Daily Archives: March 6, 2009

Car Tunes

A few years ago, I wrote two pieces for John Borack’s great powerpop book Shake Some Action. One piece made it in, the other didn’t. Hey, shit happens! I happened to come across it tonight, and since I probably wouldn’t change anything on the list, what the heck? It’s almost Daylight Savings Time, which is almost summer, which is almost drive-around-with-the-windows-down, right? Scroll below the vintage radio and enjoy.

John is reportedly working on a new book – keep your eyes peeled.

(No, I don’t think that’s the title…)

Dirty, filthy rock'n'roll!

Dirty, filthy rock'n'roll!

What is it about rock’n’roll and car radios, anyway?

Maybe it’s the sheer exuberance of driving down the highway on a sunny day, or maybe it’s that the original car radios were just louder, brassier versions of that transistor you sneaked under your pillow at night (post-Boomers, ask your parents about that…). But few things in life can pick you up out of the gutter and give you a sense of immortality than the perfect song coming through the speakers at the perfect time. You smile. You’re bulletproof. Life is good!

Of course, there are many great rock classics that can get you pumped up. The cowbell that opens “Honky Tonk Women” does it to me every time, and I can’t keep the car on the road if “You Shook Me All Night Long” is playing. I’ve butchered the lyrics to “Louie Louie” and missed the high notes in “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the best of them. But for pure unadulterated joy, nothing beats power pop.

Why? First and foremost, the killer hook. It’s immediate, visceral, timeless, and using any air instruments at your disposal, you can play along. The harmonies…usually a little more exacting than their hard rock brothers and sisters, it’s either a seamless harmony vocal or a mind-bending blend of aural delight. And, of course…a chorus to die for. Two or three minutes of airtight, hummable, singable, danceable bliss that makes you forget your inhibitions – and your troubles – as you dwell on the possibility that “this might be the best song I have ever heard…”

So without further ado…and with apologies to about thirty songs that might just be number eleven with a bullet…here are the ten best power pop songs I have ever heard emitting from a car radio. Countdown!


 10. “Tonight” (The Raspberries)

To many, the quintessential pop band, and for me it’s their finest moment. Eric Carmen’s vocal is electric; he sounds like he’s trying to burst through your speakers and get right in your face. And what teenager couldn’t identify with the subject matter?

 To read the full list, please click HERE.


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