Top 25 Rock Driving Songs: Tracks To Rock Your Engine Block

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We recently published a story called Top 10 Driving Songs, but were criticised by some readers because of a lack of proper rock tracks in the list. What actually happened was we were trying to connect to that part of our audience that not only follows rock, but other genres of music as well.

However, we also understand that for many, there's simply no alternative to hitting the road with the essential rock anthems cranked high up on the stereo. That's why we felt it fit that we compile a list of 25 rock must-haves for your car playlist.

So let's let rock talk.

1. The Beatles - Drive My Car

This track was ‘Paul's song', according to co-writer John Lennon, but fact is it may never have seen the light of day, had it not been for Paul McCartney's push for them to get the right lyrics down and not give up on the track. Finally, when "Drive my car" came to them over coffee and a cigarette, there was no looking back.

2. Tom Cochrane - Life Is A Highway

"Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long"! Oh yes. There are very few songs that can uplift a soul in need of motivation quite like this one. In fact, this 1992 hit was inspired by Cochrane's very mentally and physically exhausting first trip to West Africa, and was actually recorded in an hour at seven in the morning! The Canadian singer's ‘pep talk' song not only helped him overcome his tough experience, but millions of fans across the world immediately resonated with the positive lyrics.

3. AC/DC - T.N.T.

If you've just hit the road with your mates from college for a charged weekend in Goa, there's no better song than this explosive track to make you forget your office desk. T.N.T. also works well as a charger-up before a big interview with your dream company. If you haven't heard it yet, download it immediately and check out what being dynamite feels like...

4. Fleetwood Mac - Don’t Stop

While this song may be inspired by singer-songwriter and keyboardist Christine and bassist John McVie's break up, it fits the open road beautifully with its spirited rhythm. Don't Stop was released in 1977, and was also Bill Clinton's theme song for his successful 1992 campaign for U.S. presidency.

5. Eric Clapton - I’ve Got A Rock n’ Roll Heart

Eric Clapton loves "‘57 Chevys and screaming guitars", and we love him for that. After all, us enthusiasts would have admired a ‘57 Chevy at some time in our lives, and that Clapton chose to include the famous American sedan in this song is more than reason enough to give it a good listen. This song, however, never really saw spectacular commercial success when it was released in 1983, with its peak at only No.18 on the US Top 40 charts.

6. ZZ Top - La Grange

One of the most infectious rock songs of the 1970s will add plenty of personality to even the most boring, long, straight section of highway, so make sure you've added to to your playlist. It's actually about one of the most famous brothels in Texas at the time, Aunt Edna's Boarding House or ‘The Chicken Ranch' so it's best if the kids are not privy to the intoxicating single chord variations, or they might end up humming it during detention.

7. Journey - Don’t Stop Believin’

Easily one of the world's favourite classic rock numbers, Don't Stop Believin' also tops the list of the world's favourite driving songs (according to a recent poll), hardly surprising considering the number of times you hear this played on the radio, or the number of our car thumb drives that already have this track. Interestingly, Steve Perry admitted to not being geographically correct with the South Detroit reference in the line - "Just a city, born and raised in South Detroit." Because a Detroit local will tell you there's no South Detroit, instead only East and West.

8. Crowded House - Weather With You

Great song, and with meaning too. Crowded House, a band from New Zealand, wrote Weather With You themed after the notion that one is always responsible for their own environment and ‘making their own weather'. You'll like the guitaring and soulful vocals in this one - it's a good Sunday song in your car.

9. The Who - Baba O’Riley

Tannn-Tan-Tannnn! That iconic riff combined with Pete Show insane keyboarding can instantly get a car load of music lovers very excited indeed, and with good reason. Baba O'Riley is one of the most iconic rock songs ever, and was an intrinsic part of our ‘growing up music'. Incidentally, this song was used in the 2000 Nissan Pathfinder commercial, something that The Who began doing in an effort to cash in on the big bucks, after a lot of bad business during their early years.

10. Pantera - Cemetery Gates

While the song reflects on the sadness of the death of a former lover and joining her in the afterlife, for some there are no alternatives for a hard rock song for your car, your phone, your home, your office, you get the picture... Just drive safe when you listen to this, because lead guitarist Dimebad Darrell will have you following his guitar wizardry very closely, so don't close your eyes and get lost in the moment.

11. Led Zeppelin - Over The Hills And Far Away

Of course, practically everything Led Zeppelin is great for the car, but this song is great for the adventure spirit in you as you head away from the city madness. The lyrics of Over The Hills And Far Away are credited to Robert Plant, and were inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. The song's great build up suits a long drive perfectly, and you will fall in love with it despite it not being one of the band's biggest successes.

