Is your summer soundtrack ready?

NPR posed an important query – really, a question for the ages: What’s your go-to driving song, the tune that’s perfect for rolled-down windows and wind-blown hair?

I poured over the comments because, really? I’m always on the lookout for new tunes – or tunes I’d forgotten. Some of bands I’d never heard of just made me feel hopelessly square and unhip (The Japandroids? Who?). Other bands, I thought the commenters must be insane (Pink Floyd? Really? Is it legal to play that music outside of your parents’ basement?).

Perhaps my window for new things is rather narrow.

When I got my first car with a cassette player in the summer of ’96, I made a mix tape within about 2 hours of getting my ride home. That tape has since been lost to time – or my basement. I remember that it had “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley on it. And the live version of “So Lonely” by The Police. Other than that? Hmm.

If required to make a windows-down mix tape now, here’s what I would concoct:

  • Twenty Five Miles – Edwin Starr – because any song with a mileage count is so appropriate, and Edwin kicks ass
  • Baker Street (Edit) – Gerry Rafferty – because it makes me think of riding to the pool in my mom’s ’73 Buick Regal
  • Up Against The Wall, Red Neck (Live In Luckenbach, TX/1973) – Jerry Jeff Walker – because “his wife’s name is Betty Lou Thelma Lynn”
  • Somebody Told Me – The Killers – because if ever there was a song to cause a speeding ticket, this is it
  • Mendocino County Line – Willie Nelson – because Willie probably doesn’t even own a car with air conditioning
  • Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks – because there’s no better sing-along, ever
  • Long Road To Ruin – Foo Fighters – because it’s the Foo, dammit
  • Roll With The Changes – REO Speedwagon – because they play this song at the Indy 500, so surely it’s good enough for my Honda Accord
  • Woodstock – Alice Smith – because being happy and singing while driving is good for everyone
  • Fantasy – Earth, Wind and Fire – because funk
  • Jungleland (Live at Hammersmith Odeon) – Springsteen – because it’s the best saxophone solo ever in the history of ever and it references Exxon and drinking warm beer on the hood of a Dodge
  • Seven Bridges Road – The Eagles – because you sound even better in the car than you do in the shower

It’s a shame that K-tel no longer makes compilations, because I would obviously be their top programmer.

What songs would be on your windows-down mix tape? What am I missing?

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  • Reply Anonymous May 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Great list! As soon as I read the words "Friends in Low Places" the song was cemented in my head for the day.
    I would also have "Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC and "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns-N-Roses. Also something Dolly Parton to go with the Willie Nelson.

  • Reply Laura May 22, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Wow! This is a timely post! In a fit of housecleaning the other day, I got out an old boom box and my husband and I spent HOURS playing our old mix tapes from the early 90s. I immediately downloaded a few oldies-but-goodies from iTunes and now it's like we're living in a time warp. It's funny how some songs really fit a certain era of your life but others remain timeless. We decided that "Losing My Religion" and "In Your Eyes" are songs that we will never tire of. However, that Dave Matthews Band phase was short-lived (thank goodness). I ordered a handy-dandy device from Amazon that will convert our tapes into MP3s. We are disproportionately excited for it to arrive this weekend. Great post – thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Becky May 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Early R.E.M. is still my go to warm weather music. Having already had three good warm weather road trips this season, the sound track has been varied. Willie Nelson, On the Road Again is a good one. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon is excellent at night. My daughter recently queued up License to Ill by the Beastie Boys. I had forgotten how fun that was to drive to while she was quite impressed her old ma knew every last word of that album. For fun we like to throw in some of The Band, John Denver (Take me Home Country Roads) with the occasional Blondie, ABBA and so on. My daughter has gotten quite good at making new playlists on my ipod, today's version of the mix tape.

  • Reply Banjo Unfabulousness May 22, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Footloose. End of story.

  • Reply smalltownme May 22, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I always take Joni Mitchell's Blue when I travel.

  • Reply Average Jane May 23, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I love driving to the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation soundtrack. It's this weird blend of techno and metal. (Incidentally, I have mentioned this on the internet so many times that I wouldn't be surprised if Googling "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation soundtrack" brings up my name at least once.)

  • Reply Cassi Renee May 23, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Too much music –but lately I've been revisiting Melissa Etheridge's Brave and Crazy album. Great songs to sing to in the car 🙂

  • Reply Unknown June 11, 2014 at 12:56 am

    I'm late to this party, but:

    The fact that you chose Baker Street — which is on my list of the worst songs EVER — and left off "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket means that we can no longer be BFFs. OMG, we may not even be Fs anymore. I need to evaluate.

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