Highway songs get me going on those boring multi-lane stretches where you would otherwise go to sleep.
There doesn’t seem anything glamourous about rockin’ or rollin’ down the highway. Those soulless multi-lane stretches of over-policed, under-speed-rated boringly straight asphalt seem as far removed from the heart of rock and roll as a ladies bowls club.
When you throw your leg over a bike, the last thing you probably dream of is being a highway star or getting your kicks on some seamless stretch of black tar highway. Multi-lane motorways, tollways and expressways should be avoided by any decent motorcycle rider, right? About the only thing they are good for is getting out of town as quickly as possible. But it wasn’t always that way.
When all the good rock was being written, highways were single-lane escape routes from “the man” and the constraints of society. Before massive earth-moving equipment could cut through mountains and shift vast amounts of earth, highways wound their way over the natural terrain and pulsed with the back-beat of a big V-twin. Highways were about adventure, exploring and moving on with life.
Perhaps the greatest highway song of all time is Route 66. Originally written in 1946 by jazz pianist Bobby Troup and first recorded by crooner Nat King Cole, the song was immortalised by Chuck Berry and has since become a rock icon. Some of the best versions are by The Rolling Stones, Brian Setzer and John Mayer. The song and the road embodied the Jack Kerouac spirit of wanderlust and the freedom of the open road. It is now perhaps one of the world’s best-known highway songs and therefore goes straight to the top of my list.
I’ve already chosen my list of top 10 motorcycle songs (click here), so the top 10 highway songs are completely different. Like the various motorcycles I’ve ridden over the years, the song list is an eclectic mix with different speeds, moods, philosophy and hedonism. Some make you question life and others make you blithely believe in what lies down the end of the road.