Thursday, June 06, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 6: Favorite Song for Flying Down The Highway At Top Speed

As I said back on Day Four of this challenge, my picks for the last three days can pretty much be taken as mix-and-matchable.  All three suffice for all three of this week's categories so far: a "song for a sunny day," a "song to drive around town with your top down" and a "song for flying down the highway at top speed."  To wit, I'm going to keep the commentary short today.

Like most people, I guess, "flying down the highway at top speed" is something I did a lot in my youth, but hardly ever do anymore.  In my case, that's largely a result of the disproportionate (and epic) number of speeding tickets I collected when I was younger.  But it's also because-- again, like most people, I suspect-- at some point I found myself effected by that creeping, gnawing sense of distrust concerning other drivers' abilities that grows steadily as one grows older.  It's hard to locate exactly when this happens, but there come's a point in everyone's life that marks the moment you just don't feel invincible anymore.  Doing anything at "top speed" requires a lot of moxie, especially flying down the highway at top speed.  I still do a lot of things that require ignoring or disregarding rational assessments of danger, but driving is no longer one of them. 

In fact, I very seldom drive on the highway anymore at all.  I used to take several road trips every year, at least a couple of really long (12+ hours) ones a year, mostly in the course of commuting back and forth from wherever I was living at the time to my family and friends in Memphis.  I almost always drove them by myself and loved every minute of it.  Plenty of time to think, to see the parts of the country that we cityfolk only ever pass by and, of course, to listen to hours upon hours of music.  That last part was always the very best part.

Whenever I hit one of those long, uninterrupted stretches on my drives, I found it much easier get a tad more lead-footed on the gas-pedal than I ought.  And when that happens, before you know it, without even meaning to, you're flying down the highway at top speed.  As a thousand songwriters have said before me, in a thousand more eloquent ways, there's just something about the open highway.  American highways really are one of our nation's treasures.  One of my favorite stretches runs along a part of the Bluegrass Parkway in central Kentucky, where all you see for miles upon miles out your car window are endless scenes like this:


It's just breathtakingly beautiful, really.  And the only thing that could possibly make it better is the right soundtrack.  When I found myself on those stretches, looking out for state troopers and ever-so-steadily increasing the acceleration, this was always one of my favorite tunes to crank up.  It's The Jackson 5's number one hit from 1969, "I Want You Back."  Here's their performance of it on television that year, with wunderkind Michael Jackson (at the tender age of 10) selling it like there's no tomorrow:



That great bassline in "I Want You Back" thumps at exactly the right pace for highway-driving.  And the fact that this is one of those songs that practically invites you to throw your backup vocals in (I want you back!) also makes it a great car-listening song.  Of course, if you hear this song at a party, you are obligated to unleash your inner Soul Train dancer, but you know even then that you will never-- nobody will ever-- dance even half as good as the little preteen Michael and his brothers did.  So, stay in your car and turn it up.  Your shoulder-shakin' will suffice.

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Nostalgic?  Read my Day Six entry for the 2011 version of the 30 Day Song Challenge.

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