock when they want to. It only took about 20 year for them to get their rock on. A new road test track came on the heels of the tune “Vertigo”. Hate Bono all you want, but sometimes the Mouthpiece & Co. can really get their engine running. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98W9QuMq-2k

KISS12) And on the subject of mouthpieces…there’s no one more consistently annoying in Rock ‘n’ Roll than KISS’ Gene Simmons. He’s got a smooth and slimy line for everything. Occasionally he can string a few of those together to weave a hook-laden, misogynist grindfest. And he drives a great fucking car in the “Domino” video.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiSB7G732Eg

11) Without Alice Cooper there would be no KISS. He is the original dark master. He is the progenitor of Rock and Roll Horror Theater (Arthur Brown and Lord Sutch not withstanding). Still, he managed to write some pretty catchy glam rock during an era when the rules had yet been written. “School’s Out” still smokes. It’s still anthemic…and he still can’t think of a word that rhymes.

montrose10) Before Sammy Hagar could drive 55 (why the hell wasn’t that song on the Forbes Top20? It’s got drive in the title!!). Before he was a member of Van Hagar, he was the lead singer for Montrose. With the exception of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”, “Bad Motor Scooter” might be one of the first truly dedicated motorcycle driving songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8T_PQoTC30

9) Of course, others have since taken up the motorcycle theme – including the (now) late lamented Motley Crüe. Their comeback album in the 1990s, ‘Dr. Feelgood’, featured the ass kicking “Kickstart My Heart” utilizing an identical intro to Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter”.  A smokin’ tune…even with Vince Neil’s vocals.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4aob4zlhIk

Sabbath8) Metal has a large share of heart pounding and gas pedal-pushing tracks. Black Sabbath’s rebirth with Ronnie James Dio provided a new sound for Sabbath as they added rock to their metal. The tune ‘Mob Rules’ (initially from the ‘Heavy Metal’ movie soundtrack) gave Dio the profile he needed. And a great driving song for metalheads everywhere. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cATPLk559XY

7) Before Sabbath was another British act that tread the line between prog and metal – long before anyone knew what metal was. Deep Purple mixed loud rock with riff rock with melodicism. “Highway Star” from the album ‘Machine Head’ stands as their finest example of virtuoso indulgence. And it’s got the word highway right in the chorus!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41qfIecwXFg

Fastball6) Pop has the occasional pumping song. Texas power pop act Fastball broke wide open with their hit “The Way” and followed that with the 2nd hit “Fire Escape”. But it was the third single from the album ‘All the Pain That Money Can Buy’ that grabbed my tapping foot. “Good Old Days” is boppy, hooky and a lot of fun to blast out the car windows on a summer day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7DBd0Bv8D4

5) Before Billy Idol became a total MTV caricature of himself he was in a great under appreciated punk band called Generation X. It was on the rarely heard third album, ‘Kiss Me Deadly’, where Idol picked up some friends from the dearly departed Sex Pistols (Steve Jones and Paul Cook) and came up with a song that would be remixed and propel his solo career shortly after. As over-played and ridiculously narcissistic a song could ever be, “Dancing With Myself” had a bit more organic edge performed by the still-snarling GenX. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_sJ6-4C_Ws

INXS4) Aside from AC/DC Australia has managed a few other global sensations. INXS finally found their audience in the 1980s. Rarely heard is their collaborations with fellow Oz-mate Jimmy Barnes. Their track “Good Times” seemed buried on the ‘Lost Boys’ movie soundtrack. But it stands up as one of the best tunes by both artists. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqdNcAjj9p4

3) The last thing anyone thinks of in terms of hard driving tunes is New Wave. But for a brief moment Liverpool’s Frankie Goes To Hollywood managed to drive the beat – on both dance floors and in car stereos. “Relax” was the massive hit, but MTV gave “Two Tribes” a political home on the heels of the Cold War’s last gasp. Trevor Horn’s prog production techniques makes this a locomotive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXWVpcypf0w

Kim Mitchell2) Kim Mitchell is now known to a current generation as the drive-time guy on Toronto radio station Q107. He was also the frontman for prog-rock act Max Webster in the 1970s. But after the band’s implosion he ventured into a solo career putting out some great party rock records. One of his best was “Go For Soda” (adopted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving) but Mitchell’s audience are hard drinker and hard partiers. He wrote an anthem called “Lager & Ale” for them too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZPDPcE6yas

1) How can there be a list of driving songs without Golden Earring’s “Radar Love”? No explanation need. It belongs at the #1 spot on ALL lists. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf53Pg2AkdY

You can conduct your own study too by finding the beats per minute of your favourite songs here:  http://www.bpmdatabase.com

Please post your list in the comments section. I promise to stay off the road if you’re driving near me. J

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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