The ultimate road trip playlist is a beautiful thing. Obviously, it’s dependent on your own personal taste and preferences and therefore, no two driving playlists are the same. But The Mic’s new president, Jake Longhurst, puts forward his pick of the greatest songs for a road trip ever put to vinyl.
Kickstart My Heart - Mötley Crüe
As one of the best songs ever written by the infamous hair metal band, Kickstart My Heart is the epitome of up-tempo. If there was ever a song that was custom built for speeding down the open highway, pedal to the floor, then this is it. Written in the aftermath of Nikki Sixx overdosing, the song details his heart being restarted, hence the title! However, that’s not the only reason it works so well. The drug of choice was speed, so when lyrics like “When I get high I get high on speed” are featured in a song, even though the band are actually singing about the drug it could just as easily be construed to be a song about the beauty of driving. This is a perfect way to ‘kickstart’ a road trip in my opinion.
Life Is A Highway - Rascal Flatts
Speaking of the open highway, this song is a perfect marriage of metaphors and literal meaning. This is of course the incredible cover featured in the film Cars, and even the opening guitar line can bring a smile to anybody’s face, as well as a cheesy, feel-good chorus that all but the biggest misers could happily sing along to for hours. Obviously, the song comparing life to driving adds to the relevance for a road trip playlist inclusion, but even without that added layer of meaning the song would still be the perfect fit in this top ten, and the fact it reminds everyone of their favourite car film is just a happy accident!
Highway To Hell - AC/DC
Now for one more highway reference from the band who owns the hard rock riff. This is one of their simplest yet greatest riffs ever: I'm talking about the immortal AC/DC's unrepeatable Highway To Hell. As one of the most recognisable bands in music (Back In Black is officially the 4th highest selling album ever, according to sources) they are ubiquitous; as integral and synonymous with popular music as any band could be. Highway To Hell is a simple song, there’s no veiled meaning, it’s all about having a good time and driving happily down to party with the devil, and the way the band make it sound you’d be hard-pressed not to want to jump right in the car with them!
Through The Fire And Flames - DragonForce
This song makes me want to speed. Simple as. DragonForce are colloquially known as the fastest band in the world, and this is their biggest song by some margin. The incessant double bass, the infectious melody, and the anthemic chorus are all huge parts of what makes this song so perfect, but it’s the twin guitar attack of award-winning partnership Herman Li and Sam Totman that makes this song so absurdly brilliant - any pair who can not only pull off one of the most ludicrous solos in any song (2:13 of sheer shredding mayhem) but also include the Pac-Man noise played on one of their guitars, and then go back to going nuts but melodically deserve a spot in any playlist, and for the pure elation this song gives me it is more than deserving of its spot in this hallowed list.
The Pretender - Foo Fighters
With pounding drums, gnarly riffs, and Dave Grohl’s fierce barking voice, The Pretender is one of the most rough n ready songs in the discography of this legendary rock band. It’s also relentlessly catchy and great to yell at the top of your lungs, and most importantly it makes you feel alive, as all the best driving songs should. The Foo’s are obviously in a state of flux right now after the tragic untimely death of Taylor Hawkins earlier this year, but even if the band has finished making music, or even touring, their legacy has long since been cemented as one of the best bands to do it, and songs like this are an enormous part of why.
When The Sun Goes Down - Arctic Monkeys
This song doesn’t require an ounce of explanation for its inclusion, but here’s one anyway in case you are somehow not in agreement. One of the great unifiers of British music, the Arctic Monkeys are loved by most, if not all, British teens and young adults, in a similar vein to how popular Oasis were but with more worldwide acclaim. This is one of the very best songs the Sheffield group have put their name to, with dark lyrics about the seedy underbelly of their hometown being put up against a punk-inflected guitar line in a manner that is almost impossible not to move to in some way, be it headbanging, fist-pumping, moshing, jumping, or just straight up screaming the entire song word for word, as many of us can and do!
Money For Nothing - Dire Straits
This is arguably the greatest riff of all time. There are contenders, including a good few AC/DC ones such as the aforementioned Highway To Hell, but in terms of pure satisfaction from a guitar, there are very few moments more powerful than when Mark Knopfler brings the song in after a minute and a half of intro with a scorching riff that’s enough to make anyone turn up the corners of their mouth in a sly grin at just how good it really is. The lyrics are inane, the song is fun, and most of all you get to hear that riff over and over for an entire song, what more could you want?
Welcome To The Jungle - Guns N’ Roses
Slash can do no wrong on this track. The first song on the seething debut album, Appetite For Destruction, was a statement piece that made its point within seconds. Ever since the song blessed our ears for the first time back in the 80s it’s been synonymous with sleaze, danger, sex, drugs, and of course rock and roll. It has an easily memorable chorus, it’s got guitar licks to die for, and Axl Rose moans like a cat in heat before screaming like a banshee. And that’s forgetting the fact that it’s still on the same album as Paradise City and Sweet Child O’ Mine! GN’R really truly set the standard with Welcome To The Jungle, and it’s dubious if the standard has ever been met since.
Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) - My Chemical Romance
As with all the best albums and playlists, there needs to be a moment where it’s slightly less upbeat. You can’t have highs without lows, and this song provides an emotional outlet whilst still being irresistibly catchy. The bridge section towards the end of the song builds up and up and up, brimming with emotional turmoil that eventually bubbles over into what is again an anthem of a chorus that deserves to be yelled straight into the word without a care in the world.
Radar Love - Golden Earring
I will brook no argument: this is the greatest driving song of all time. Plenty of songs are amazing songs to drive to, or amazing love songs, or amazing songs about driving, or just straight-up amazing songs, but I challenge anyone to name me a single song that is all of the above, other than this absolute beauty of a track. Radar Love is the epitome of what a driving song can and should be, with a groovy rolling bass line, uplifting lyrics about going home to see your loved one that can be sung with ease, and the same quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamics that Nirvana stole off The Pixies to create Smells Like Teen Spirit, all packaged into the best one-hit wonder in history (also another list coming soon to a website called The Mic near you). This is a feel-good song that has all the hallmarks of greatness, and it lives up to each and every one. Please for the love of all that you hold dear, put this in your driving playlist.
Edited by: Roxann Yus
Cover image courtesy of Highway To Hell studio album cover.