Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Finest (Driving To) Work Song

Son Volt--"Afterglow 61" (mp3)

Maybe you're one of the lucky ones. Maybe you so look forward to getting to work that in your dash to the car, you stop to pet the cat, deadhead the flowers that are past their prime, wave at the retired neighbors out for a walk, all while sipping your hazelnut-flavored decaf coffee while wearing the outfit that you laid out the night before.

Maybe you're a morning person. Maybe you love your boss, can't wait to hear what funny things he will say today. Maybe you have a wonderful, healthy lunch packed in a sensible, reusable plastic container. Maybe the banter and musical choices of a mainstream morning radio show are things that you look forward to. If so, God bless you.

Me, I have to arm myself.

Depending on traffic, I've got somewhere between 6-8 minutes to spend alone in the solace of my car, happily away from all of humanity, both the loved and the unloved, for that brief journey from house to office. To drive that 1 1/2 miles, I've got to arm myself. I need the time to prepare a face and an outlook to get me through the day. With any luck, I'll be able to shed both of those by the time I get back home at night, or sometime soon afterward.

I've got to have a song, the right song, the song.

As you might guess, I have pretty specific criteria for the best song(s) to listen to on the way to the work. Perhaps those rules have been modified over time, but here's what I'm looking for right now:

1. The song must have some kind of defiance, either in its music or its lyrics.
2. The song must offer hope, be a salve, provide reassurance.
3. The song must rock.

Let's take a quick look at each of those. First, since a work day often ends in an adverserial situation or bitterness, it is essential that a singer and a guitarist give me a stance or a riff that can be part of an internal soundtrack for the day. Second, since I'm primarily optimistic and looking for the things I work on to succeed, I like to hear a song that speaks to better days and situations. And, I want a beat, cool chord changes, an insistent drum, a freewheeling bass.

I mean, if you're going to listen alone, and therefore listen loud, don't you want something that's going to make you tap the steering wheel at a stoplight, thump your foot when it's off the pedals, sing along, maybe shout?

My current favorite is "Afterglow 61" by Son Volt. A mid-tempo rocker, the song's been around a few years, but is still pretty new to me. It's that kind of sloppy rocker that Son Volt does so well, opening with just a guitar riff that instantly tells you "Yep, that's Son Volt," then snare-heavy drum support kicks in and soon Jay Farrar is singing to you about Highway 61, that fabled road of Dylan and bluesmen before him. I've been on Highway 61. That helps. What helps even more is that Farrar offers it as a path to freedom: "Get out from under the gun and drive down Highway 61."

Most of all, I like the refrain:

There's no reason to feel downhearted,
There's music in the wheels there to be found.

I like how Jay Farrar drags out the word "downhearted," like he's just going to say "down" but then adds "hearted." The whole song relies on lyrics that spill a bit beyond the musical space alloted them.

The song doesn't hang around with any repetition of chorus or repeated verses. It's Son Volt, and it's a rocker, so you figure you're going to get a guitar solo somewhere. Here, it comes at the end, and then the song ends. No messing around. If it's a Monday, I usually have time to play it twice before I pull into my space.

What's your song? Do you have one?


goofytakemyhand said...

ELO - Hold on Tight

John said...

I found a live Shawn Mullins tune, "Beautiful Wreck" a few weeks back that I gravitate to. Really like the line, "At the dark end of this bar, what a beautiful wreck you are." Totally agree on the need for a morning song--it's like the pump up music at a football stadium before the players rush onto the field.

Billy said...

My current song of choice for the morning commute is "Angel with a Shotgun" by The Cab. It's cheesy pop, but done with a certain extra pizazz that makes it rock a little more than standard pop fare.

The whole album kinda knocks religion, which helps with (1), but not much about it gives me any sense of (2). But in honor of Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

rodle said...

Can't recommend a song, but can recommend Market Street on Monday night. It will get you through whatever comes your way on Tuesday.

troutking said...

Defiance+optimism+a beat=Springsteen

I go with Cadillac Ranch, the live version.

Anonymous said...

Gearjammer -George Thorogood- Perfect for my 7 - 8 minute drive HOME from work cheers, obey_gravity