Artist: The Cars
Car match: Google car
“Who’s gonna drive you home... tonight?” ask The Cars in this catchy 1980s ballad. On a superficial level it’s an honest question, administrative in nature, about car sharing. On another level, it’s about relationships, love and the issues that ‘80s balladeers were so good at pondering. However, look more closely and this prophetic song could also be about the arrival of autonomous vehicles. Who really does drive you home when you step into a Google car, log on, choose the music and sit back and relax? The clue, possibly, is in the band’s name...
2. ‘Driving Home for Christmas’
Artist: Chris Rea
Car match: Ford Cortina
A driving song and a Christmas song. Before Rea hit the big time his dutiful wife drove 300km from Middlesbrough to London and back to pick him up. Yes, it was love, but it was also a lot cheaper than a train ticket. Never one to waste time either, Rea put the motorway time to good use and penned this slow-burning classic. "Driving Home for Christmas is a car version of a carol," he explained. It’s also a cruising great for anyone driving home... well... for Christmas.
3. ‘Road to Nowhere’
Artist: Talking Heads
Car match: Magic Bus
Bands like AC/DC were clearly on the Highway to Hell, but the more nuanced and downright kooky Talking Heads were on the road to a much more intellectually challenging place. Nowhere. Which is a wonderful destination for anyone determined to celebrate the journey – and the sounds on the music system – rather than the ultimate destination. Perhaps that’s the definition of cruising...
4. ‘Route 66’
Artist: Chuck Berry
Car match: 1950s Buick Special Coupe
The name says it all, epitomising the ultimate road trip. The 2,500-mile highway joining Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, is written into American history. Just think how many musical kicks you could enjoy on the way. Bobby Troup’s song has been covered by everyone from The Rolling Stones to Depeche Mode, but Chuck Berry’s rock ’n’ roll version conjures up a vision of cheap motels and mesas, dusty diners and the once wild west.
5. ‘Mustang Sally’
Artist: Wilson Pickett
Car match: Mustang convertible
One hand on the steering wheel. Roof down. White-walled tyres spinning. Deep leather seats. Engine throbbing away. Neon lights flashing on the strip. The radio fizzes and the first bars of this oft-recorded rhythm ‘n’ blues classic crackle into the night. “Ride, Sally ride,” Pickett pleads. Beat that.
6. ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
Artist: John Denver
Car match: Chevy
Some cruising songs raise the pulse and lift the spirit. Others are reflective and soulful. Denver’s poetic ode to the country road sums up a sense of place and intimacy in the immense, impersonal American landscape. The vista is “Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River,” as he calls: “Country roads, take me home to the place I belong”. Ideal accompaniment to a long journey in reflective mood...
7. ‘King of the Road’
Artist: Roger Miller
Car match: Rolls-Royce
With a smile, Roger Miller sings about down-and-outs, trailer parks and “pushin’ brooms in four-bit rooms”. We dream of sitting behind the wheel of a sumptuous classic car and watching the world go by without a thought for the petrol consumption. Just the music and this timeless, catchy optimistic classic.
Artist: Gary Numan
Car match: Tesla Model S
Gary Numan clearly loves cars. In an emotionless and machine-like voice, he revealed: “Here in my car... I feel safest of all, you can lock all the doors, it’s the only place to live... in cars”. Actually living in a car is probably taking love of automobiles a bit too far, but the song remains a classic of electronic music that adds a pulsing beat to cruising through grey urban streets. Perfect when autopilot kicks in.
9. ‘Drive My Car’
Artist: The Beatles
Car match: Triumph Stag
An uplifting song with a sing-along chorus that builds to the joyous crescendo: “beep beep’m beep beep, yeah”. Is this the only rendition of a car horn in music history? And to add a bit of spice, Paul McCartney, intriguingly, once suggested that "drive my car" is an old blues euphemism for hanky-panky.
10. ‘Fast Car’
Artist: Tracy Chapman
Car match: Porsche
A list of cruising songs has to encompass every mood – and this powerful, emotionally charged song has a seam of desperate escapism at its core. Fast cars, of course, have been used to make getaways for years, but in this 1988 hit – since covered by dance-music artists – the fast car is employed to evade a life of disappointment and poverty.