FMF Episode #41 – Cars

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DJ: Drivers; start your engines!  Welcome to another lap of Feel Me Flow!  Today we’re all about cars, well mostly about cars.  Cars are one of those topics we could do multiple episodes about and may well do so someday.  The live fast-die young lifestyle of rock and roll pairs well with the high speed and power of the automobile.  In the early days of rock and roll, the hot rod was written about tirelessly.  From Chuck Berry to The Beach Boys, cars were the focus of concept albums, rock and roll movies, and other avenues of expression.  We’re going to feature a Chevy set and a Ford set to signify the ongoing “who’s better?” battle, as well as tracks about low riders, hot rods, race cars, and a bunch of songs about asking the parents to borrow the car.

Leading off the first set is the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet (Quintet), a.k.a. NRBQ.  Originally forming in 1966, the ever-evolving band has released over 20 albums in their career.  Their 1977 LP All Hopped Up featured the lead track “Ridin’ In My Car”, a song that would go on to be covered by songwriter M. Ward and crossover actress-to-musician Zooey Deschanel as their duo She & Him.  From the year punk broke, here’s NRBQ with “Ridin’ In My Car”. Roll those windows down…

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DJ: So out of the dozens of songs that the Beach Boys recorded about cars, we decided to go with the one that had a house cleaning product named after it.  Just kidding, well kind of.  There are multiple claims as to how it got its name, ranging from it being the inventor’s wife’s birthday (April, 9th), to the 409th chemical compound tested that worked.  Some even think the engine theory is plausible.  From the Beach Boys’ debut 1962 album and the B-side to their second-ever single “Surfin’ Safari”, we heard the song that launched the hot rod craze; “409”.

The Dictators and their early brand of punk rock played before the Beach Boys.  The “oohs” and “aahs” heard in the background of “(I Live For) Cars And Girls” are clearly influenced by the Beach Boys, something the Ramones would mimic almost menacingly just a year later.  Ross “The Boss” Friedman, a founder of the band, would go on to form Manowar, the 1980s metal band that holds multiple Guinness World Records for loudness and length of play.

How many of us have experience with cars that are just unfixable, or as we call them, “lemons”?  Ty Segall’s sophomore LP Lemons featured a cover of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s “Dropout Boogie” as well as Ty’s first-ever single “Cents”.  We played the choppy cut “In Your Car” from the 2009 album.

SWMRS posed “D’You Have A Car?” from their Drive North LP.  Originally known as Emily’s Army, the band renamed themselves and sought a new producer for their “third” album Drive North.  Zac Carper of FIDLAR stepped in to complete the production sound, branching out from Billie Joe Armstrong’s trademark pop-punk aesthetic.

The bonus 7″ that came with some pressings of Alabama Shakes’ debut album Boys & Girls featured three non-album tracks recorded at the time of the album.  The Heavy Chevy EP as its known gave us the title track plus “Pocket Change” and “Mama”.   Kicking off our Chevy vs. Ford sets, here’s the title track from that EP.

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DJ: In the 70s, the Chevy Van was the place to bring your date.  Nothing like dinner, a movie, and a van sesh to cap off the night, eh?  Ha!  Seriously, though,  Vansploitation was a real movie genre and thanks to Sammy Johns’ single “Chevy Van” they were suddenly “cool”.  Due to the success of the song, Sammy would be asked to produce a soundtrack for the 1977 film The VanFads are weird.

The Nude Party were “discovered” by newest Black Lips drummer Oakley Munson at a Night Beats show in Charlotte and Oakley helped them get their career started.  Whilst living with Oakley in the Catskills of New York, the band recorded their debut album which is to be released on July 6, 2018.  From that album, we played another chevy van song; “Chevrolet Van”.

Originally recorded and written by Lonnie and Ed Young, “Chevrolet” would be covered by countless blues musicians throughout the years.  One of those blues musicians is Taj Mahal.  Taj incorporated many world styles into his music, from zydeco and cajun to reggae and African tribal sounds.  His 1971 LP Happy Just To Be Like I Am brought a soulful mix to things, generating this groovy cover of the Youngs’ classic tune.

London band The Barracudas had mild success in 1980 with their surf rock throwback “Summer Fun”.  The intro to the single started with an excerpt from a 1960s spoof advertisement for the Plymouth Barracuda and the narrator trying to pronounce “barracuda”.  “Summer Fun” is a perfect summer tune, one we might even have to work into another Summer episode sometime, but the B-side “Chevy Baby” makes its way into our Chevy set with its surfy car vibes.

Another pioneer in the rock and roll car scene is none other than Chuck Berry.  In fact, you could easily make the argument that everything the Beach Boys did was because of Chuck Berry, right down to stealing his songs and having to give him credit for them.  Chuck has a plethora of car tunes, like “No Particular Place To Go”, “Maybelline”, and of course his ode to Ford’s most popular muscle car, “My Ford Mustang”.  Let’s kick off the Ford set with that one.  Here’s Chuck Berry.

