Sunday, April 12, 2009

Executive Drive Time

I used to do a radio programme on GLR. We called one of the regular features Executive Drive Time. Trevor Dann came up with that. The idea was to play driving records for people returning from their places in the country. This morning I've been trying to think of the records that were staples for that slot. These are some of them. There's a Spotify playlist here if you want to hear them.
1. Bob Seger: Roll Me Away.
When music critics use that horrible cliché "wide screen", this is what they're trying to describe. A few years ago I heard Alan Bleasdale on "Desert Island Discs". He picked this record. Said he'd heard it once on the radio while driving into London. I like to think that was me.
2. Freddie King: Going Down.
Texas bluesman King made a few records for Shelter in the early 70s. They were produced by Don Nix and Leon Russell and they're the last great blues albums. Nobody made anything in that idiom that sounded half as good again. There's a very good American comedy series at the moment called "Westbound and Down", which is all about a dumb redneck ball player. This is the theme. Perfect.
3. ZZ Top: Jesus Just Left Chicago.
Always makes me think of the adjective "thixotropic". Don't know why but dear God, what a rhythm section.
4. Ray Charles: Mess Around.
Danny Baker says this is the only record that never lets you down. I'm with him. Nothing illustrates the ecumenical nature of pop music better than this. It's all about a catfish barbecue and yet it was written by the son of the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. This record's out of the house and hot wiring the car while you're still looking for your keys.
5. Richard Thompson: Keep Your Distance.
The great thing about Richard Thompson is that he can sing the worthiest sentiments over the most impious noises. He knows the whereabouts of a chord that absolutely nobody else can strike.
6. Montrose: Rock Candy.
Ted Templeman produced the first Montrose album in the early 70s. He then made the same album with Van Halen who sold millions. All the records made since which purport to be hard rock are essentially pale copies of the first Montrose album. Every time we put this on in the HMV Shop we would sell ten copies.
7. Jan & Dean: Surf City.
The first record I ever danced to. I think the dance was called the Twitch. It was in somebody's living room in the West Riding of Yorkshire. We didn't even know what surfing was but we knew there was two swinging honeys to every guy and all you had to do was just wink your eye.
8. Warren Zevon: Searching For A Heart.
Men driving on their own are prone to maudlin sentimentality. I saw this used in a movie called "Grand Canyon" to underline just such a point. "They say love conquers all, you can't start it like a car, you can't stop it with a gun." Like he said in his last days, "enjoy every sandwich".
9. Bruce Springsteen: Drive All Night.
I once asked listeners to nominate records that they found erotic. The men's suggestions were terrible - a grotesque combination of lewdness and correctness. One woman rang up and suggested this. It's about a man being prepared to drive all night just to buy her some shoes. Not dinner. Not an iPod. Not a new summer outfit. Shoes.


  1. I love Searching For A Heart. It's one of my favourite Warren Zevon songs, and that's saying something. I also get maudlin and sentimental behind the wheel far too often.

  2. Stuart Maconie, in "Life On The High Teas", talks about texters indignantly complaining about someone who doesn't drive (Maconie) being allowed to host a drive time show. Very amusing.

  3. I used to own a Pontiac Bonneville, massive yacht of a car with white wall tyres, a white bench seat in front and a gear shift on the steering wheel, and it's true that some records sound better in a car like that. One night I was out driving and an Al Green song came on the AM radio, I swear I nearly started crying the poetry of the moment was so overwhelming.

  4. I now find driving the car the perfect place to hear music. No-one barges in (hopefully!); no-one says "lower it down" and you can sing-a-long, totally secure, no-one can hear you. And it's one of the times that radio beats tv hands-down.

  5. Anonymous6:56 am

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.