My Top Ten "Feel-Good, Kick-Ass, Jam-out, Hittin' the Road" Songs
by Patrick Bishop
Photo: my first two cars parked outside the house I grew up in
You know the feeling. It’s the end of the work week and you’re… FREE! It’s a beautiful day. The sun is out, so you slide on your rock star shades. You take a deep breath and the air somehow seems sweeter, fresher, more crisp and clean than it did this morning. You feel electricity in the air; it runs up the back of your neck and you can almost taste the excitement. There’s a little hop in your step as you jump in your car and hook up your music. As you flip through the tunes, you find THAT SONG. You crank down the windows while cranking up the volume. The first few beats hit you and you’re swept into the music, playing air drums or singing at the top of your lungs.
If you’re like me, you live for these moments. Sometimes, I even get THAT SONG queued up in the morning for when I hit the road later in the day. There’s something that screams freedom to my soul when I’m in the throws of a great tune. So, in that spirit… here is a list of my top ten go-to songs when I want to crank it out when hitting the road at the end of a long week. Btw, if you have other songs you’d add to the list, I’d love to hear them -- please add them in the comments section at the bottom. In the meantime, as they say in the famous ad from the 80s, “Dude! Is that Freedom Rock? Well, turn it up!” Note: Click on the song title and it will take you to a YouTube version you can listen to.
10. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, The Rolling Stones
You can’t have a top ten road tunes list and not feature the Stones, and this one is a closet classic. The start of this song is just sweet. It’s one of the Stones hardest rockin’ riffs followed quickly by the unmistakable vocals of Mick drawing you in like only he can do. The simple tune by Keith Richards is catchy with a hard edge that’s a great contrast to some of the light harmonizing. About three minutes in, it turns into a jazz jam session that lasts the remainder of the song. About five minutes in, you’ll want to take a hit of scotch and light up a cigarette, even if you don’t smoke or like the taste of dirt.
9. Black Cat, Janet Jackson
From her 1989 album, Rhythm Nation 1814, this song starts with a very cool guitar riff followed by Janet’s signature attitude-filled vocals. The song stays on fire throughout the entire 4:50 with some pretty great guitar solos in the middle. This is Janet at her best, even without wardrobe malfulctions.
8. Already Gone, The Eagles
What better song to have blasting out the windows as you’re driving away for a fun-filled weekend with friends? It starts out fast and never looks back with strong riffs and mini-solos combined with harmonizing that you can’t help but sing along with. Why? “’Cause, I’m already gone! And I’m feelin’ strong!”
7. Ice Cream Man, Van Halen
This one goes all the way back to VH’s first album released in 1978. It’s classic rock at its best, starting as a blues song with Diamond David Lee Roth’s vocals and an acoustic guitar. At a little over a minute in, this turns into one of the most infectious rocks songs ever. The guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen in the middle is an absolute classic, showcasing his unique style. It’s such a fun song that you can’t help but sing along. It’s the late 70s baby, when rock and roll was rock and roll!
6. Bring Me to Life, Evanescence
This one is an anomaly. They are not a well-known classic rock band and this is not a well-known song. Evanescence had a couple good hits, and this is one you have to give a try. Give it a little time because it starts slow, but starts kicking in around 0:38. Around the one-minute mark, it really starts to groove. The song not only has great guitar riffs, but the haunting vocals, and use of pauses followed by hard hitting beats combined with stirring, urgent lyrics makes for something eerily cool.
5. Smooth, Santana featuring Rob Thomas
If sex were a song, this would be it. It drips with desire. The Latin beat begs you to move. Once you hear the light-fingered guitar grooves mixed with the horns, you can’t stand still. Rob Thomas has the perfect voice to match Carlos Santana’s soul-filled groove. This song is my Paulie’s favorite and it always reminds me of her.
4. God Part II, U2
God, I love this song: the pounding beat; the honest lyrics; the message. It is all there. At about a minute in, the song really kicks in and Bono starts belting the second verse. This is U2 at its best. Rock + social awareness = I believe in love.
3. All I Really Want, Alanis Morissette
This was the first song written for Alanis’ breakout album, Jagged Little Pill, in 1995, which included some of her most well-known hits. It’s not as well-known, which is one of the reasons I love it. Another reason is because the opening riff grabs you from the get-go and the lyrics are brilliant, “Here, can you handle this?!”
2. The One I Love, R.E.M.
This song will forever remind me of my college days at Michigan State. We’d walk home after spending all night at one of the local establishments (read “bar”). It would be about 2:10 a.m. and first we’d hit Subway for a footlong. We’d walk home, stuffing our faces with cold cuts, pickles, and black olives, while singing the chorus at the top of our lungs in the same funky accent as Michael Stipe… “This one goes out to the one I love… Fire!” Yeah, we were THOSE guys.
1. Ramble On, Led Zepplin
It’s a classic from the very first chord to the last note. Four minutes and 22 seconds of rock and roll bliss. The opening drive of the drums and guitar sets the tone. The archetypal lead voice of Robert Plant is killer. The lyrics even evoke Tolkien’s world, “Was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair…” For me, this is the perfect rock and roll song. When you hit the road with “Ramble On” cranked up, you know it’s going to be a good night.
I hope you enjoy this playlist of kick-ass road songs as much as I do. If you’re any kind of music fan, you know, there were a ton of songs and bands that didn’t quite make my cut. It breaks my heart to leave them off, but only ten make the list. If you’ve got other songs that would make YOUR top ten jam session list, please share them below. I’m sure we’d all love check them out so we can rock out wiser, longer and better. In the immortal words of The Stones, “It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.”