When I was just a lad, my dad would play two tapes over and over in the station wagon so that the whole family could sing along. The first was Kenny Rogers The Gambler. The only song we listened to was the title track and my whole family knew every word, every note, every country twang by heart. The other was the Bee Gees tape Spirits Having Flown, and we only knew the first three tracks, but especially the first song, "Tragedy." This was when I learned the wholesome delight derived from singing in the car at the top of your lungs. Plus, it brought the family together to sing about when the feeling is gone and you can't go on.
My older brother bought a car just after he got his license. Some fat, red, muscle car that had an engine the size of the Geo Metro I bought in college. It was pretty powerful, but the only thing I cared about was the stereophonic sound spectacular. The tape deck didn't work and the volume and tuning knobs were long gone, but it was LOUD. It needed to be to drown out the rumbling, gas-guzzling engine. My brother would turn up KBPI as it Rocked the Rockies and the speakers would crackle away like they were made of cellophane. I think he got the tape deck working at one point, and U2 Under a Blood Red Sky was stuck on the Repeat Forever setting.
Not until college did I buy my own car. For a few hundred bucks I purchased a 1980 VW Rabbit, affixed a Siouxsie and the Banshees bumper sticker, then added a brand new stereo and speakers. The back speakers were too large for the hatchback and they kept coming unplugged, but when they worked it was worth the trouble. There were road trips crooning to New Model Army, and, though the actual driving was secondary, making out on Blueberry Hill to "I Wear Your Ring" by the Cocteau Twins was bliss.
The Rabbit died quickly. Enter the Geo. It was the first time I owned an in-dash CD player. For twelve years, two hundred and forty thousand miles, and two engines, this stereo served me well. Eventually I started commuting over two hours every day. One year, beginning in January, I listened to every CD I owned, in order, alphabetically. From ABC to Zwan. This ambitious project wasn't complete until October. I think I might still be at it if I weren't in a car for so much of that time.
These days I commute from Denver to Greeley (a college town about an hour north of Denver) every couple of weeks. For half of the drive I'm alone in the car and I can turn the stereo up to eleven. I can replay and sing the crescendo in the Abandoned Pools song "Blood" where it goes "This can't be what you're waiting for" as many times as I like. It gives me chills just thinking about it. (I tried to find a link to this song and could only find this kinda lame acoustic cover by some guy. Abandoned Pools is pretty unsung, I guess, but I dig 'em. They're a bit like Smashing Pumpkins but with a vocalist you can understand.)
The second half of the drive I have my girls with me. They're partial to croon along with U2 "Beautiful Day," Frasier Chorus "Bye Bye Bird," and The Boo Radleys "Wake Up Boo!" Last summer we liked to sing the Glee soundtracks. I especially got into Amber Riley's version of "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going." It makes Jennifer Hudson's Oscar winning version sound like she's trying to give birth. Seriously. It's pure joy to turn it up and belt out those vocal calisthenics with your daughters. (I probably won't be trying this one with Xander. We'll soon be singing some manly "Sweet Child O' Mine"...that or John Mayer.)
I don't watch Glee anymore, but go ahead and compare. It's "Tragedy" for a new generation.
So what is your favorite sing-along tune in the car?
In related news:
For Music Monday, I want to point out the new sidebar listing some of the greatest music ever recorded. I've added my three cents, so if you hover your cursor over the album, you can see a comment from me. I don't really like this particular widget, though, because I can't figure out how to edit it without just deleting it and adding a new one. Anyone know how to manipulate these widgets through Amazon?