12. Def Leppard - Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad

While all of us obviously need to rock out to the harder stuff, there's always time for a dose of some good ol' slow rock, and who better than Def Leppard to satisfy this need. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad is amongst the best of the evergreen band's ballads-you and your boo can hold hands and watch the miles go by, in your automatic transmission car of course...

13. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Road Trippin’

Don't go anywhere without this track in your car, because it really sets the mood right for your road trip, and is perfect company to "go get lost anywhere in India" (in addition to the USA...) with this RHCP classic. So pack two of your favourite allies and their luggage, and drive off into the sunset.

14. Mike + The Mechanics - Over My Shoulder

Sometimes all you need is a long drive to clear your head and start over. You've just broken up with the long-time Missus, and your heart is hurting. Put on this lesser known track by Mike + The Mechanics, and hit the road. This music will lift you and help put your sorrows behind, in a way that only Over My Shoulder can.

15. Pink Floyd - Coming Back To Life

The biryani's gone down nicely with a lassi at your lunch break, and you're ready to make the odometer count for its supper again. None better than some essential Floyd rhythm then, to get you into a suitable driving rhythm and appreciate the greatness of the band on the move. Maybe you can sneak in Money too, because we know it's very hard to listen to only one Pink Floyd song at a time.

16. Deep Purple - Highway Star

Don't want to sustain injury, so had better not leave this Deep Purple anthem out of this list. Highway Star is the perfect ally for a sound system any time you sit in your car, let alone on an outstation jaunt. This rock classic is about a high-powered car and the owner's love for its speed and capability to outrun anything else on the road.

17. Queen - Fat Bottomed Girls

You don't need a girl in apple bottom jeans to enjoy this song in your car, because it's an evergreen song for everyone. It's a great first song to blast in the car to let the neighbours know you're now boss of your own volume, and Freddie Mercury's typically charged vocals and Brian May's explosive riffs will lift even the most mundane grocery round, that's for sure.

18. The Doors - Peace Frog

This is easily one The Doors' best numbers, although it didn't receive much commercial success. Released in 1970 from the Morrison Hotel album, Peace Frog has one of the best riffs in classic rock, with a deliciously catch rhythm. While the lyrics of the song disturbingly hark back to an accident involving an indigenous Indian family that Jim Morrison experienced as a kid, surely it can be about the music too, right?

19. Rolling Stones - Honky Tonk Women

The wives and girlfriends have been left behind, and you've taken off for a weekend with the boys, just like old times. Only then will lyrics like ‘She blew my nose and then she blew my mind' really hit home, right? Indeed, so make sure this classic finds its way into the official music for the trip, because few songs can make a man feel more free...

20. Whitesnake - Here I Go Again

One of the biggest rock anthems of the 1980s ever has to be in every car's playlist, simply because it makes you feel outrageously grand and deeply inspired every time you listen to it. It's actually about the challenges that one faces with heartbreak and the ensuing loneliness, but who cares? Incidentally, the music video features actress Tawny Kitaen dancing seductively atop two Jaguars, and was one of the first ‘tease' videos that typified several videos of the time.

21. Allman Brothers Band - Jessica

Here's another interesting one, the old theme song of Top Gear by the not-so-well-known Allman Brothers Band. No lyrics here, but a brilliant instrumental piece nonetheless that actually won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1995. This is another song that never really received chart success, but has been a favourite on rock radio stations for a long time now.

22. Audioslave - Gasoline

Let's jump forward a few decades now, to Audioslave and the magic voice of Chris Cornell. Few can sing with the power that he possesses, and if it's one of those times that you're frustrated with life and routine, get into the car, step on the gas and crank this up loud. Just keep an eye on that speedometer...

23. U2 - Where The Streets Have No Name

This song is about Ireland and how you can judge the wealth, religion and beliefs of residents, simply by knowing where they live-similar to India? The video was truly special too, an impromptu performance on top of a liquor store in Los Angeles, which won the band a Grammy for Best Performance Music Video in 1989. The song spent an extremely long time in the Joshua Tree album production, but has stood rock's test of time.

24. INXS - Pretty Vegas

This was the first song INXS released after former frontman Mike Hutchence's death, and was actually written by new vocalist JD Fortune while competing on the Rockstar INXS reality television show. But the backing is typical of energetic INXS tracks, and Fortune has an impressive turn on the microphone.

25. Billy Ocean - Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car

All of us love the 80s, at least those of us who've actually used land line telephones and grew up with "please" and "thank you", and this 1988 Billy Ocean release is sure to get feet tapping and smiles aplenty on your next road trip. Incidentally, this track was Ocean's third No.1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.


Not all these tracks are the best known songs of the artists, but we've tried to give you a new playlist for your next trip out of town. So what do you think? Feel something doesn't belong here? Let us know!

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Read more on: #off beat
Story first published: Thursday, June 4, 2015, 11:14 [IST]
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