Is classic rock the perfect classic soundtrack?


Author: Martin PortPublished:

Once again I was asked what my favourite driving song was the other day. Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer – not because I don’t have favourites, or tracks that will be played more than others when driving around, but because for me it is a combination of various elements that dictates what song is the ‘chosen one’ when behind the wheel.

This was excellently illustrated just the other day when driving home from work in the Scimitar. With winter plunging the countryside into darkness I found myself ‘pressing on’ through some quiet back roads, navigating some fulfilling curves in the process.

The heater was on, the window was open and Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond blared from the speakers. 1970s rock masters coming from a '70s motor being piloted around roads which probably hadn’t seen any maintenance since the same decade. If I was really pushing the association, I could also suggest that it was entirely fitting that a child of the early '70s was the driver.

The point is that everything came together and fitted just right for several minutes and, at that particular moment, the Floyd track was my ‘favourite’ driving song.

This curious melding of elements comes into play in other classics to provide perfect musical moments: Led Zep’s Communication Breakdown in a Mini on a wet evening (at least it wasn’t T-Rex – that's sick, Ed), and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) in a Morris Traveller heading to a gig in Kensington are just two other combinations that have worked for me over the years, although I will admit that there was perhaps a little bit of ‘redneck’ about the scene when, back in the summer, the relationship between man, car and tune resulted in yours truly enjoying a spot of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers while in the Land-Rover.

I’m still not entirely sure quite why driving through Bracknell at the time seemed to work as the third element though. Answers on a postcard…

Of course there will always be those that will, without fail, put Boston’s More than a Feeling on repeat for the duration of their Sunday afternoon blast, just as there are those that will argue that the sound coming from their exhaust is the only soundtrack they need while in their classic.

For me though, there is rarely a journey that can’t fail to be enhanced by selecting a suitable tune – be it something classical, some easy listening or a spot of soothing thrash metal.

Perhaps it is about time that the perennial driving song question should be expanded to include your idea of the perfect driving scenario as well?

Maybe then the song choice would make a little more sense. Anyone for Bachman-Turner Overdrive in a Morris Marina on the North Circular?


James Elliott

I'm in 100% agreement Martin. Late the other night I was charging round the near-deserted Kingston One Way System in the Triumph, driving noisily and probably quite obnoxiously, and the most perfect driving tune in the world was the UK Subs' version of the Zombies' She's Not There. Aggressive, breakneck speed and succinct. Ideal. Coming into work the next day, however, moving slower in the daylight across Richmond Park, the deer emerging from the mist like ghosts, the perfect tune was An Eye For Optical Theory from Michael Nyman's Draughtsman's Contract soundtrack. On other occasions everything from Floyd's Biding My Time to Arvo Part's Spigel im Spiegel – via Sugar Pie Desanto's Down in the Basement and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition – have done the trick, depending on the car, the road conditions and so many other variables. Like you, I have given up trying to find that one song, just as I have given up trying to find that one classic car. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

Group Editor, C&SC

Martin Port

Sugar Pie Desanto's Down in the Basement: now there's a song that works as a driving track in almost ANY car in ANY situation.

Art Editor, C&SC

David Evans

Well, keeping the Floyd and Zeppelin theme going, mine would include See Emily Play and Trampled Under Foot – or No Quarter, for a deserted, late-night London... Apart from that, I've driven the BMW down the autobahn with Kraftwerk on the tape player – en route to Bavaria, of course. If it had to be one tune, it would probably be Bowie's Watch That Man or The Charlatans’ Just when you're thinkin’ things over. Mick Ronson and Rob Collins, RIP. Now that the cassette player's kaput, though, Johnny Walker's Sounds of the ’70s seems spot on...

Chief tea-maker, C&SC

David Evans

Oops! Got my scotch and DJs mixed up there. Sorry Johnnie...


You're right to say that music sometimes needs to fit in with your current location, car etc, but certain music can transform your journey. I put to you these...

Slap on Born to Run and you're instantly at the wheel of a 70s Buick cruising a New Jersey strip at midnight. Put on Moon Safari by Air and you're wafting south across the Millau Bridge in a Citroen SM. Put on Keep on Running by the Spencer Davis Group and you're in a Cooper S zipping round Swinging London. Put on Sweet Home Alabama and you're running 'shine in a Stepside Chevy pick-up in, well, Alabama. Put on Opus No1 by Tommy Dorsey and you're hightailing it to Manhattan in a Deusenburg for a night on the tiles. Put on Coldplay and your stuck in traffic on your boring commute. In the rain. In Slough.


I find that different music fits in different classics,maybe as you have already said it is an era thing. When i am driving my Jensen Interceptor anything on a rock classics cd but when im driving my Alfa SZ it tends to be Prince on very loud maybe because the Alfa is a faster and better handling car !!.


Yep - it's always going to depend on the car, the road, the weather etc. Shine on You Crazy Diamond is my favourite track EVER but I've never thought of it as a driving tune. Sometimes music from the era of the car works - so yes, Spencer Davis Group, Zombies, Beatles, Stones and motown in my Mark 2. Must make a new playlist.


For me the double album Chicago's Greatest Hits covers all driving moods but the track that gets played the most is "Does Anyone Know What time It Is?" Does anyone really care? That's the mood I am in when I am driving my imaginary DB5 Vantage.


Hi Martin,
What about 'Godspeed on the Devil's thunder' by Cradle of Filth? (Maybe not on Sunday drives).

p.s. James, you just reminded me that I still have a leather biker jacket with the UK Subs autographs on the red lining! Any offers considered.


Great Blog. Like Martin, I can think of lot's of tunes for different occasions.

One that springs to mind is "On Days Like These". When I bought my 308 I drove it back to Scotland from London. I stayed overnight at Tebay and then took the road from Penrith across to Hexham.

A beautiful morning, a great road, a great song.

Not exactly a Muira but good enough.

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