Play That Funky Music, Car Boy


Lately I’ve been thinking about great driving music. While the music made by the vehicle should not be trivialized, sometimes you want someone else’s sounds to accompany your travels.

A great tune will immediately make my right foot very heavy and largely impossible to control. “L.A. Woman” by the Doors comes to mind, especially when running at triple-digits in an M3-powered 1991 BMW 318i on the 405 freeway heading south out of Los Angeles late at night. The Pixies “Wave Of Mutilation” and “Letter To Memphis” don’t hurt either.

“La Grange” by ZZ Top and “Synchronicity 2” by the Police require the use of cruise control for constraint, as does Pink Floyd’s “Learning To Fly.” Ditto the KLF’s “Last Train To Trancentral.” Whether it’s a high-speed highway burn to dinner or a Sunday stomp on some twisting farm roads, if the music is playing you really only need the electronic rev limiter to know when to hit the next gear.

Smoother songs, like “Woke Up This Morning” by the Alabama 3, Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together,” or “Scooby Snacks” by the Fun Loving Criminals are better for driving around a city on Saturday night. Mellow, soulful, full of message and imagery. Feeling badass yet? How about “Queerest Of The Queer” from Garbage?

In addition to searching for some blank CDs for a new mix disc, this got me thinking about great driving music in movies and examining some of the brilliance a director can display in mixing the right car with the right tune. I think this crashed Amtrak train of thought stemmed from writing the McBurnie Ferrari How Hard Can It Be? where I referenced Crockett and Tubbs rolling Miami and Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” is playing.

I started thinking about other scenes committed to celluloid which make you want to be in that car, experiencing that drive in person. Or scenes forcing you forever to want the featured car. Scenes that make you smile and warm in the cockle of your car heart. Here are my Top 5.

Dukes Of Hazzard Movie (2005)

The Duke boys escape from the custody of the Man with Daisy’s help which leads to a chase scene through downtown Atlanta, Georgia. As they are pulling away from the stunned cops, the aforementioned “La Grange” cues up but sadly transitions to AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood, You Got It.” Normally I wouldn’t use the word ‘sadly’ when talking about AC/DC, but “La Grange” is so perfect in this sequence.

The stunt driving in the General Lee is done by noted rallyist and driftmaster Rhys Millen. The drifting around the traffic circle is art, plain and simple. This scene was actually shot around Lee Circle in New Orleans, Louisiana, and features a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee looking down on the Charger as it goes around.

Special mention goes to the introduction of the reborn General Lee at Cooter’s garage using Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Three words: Christie. Brinkley. Ferrari. While Clark Griswold and family are motoring down the freeway ostensibly toward Wally World, ‘Ferrari Girl’ rolls up in a 308 GTSi as “Little Boy Sweet” by June Pointer plays. Somehow this bit of 1980s pop tripe sounds so much better when remixed with some Ferrari engine howl. I have wanted a Magnum PI-era Ferrari ever since.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris and Cameron need a car to pick up Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane, played by the fabulously delicious Mia Sara. Of course, they cannot pick her up in Cameron’s “piece of shit” (which is an Alfa Romeo Alfetta sedan and decidedly not a POS). They decide to borrow Cameron’s dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider, which was actually a replica built by Modena Design & Development.

No matter the car’s origin, because the only cooler way to drive around Chicago would be in a former Mt. Prospect police car, which we’ll get to in a moment. What makes driving around Chicago in your Cal Spider even better is “Beat City” by The Flowerpot Men.

Special mention goes to using the “Star Wars” theme during the shot where the two parking garage attendants are giving the Ferrari a flying lesson.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

A 1974 Dodge Monaco driving through a shopping mall. A Dodge outrunning, and causing the destruction of, every Illinois state police car with a 170-kilometre radius. The same car shattering into a pile of sheetmetal, plastic, and a poof of smoke after driving through the Richard J. Daley Plaza. Throughout the movie there was epic music by just about every famous blues musician you can think of from Cab Calloway to Ray Charles to John Lee Hooker.

While it could be argued the entire movie was about the car, one thread stands out. Elwood picks up Jake from Joliet prison as “She Caught The Katy” begins. The song continues not only as they are chitchatting and catching up, but also after the Dodge jumps the East 95th Street drawbridge. Be patient; the only clip of this we could find was out of Russia!

Repo Man (1984)

Emilio Estevez’s shining moment. As a disaffected youth starring with Harry Dean Stanton, the plight of the automobile repossessor is backdropped with music from such punk luminaries as Iggy Pop, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and this gem from The Plugz, “Reel Ten.” The movie closes with the alien-inhabited glowing 1964 Chevy Malibu taking flight with Otto (Estevez) and Miller (Tracey Walter) aboard while The Plugz play their romantic electronic ballad. Sadly no clip of this intense moment exists anywhere, but at least you can listen to the tune.

Do you have a favorite car/movie/music scene that either makes you want to drive like a maniac and/or shed a tear in joy? Share it with us. We’re always looking for that next great hit.