Cars were a fixture in Chuck Berry songs – the songwriting pioneer often used them as a springboard for his lyrical ideas. In the 60s, surfing became a craze in California; the Beach Boys’ records beautifully captured the “eternal sunshine” vibe of that era, making hit records about surfing, along with the other timeless subject: cars. Since then, there have been countless great tunes about four-wheelers. Let’s look at the 5 of the greatest ones among them.
‘Mustang Sally’ by Wilson Pickett
This classic rhythm ‘n blues song was written and first recorded by Mack Rice in 1965, but it was Wilson Pickett’s rendition that made it an instant classic and an R’n’B standard for years to come. Pickett’s gritty vocal is the perfect tribute to that indescribable feeling of driving the Mustang. The song is something of a glowing endorsement for the car – “I bought you a brand new Mustang/ A nineteen sixty-five, huh” – and the chorus describes an obsession with the lyric “All I wanna do is ride around Sally/ Ride, Sally, Ride”. You can hardly blame the listener for dreaming about riding around in a Mustang while listening to this song.
‘No Money Down’ by Chuck Berry
John Lennon of the Beatles once quipped, “if you want to give rock and roll another name, you can call it Chuck Berry”. Berry’s influence in popular music is undeniable, his legacy as a seminal artist firmly sealed as early as 1960. And it had only been a few years since he had begun his career! In 1957, his album ‘After School Session’ was released to wide acclaim, and the song ‘No Money Down’ was a highlight. The song was masterful in its description of Berry’s ideal vehicle of choice; “Well Mister I want a yellow convertible/ Four-door de Ville/ With a Continental spare/ And a wide chrome wheel”; he doesn’t stop there: “I want power steering/ And power brakes/ I want powerful motor/ With a jet off-take. In the third verse, Berry actually goes into technical details of the car’s interior: I want four carburetors/ And two straight exhausts. Never again would popular music hear such a vivid description of the inside of a car. And this was set to a pulsating backbeat!
‘Little Red Corvette’ by Prince
One of Prince’s most beloved songs, from his classic album ‘1999’, is an ode to the legendary Chevrolet Corvette. In the song, he uses the historically fast car as a metaphor for his lover moving from one thing to another too quickly. The hooky chorus is a reminder that Prince was one of the finest musical minds of his generation in addition to being a world-famous musical superstar. The unforgettable lyric, “Little Red Corvette/ Baby, you’re much too fast” immortalized the car in the minds of listeners across the world.
‘Brand New Cadillac’ by The Clash
The song in its original form was a rockabilly oddity written and recorded by the obscure but influential English rocker Vince Taylor. The seminal record flopped but became a hit in nordic countries thanks to more commercial cover versions. By the 1970s, however, it was a largely forgotten obscurity from the original wave of rock and roll – that is, until the punk band The Clash breathed new life into it for their legendary 1979 album ‘London Calling’. The lyric that really grabs the listener’s attention is, “Well she looked at my Ford, we’ll never agree/ Cadillac car, oh yeah”. The singer’s automobile preference is made crystal clear. ‘Brand New Cadillac’ is today a rock and roll classic.