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DJ: Jerry Reed made a name for himself after writing and recording “Guitar Man” a tune Elvis Presley would cover soon after its release.  Mostly sticking to the country genre, some of Jerry’s tunes would crossover into the funky, Cajun, or rock and roll worlds.  He was also an actor, some of you millennials might recognize him as the asshole coach in The Waterboy.  Jerry’s tune “Amos Moses” was a huge crossover hit and made it onto the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack.  We’ll hear more from that video game series a bit later.  With his Ford-slamming tune, that was Jerry Reed and “Lord, Mr. Ford”.

Jim Heath a.k.a. The Reverend Horton Heat has been fueling the psychobilly circuit since his Sub Pop debut in 1991, Smoke ’em If You Got ’em.  From that debut, the track “Psychobilly Freakout” would find its way onto the Guitar Hero II video game soundtrack.  Tthe band’s third album, Liquor In The Front featured a tune that would also make it to the video game scene with “I Can’t Surf” landing a spot on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 soundtrack.  From Liquor In The Front, we played “Five-o Ford”.

Perhaps the sexiest song ever written about a Ford Mustang would be Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ford Mustang”.  Serge was France’s artistic Troubador throughout the 20th century, expanding into international territory and bringing French pop to the world.  His 1967 song written for Brigitte Bardot “Je t’aime… moi non plus” would be re-recorded in 1969 with Jane Birkin and would be dubbed “Interdit aux moins de 21 ans” (forbidden to those under 21 on the single’s cover.

“Mustang Sally” has seemingly been covered by every blues guitarist in every smokey bar across the country for over 50 years now.  The chorus of the song sings “Ride, Sally, Ride”.  In 1983, a woman by the name of Sally Ride became the first American woman in space as a crew member on the space shuttle Challenger.  Yes, the same Challenger that would disastrously explode just 3 years later.  In a small related coincidence, The Challengers (a surf rock group from the early 60s) released their LP The Challengers’ Hot Rod Album on Record Store Day 2016 after over 50 years of being on the shelf, an album themed on cars. Sally Ride. Challenger. Cars. Get it? I guess its a connection…

Coming up in our Set 4, we’ll have a double Set 4 Score sandwiched between some classic “cars” tunes.  Ric Ocasek would work his production chops while with The Cars and begin to produce some of rock’s most memorable groups’ albums including Weezer’s Blue & Green albums.  In turn, Weezer would cover The Cars’ “You Might Think” for the Disney Pixar film Cars 2 in 2011.   We’ll hear a bit more about that movie franchise later.  Here’s “Let’s Go” from The Cars’ 1979 sophomore LP Candy-O.

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DJ: Beep beep beep beep, yeah!  How many of you hear that sound clip before your morning traffic report on the local classic rock radio station?  How original, haha.  It’s hard to avoid such a great tune, though, so we get it.  The album artwork for The Beatles’ 1965 LP Rubber Soul was chosen only after the band was cycling through shots on the photographer’s carousel slide projector and the backdrop slipped down distorting the picture a bit.  The band immediately wanted that look for their new album and with that, they helped launch a new form of music known as “psychedelic rock”.  “Drive My Car” would appear on the British version of Rubber Soul.

Nashville, Tennessee’s finest “space-trash” band Penicillin Baby played us a banger of a track with their 2012 cut “Daddy Drove A Hearse”.  The song comes from their Mega/Baby split EP with Megajoos.  The band released the Who Cares EP in 2017 and is playing supporting shows throughout 2018, including a stop at the East Centric Pavillion opening for Okey Dokey on July 4.  We love this sound, keep up the good work and we hope to see you in Minnesota soon!

The Prefab Messiahs are a band that’s technically been around longer than I have, but not consistently active.  Beginning in the early 80s new wave/punk scene in Worcester, Massachusetts, The Prefab Messiah’s would split before releasing any proper albums, that is until their resurgence in the 2000’s.  Burger Records has been instrumental in helping the band put out new music, releasing the last three of their albums in some form or another.  From the Burger Records 10″ min album Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, we heard “Bobb’s Psychedelic Car”.

Buzzcocks were England’s poppier punk brats opposite other acts of the time like Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned.  Their debut album Another Music In A Different Kitchen yielded the single “I Don’t Mind” which made it up to #55 in the UK Singles Chart in May 1978.  The lead track from the album, which, by the way, blended so damn well with The Prefab Messiahs’ track, “Fast Cars” was written by rhythm guitarist Steve Diggle after being involved in a car crash.  The ending of the song’s sped-up tape noise is supposed to mimic a speeding car.

This next set is all over the place.  So how about you take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me? Here’s War with “Low Rider”.

