Rock 'n' roll and the interstate highway system both mushroomed in the mid-1950s. Coincidence? Not so much — the two go together like, well, smooching and backseats. Take a quick spin through the best songs ever written about America's love affair with the automobile.
Chuck Berry — "Maybellene" (1955)
Nobody's fool, Chuck Berry picked up on what Americans were hungering for. He took an older song called "Ida Red," added a few blistering electric guitar licks then started singing about a beautiful woman driving a souped-up roadster. Boom! A forefather of rock had his first big hit.
The Who — "Goin' Mobile" (1971)
Sung by Pete Townshend, this is one of the most carefree numbers on the Who's mighty Who's Next album. The lyrics depict a future where pollution has restricted travel, but not everyone is bound by such limits: "Watch the police and the taxman miss me, I'm mobile!" Propelled by Keith Moon's characteristically frenetic drumming and Townshend's heavily processed guitar solo, the song strains to stay below the speed limit when the volume is cranked.
NRBQ — "Ridin' in My Car" (1977)
A crazy-tight ensemble, NRBQ (originally the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet) gigged tirelessly for decades but never quite hit the big time, despite attracting such high-profile fans as Paul McCartney and Bonnie Raitt along the way. This song — a melancholy lyric of what might have been wedded to a pitch-perfect pop melody carried by a guitar line that will have you thinking George Harrison — was a minor hit in the band's home base of New England. It deserves to be known nationwide (and it's never too late!).
Rush — "Red Barchetta" (1981)
Music fans know Rush's Neal Peart for three things: his love of motorized vehicles, his distrust of those in power and his lyrical prowess. OK, make that four things: Peart is also one of the most precise drummers in rock. Those traits shine forth in this tune about a dystopia where sports cars such as the narrator's prized Barchetta (a type of racer) have been outlawed. This being rock 'n' roll, though, you think a little thing like the law's gonna stop our hero from taking his wheels for a spin?