You’ve tuned it up. Washed and waxed it. You’re almost ready to head to the car show, but you really can’t get started until you put some car songs on the radio. Whether you play them from your phone, or go old school with a cassette, you just can’t hot rod without some good car songs.
Garage Hot Rods is here to help. If you’re getting tired of your playlist, or if – heaven forbid – you don’t have a car songs playlist (is that even possible??) look no further.
My car songs playlist is shown below. It has gone mostly unchanged since my son and I would pop in the cassette as were heading out to the dragstrip in the mid-90s.
The routine was this: we’d drive down to the corner gas station and each buy a 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. (Perhaps not the best breakfast for a seven year old, but hey… he survived.) We’d start playing the car songs cassette, and head out to whatever race track we were going to that weekend. The car songs would be followed immediately by the first Boston album, in its entirety. And everything was played at a very loud volume. Don’t tell my wife.
My playlist has – no surprise here – several Beach Boys songs, along with other 60s classics, and, of course, a couple from The Boss.
If you’d like to hear the songs while you read about them, click here to go to the GHR YouTube Car Songs playlist. It has all of the songs listed below.
“Little Deuce Coupe” (The Beach Boys)
Of course this is first on the list.
It is THE classic 1960s car song by THE classic 1960s pop / car / beach band.
Fastest set of wheels in town. Flathead mill. She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored. Four on the floor. Get rubber in all four gears. BEST. LYRICS. EVER.
Don’t even come at me with any other song list if it doesn’t include Little Deuce Coupe.
Don’t even try.
“Little Old Lady from Pasadena” (Jan & Dean)
A song about an elderly woman who likes tends to her flower bed, but “locked in a rickety old garage is a brand new shiny red Super Stock Dodge.”
This hot rodding grandmother is a terror – at least on Colorado Boulevard. There’s nobody meaner. Whatever you do, don’t try to choose her. The song goes on to detail how she’ll kick your ass in a street race.
Go Granny, go Granny, go Granny, go.
(The video on the YouTube playlist says it is the Beach Boys in the title of the video, but it is the Jan and Dean recording. The Beach Boys did work with Jan and Dean frequently, and did perform “Little Old Lady” live occasionally.)
“Fun, Fun, Fun” (The Beach Boys)
An unnamed young woman is using her Daddy’s T-bird for illicit purposes – cruising hamburger stands with the radio blasting.
Girls can’t stand her. Guys try to catch her, but can’t. Even Indy 500 racers don’t like her apparently.
Sounds like fun to me.
“Dead Man’s Curve” (Jan & Dean)
I don’t even like this song. (Sorry Jan. Sorry Dean.) The only reason it’s on my playlist is the dramatic soliloquy in the middle.
It starts with the tire skid sounds at the 1:25 mark, builds with the harp flourish at 1:33, and then, there it is: “Well, the last thing I remember Doc…” Add some dramatic single-strum guitar chords, and wrap it all up with “I guess I found out for myself that everyone was right.”
“409” and “Shut Down” (The Beach Boys)
I’ve got my last two Beach Boys songs and the last 1960s songs back–to-back.
“409” is about the legendary Chevy engine that was first featured in the 1961 Impala. Does anyone not recognize the song’s opening line? “She’s real fine, my 409.”
It took saving pennies and saving dimes, but a brand new 409 was acquired and started to giddy-up right away. Nothing can catch her.
“Shut Down” features two cool sharks, a fuel injected Stingray and a Dodge 413. The 413 had the dual quad, cross ram manifold induction set up.
The song has some serious street racing imagery. Declining numbers for the start, power shifts, pressure plates burning.
The Dodge really digs in and gets the jump at the start, but… Well, I won’t spoil the ending for you.
“Hot Rod Lincoln” (Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen)
This might be the most fun song on the list for me. If I haven’t already gone up to maximum volume, I certainly do as soon as I hear: “My pappy said, ‘Son, you’re gonna’ drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln.’”
There’s been at least eight recordings of this song, going back to 1955, but Commander Cody’s version is by far the most successful, having gotten to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971.
“455 Rocket” (Kathy Mattea)
There are some fantastic lyrics in this song.
It’d make my list just for the way Kathy says “Well whose junk pile piece of shhhhhhChevelle is this?” The Oldsmobile 455 cubic inch engine is described as the “biggest block alive” and the “kind the po-lice drive”.
It’s possible Kathy drove her 455 all the way to Jan & Dean’s Dead Man’s Curve, because she ended up totaling the Oldsmobile into a guardrail. That leads to perhaps my favorite line, “As we skid, I thought I heard the angels sing. Sounded like the Beach Boys.”
“Pink Cadillac” (Bruce Springsteen)
I’m a big Springsteen fan, and you’ve got to give the man credit, he uses a lot of car and racing references in many of his songs.
According to Bruce, man’s love of cars goes all the way back to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Turns out Eve didn’t use an apple. She really tempted Adam with a Pink Cadillac. And the song goes on to trash Hondas and Subarus, and what’s not to like about that.
Cruising down the street and peeling out of site. Or we can park it out in back and have a party in your Pink Cadillac.
“Racing in the Street” (Bruce Springsteen)
Argue with me if you want, but I think “Racing in the Street” is the best post-1960s car song. And I say that understanding we have to forgive Bruce for saying he put fuelie heads on a 396. Hey, give the guy a break. Maybe it was a bored and stroked 350.
I prefer the version from the Live 1975-85 album because the E Street Band absolutely kills it with the closing instrumental on that recording.
That’s my list. What’s yours?
Let me know, but I’ll have to check yours out later. Right now I have to go for a drive.
All photos were taken from Internet searches. If one of them is yours
and you don’t want me to use it, just let me know. I’ll be happy to remove it.