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DJ: Martin Newell worked with Lawrence “Lol” Elliot as The Cleaners From Venus in the early 80s, recording, and self-releasing their albums.  Much like its fellow lo-fi companions, the 1982 release On Any Normal Monday was recorded on a 4-track in Martin’s dining room with no amplifiers.  The resurgence of lo-fi in the 2010’s brought Martin’s work back into the limelight.  We heard “A Girl With Cars In Her Eyes” from that effort.

Danish duo The Raveonettes moodied up our set with a track from their 2009 album In And Out Of Control.  The band recently announced a hiatus due to guitarist Sune Rose Wagner’s pursuit of a solo album release.  Their debut album is also notable for all of the songs being in the key of b-flat.  “Breaking Into Cars” played from before Martin Newell, a song from the aforementioned 2009 LP.

The Dirtbombs recorded the soul covers album Ultraglide In Black in 2001 as “an attempt to show that those were valid rock songs, that it didn’t matter what the source was — anything can be made a rock song.”  Ten years later, they attempted the same vibe only instead of soul songs they covered Detroit-based techno and electronic artists. Dirtbombs’ Mick Collins quipped, “Party Store was actually an experiment to see if those songs could be done in a different context. ‘Ultraglide’ was a statement, whereas ‘Party Store’ was a question.”.  From that techno covers LP, we played The Dirtbombs’ cover of the Cybotron track “Cosmic Cars”.

In our last set, we talked about Ric Ocasek and the Cars soundtrack.  While Weezer donated their Cars cover to the 2nd movie in the series, the third movie in the series was rewarded with a cut from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.  So far in 2018 alone, Dan’s produced two of our Set 4 Score artists’ latest albums; La Luz’s Floating Features and Shannon & The Clams’ Onion.  Dan has also taken Shannon Shaw under his wing in Nashville and is producing her solo efforts, which are laden with Amy Winehouse vibes if crossed over into Dan’s world.  Perfect!  Dan played “Run That Race” from the Cars 3 soundtrack.

Our last set of the episode features some country crossovers and bass-heavy indie cuts.  Kicking it off is one of the earlier hot rod tunes that would go on to be covered by many artists, most famously by Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen.  All would cover it on their 1989 Allroy’s Revenge LP, and Les Claypool of Primus would cover the track on the (NASCAR On Fox) Crank It Up compilation in 2002.  Here’s the original version by Charlie Ryan & The Timberline Riders, “Hot Rod Lincoln”.  Listen for Charlie to mention a certain Southern California city that another set 6 artist is from…

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DJ: Dog will hunt!  The genre-defying 90s trio Primus caps off our show with the story of “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver”.  Another cut to be featured on those pesky video game soundtracks, “Jerry” was featured on the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack as well as ATV Offroad Fury and Rock Band 3.  The song tells the story of Jerry being reckless and crashing into a telephone pole, something way too many rock stars and people, in general, have done.  Slow down, people!

Minutemen’s D. Boon fatefully joined the 27 Club in December 1985 after being thrown from the back of the van he was sleeping in on Interstate 10.  The van was being driven by his girlfriend when the rear axle broke sending the vehicle off the road and projecting D. outward.  Minutemen’s magnum opus, 1984’s Double Nickels On The Dime was a loosely based car concept album.  The album artwork and title were counters to the Sammy Haggar track “I Can’t Drive 55”.  The band felt that it wasn’t as rebellious as Sammy had made it out to be to drive so fast, so they insisted they would drive the speed limit and instead make crazy music.  The artwork features Mike Watt driving down Interstate 10 (The Dime) at exactly 55 MPH (Double Nickels).  In a weirdly ominous twist, with D. Boon dying on “the dime”, the old Greek act of placing coins on the deceased’s eyes as a toll to get into heaven becomes a bit more surreal.  Rest in peace, D.

Wisconsin’s Violent Femmes enjoyed a “discovery” like few others enjoy.  When The Pretenders came to Milwaukee in 1983, the Femmes were out in front of the venue busking for change.  Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott heard them and introduced Chrissie Hynde to the sound.  Chrissie invited them to play a short acoustic set that night after the openers took the stage.  The B-side to their UK single “Ugly”, “Gimme The Car” features another teenage yearning for the keys to the parents’ ride.

Both “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Get Outta My Car” are early car tracks that seem to wave in and out of beat and tempo.  Hasil Adkins’ reasoning for such sporadic play would most likely be because he’s playing guitar, singing, and drumming on the track all at once.  Hasil was absolutely a wild man of rock and roll, being arrested multiple times for gun charges, sexual assault charges, and countless other stories I’ll never get to hear.  “Get Outta My Car” was originally recorded in 1966 for Avenue Records, but we played the rerecorded version featured on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto V.  Hasil died in 2005 ten days after being run over by a teenage neighbor on an ATV.  That’s some true offroad fury, there.

That about wraps us up today for our Car episode.  We hope you get your automobile fix and got your engines revved up.  Join us next time on Feel Me Flow!

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