Eclectic Songwriter Field Trip: Big Bear Fun Run / Top 10 Songs Written About a Car (Part 2)

You are now reading part two of the field trip to Big Bear Lake and “Fun Run”.  If you didn’t read part one … then click here!

And now for the Top 10 Songs Written About a Car — as given by the folks in the village at the Big Bear Fun Run:

 

10.   One Piece At a Time (Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three – 1976) Written by Wayne Kemp

Humorous tune about a Detroit auto worker who day by day watches Cadillacs roll by him on his assembly line, and decides to build his own car by sneaking out one piece at a time.  I imagine that Johnny Cash enjoyed singing it because he himself worked the line at an auto plant in Detroit, back before he was a singer.  Give the tune a spin around the block, and see if it don’t put a smile on your face.

 

 

9.    Mercedes Benz (Janis Joplin – 1971) Written by Janis Joplin, Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth

Also known as “The Politician”.  She sang the song acapella and in one take.  It was of course not really about the car, but was a critical slap at what she viewed to be a materialistic society.  Janis Joplin never got her Mercedes Benz, but she did have a 1965 Porsche that was painted to become a piece of hippie art.

 

 

8.   G.T.O. (Ronny & the Daytonas – 1964) Written by John “Bucky” Wilkin

Even though it originated from Nashville, this is a great surf-rock tune about the new Pontiac introduced in 1964!  G.T.O. stands for Gran Turismo Omologato.  During that period, singer-songwriter John Wilkin already had the nickname “Bucky”, but then adopted the stage name Ronny Dayton.  He and his high school buddy Lee Kraft hired a group of rotating bandmates who became known as the Daytonas.  Together John and Lee wrote this classic which hit number four and earned them a gold record!

 

 

7.   Red Barchetta (Rush – 1981) Written by Neil Peart & Rush

Inspired by a short story by Richard Foster titled A Nice Morning Drive, Neil Peart crafted a masterpiece of literary imagery and visceral freedom with this number.  The automobile, actually pronounced Bar-KEH-tah, is a classic built-for-speed Italian sports car made by Ferrari, but could also be a Fiat or Alfa Romeo.  I interpret the song as one of personal freedom, connecting to the glorious past while driving into the exultant future.  But that’s just me…

 

 

6.   Panama (Van Halen – 1984) Written by Van Halen

“Full blast and top down”, this hard-driving classic by David Lee Roth and the boys takes me away and puts me behind the wheel!  Just like the previous Red Barchetta, I can picture myself burnin’ down the avenue, throwing my troubles to the wind!  Even though Panama is laced with double entendre, it’s really about Dave’s car inspired by a road race he saw in Las Vegas.  Here’s a quick fun fact about the tune:  The natural sound effect of Eddie Van Halen’s Lamborghini is heard during the bridge of the song.  According to producer Ted Templeman, he backed the car up as close to the studio as possible and attached microphones to the exhaust pipe.

 

 

5.   Mercury Blues (David Lindley – 1981) Written by K. C. Douglas and Bob Geddins

Originally called “Mercury Boogie”, this heart-pumping ditty is a glowing tribute to the American automobile.
Written in 1949 by K.C. Douglas about Mercury’s latest model, the song Mercury Blues has been covered by many artists including Steve Miller, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam.  But I enjoy David Lindley’s version for its stylish percussion and bright bluesy guitar riffs.  Any way you hear it though is great!  Makes me crazy ’bout a Mercury!

 

 

4.   Little Red Corvette (Prince & the Revolution – 1983) Written by Prince

Like so many other works by this prolific purple player, this song is really about sex.  But unlike his previous racy tracks that were basically straightforward sex rants, Prince used metaphoric imagery – – in this case a red Corvette.  Many people still think of the car when they hear the song.

 

 

3.   Maybellene (Chuck Berry – 1955) Rewritten by Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson

One of my personal favorites, and it was Chuck Berry’s first recorded song.  Remodeled after Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys version of “Ida Red”, Maybellene tells the story of a hot rod race and a conked out romance.  The genius of the song is that it could be about a girl who keeps cheating on her man, or about a feisty V8 Ford!  More than seventy artists have covered this definitive automobile song.

 

 

2.   Hot Rod Lincoln (Johnny Bond – 1960) Written by Charlie Ryan 1955

A song to answer Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys 1951 hit “Hot Rod Race”,  which was a song about a auto race out of San Pedro between a Ford and a Mercury.  Hot Rod Lincoln starts out by referencing Shibley’s ballad, and drives up the Spiral Highway to the top of Lewiston Hill in Lewiston, Idaho.  This signature anthem of the hot rod population has been covered multiple times and each version is slightly altered.

 

 

1.   Little Deuce Coupe (Beach Boys – 1963) Written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian

Rushed through production in the summer of 1963, this love song about a ’32 Ford Roadster was also a bragging song.  Praising the car’s flat head mill and competition clutch to the lake pipes that flanked the rocker panel, this baby’s pink slip owner is mighty proud of its get up and go!  But a hundred and forty miles an hour is being modest.  I’ve heard of Little Deuce Coupes that have gone much faster, some higher than 200!  This tune only hit number four on the chart in its day, but its number one here!  And a true car classic!

 

So, there you have it!  The people’s list of top ten songs written about cars.  Thanks to all the people at the 2010 Big Bear Fun Run for their input.

Until the next field trip, this is Dean signing off from Big Bear!

And for all the songmakers out there — Put your best pen forward, and be a strong-writer!

Dean


  • Marcos

    Good job. but you forgot Low Rider – War . :P

  • Low Rider is great! Didn’t make this list, but I’ll be returning to Big Bear next year. I may ask a new question then…
    :D