10 Great Rock Driving Songs

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As the Stones were wont to say about the swelter season, the most tune-a-licious prospects for the well-appointed classic rocker are just down the road apiece. All you need to do is get in your car and drive.

Is there anything that goes together better than cruising in your wheels and with some great tuneage blasting away to set the soundtrack? Actually, yes. Make the music some cool driving songs and it all aligns as a peak experience.

The right driving songs set the pace, enhance the experience, and provide hi-test fuel for the driver and passengers. And these classic cuts will have you bouncing up and down in the fast lane, so remember to keep your seat belt buckled.

10) “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors

Jim Morrison opens this live version of the cautionary tale with a stop at a New York roadhouse, invoking to the audience, who are ready to ride along with him, “Hi, how you doin’ there? Y-e-ah. Looking good. Everything is fucked up as usual… you know…” A psychedelic way to prepare for a road trip with L.A.’s finest, as long as you don’t forget to “A-keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”

9) “Drive My Car” by The Beatles

Van Halen covered it, and so did the Jonas Brothers. And Paul McCartney does a rockin’ version of it on tour. But the meanest way to motivate to this tune is to crank up the original, off Rubber Soul by the Fab Four. But wait … sadly you can’t get this recording on YouTube anymore. So Macca it is. Beep beep, yeah!

8) “Radar Love” by Golden Earring

The Dutch band’s 1973 thumper has fueled many a half-crazed jaunt up the freeway. While the live versions have their period charm, this pastiche-y music video is quaint yet comical. You will be amused.

7) “Little Floater” by NRBQ

“I’m in love with an automobile and I know it’s in love with me/When I get behind the wheel I know what it is to be free,” is the refrain crooned in this actual love song to a car off the band’s 1989 Virgin Records release, Wild Weekend. It’s a little bit more lilting than you’d expect from the often more hard-chargin Q, but hey, let’s lilt again like we did last summer.

6) “Truckin'” by The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead is not known for three-minute singles by any means, so if you want to hear/see the extended version of this song, whose title is synonymous with four-wheel transportation, get yourself a copy of The Grateful Dead Movie, the feature-length film shot by cinematographer Leon Gast during the Dead’s so-called “retirement run” of shows at San Francisco’s Winterland Arena during mid-October 1974 – after which the band was to take an extended sabbatical from touring. Get your doo-dah on right here.

5) “You Can’t Catch Me” by The Rolling Stones

When the Stones released their take on Chuck Berry’s ultimate drive-and-pursuit saga in 1964 on the U.K. studio album The Rolling Stones No. 2, they were at the height of their good-times get-happy phase in which they introduced white audiences to black R&B and blues. So when Mick says, “…bye bye New Jersey I was so airborne … if you get too close I’ll be gone like a cool breeze,” we are literally transported to the New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours. About two-thirds of the way in, check out a playful Keith as he channels Chuck, even way back then. Trivia bit: John Lennon’s “Here come ol’ flat top…” that starts “Come Together” is derived from Chuck’s “Up come a flattop/he was movin’ up with me…” from this very song.

4) “Crawling From The Wreckage” by Dave Edmunds

Ya’d think that the retro-rocker would learn from his experiences in this cautionary tale – from 1979’s Repeat When Necessary, composed by the very-sober Graham Parker – not to go right back “into a brand-new car.” But crawl back he does, and we are happy as a sow in a Studebaker to ride along with him and his crew: Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, collectively known as Rockpile.

3) “La Grange” by ZZ Top

Whether you got here by way of the Geico Motorcycle ad, or you got disoriented at the corner of Red Light and Going My Way, Big Boy, you are definitely motivatin’ now, or at least you will be by the second “haw, haw, haw.” Then you get run over by a Greatest Guitarists of All Time-level riff that powers this homage to sin, John Lee Hooker and “a lotta nice girls, ah.” From ZZ Top’s 1973 album Tres Hombres. Have mercy!

2) “Two Trains” by Little Feat

Who says the ultimate driving song has to be about a car? I’ve had some fairly unique road experiences riding the rails. Not to be confused with that other iron horse classic, “Two Trains Running” by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, this boogie-down get-down off 1973’s Dixie Chicken by the ultimate funky slide guitarist, Lowell George, god rest his wise old soul, makes you want to dance. Revisiting this tune caused me to reach up for my dog-eared copy of the LP (the greatest in the Feat canon) and wear the grooves down even further.

1) “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

The best live version of this certified classic drivin’ song – with Clarence Clemons pumping the overdrive – is agreed to be his performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, but the YouTube video for it is audio only. Have no fear. A most rockin’ live version was captured of Bruce and the E Street Band at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD on August 15, 1978.

Related: Our readers have spoken! Here are 11 more

Noe Gold

34 Comments so far

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  1. Vic Garbarini
    #1 Vic Garbarini 9 July, 2016, 01:10

    Good call on “La Grange”. Would add “Roundabout” by Yes. About a drive around Loch Lomand in Scotland, with chugging riffs not always associated with Yes.

    Reply this comment
    • AnthonyC2021
      AnthonyC2021 29 May, 2021, 05:04

      so so so many great bands the late 1960’s through and including the 1990’s arguably the most prolific explosion of dynamite bands. I think that is why, the people in my age group 60 and up listen to classic rock almost exclusively. A 30 yr + era as great as any era of music making in the history of man.

      Reply this comment
  2. Dan
    #2 Dan 9 July, 2016, 11:29

    This list is not complete without Highway Star by Deep Purple.

    Reply this comment
    • Stratman
      Stratman 9 July, 2016, 20:08

      Definitely Highway Star. I’d also highly recommend Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band.”

      Reply this comment
  3. PRS guitar
    #3 PRS guitar 26 March, 2017, 08:25

    The Doobie Brothers “Rockin’ Down the Highway” should be on this list, definitely!

    Reply this comment
  4. mad f dawg
    #4 mad f dawg 30 June, 2017, 15:32

    sammy hagar’s i can’t drive 55 is the ultimate road song

    Reply this comment
  5. Morgen
    #5 Morgen 2 July, 2017, 10:38

    Though neither are classic rock, every driving playlist I’ve ever made has included Bloodhound Gang’s “Asleep At the Wheel.” Though often relegated to the novelty-act dustbin, this one is too-notch rap-rock guaranteed to wake you out of your endless highway daze. Another must-have is Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again.”

    Reply this comment
  6. Rolando
    #6 Rolando 23 January, 2018, 11:34

    Waiting for the Bus/Jesus Just left Chicago

    Reply this comment
  7. Marc D.
    #7 Marc D. 21 February, 2018, 08:40

    I’d add “Under My Wheels” by Alice Cooper! The original version from their 1971 “Killer” album rocks from the very beginning drum intro.

    Reply this comment
  8. keither22
    #8 keither22 30 August, 2018, 04:46

    Love your daily email blasts, but you guys missed the best highway driving song of all time, even has highway lyrics. LA WOMAN!!
    2nd place? Ramblin Man! “….born on a Greyhound bus…”

    Reply this comment
  9. Waranga
    #9 Waranga 4 July, 2019, 00:19

    No born to be wild????

    Reply this comment
  10. The Cat Man
    #10 The Cat Man 4 July, 2019, 06:34

    Runnin’ Down A Dream, Tom Petty;
    Hollywood Nights, Bob Seger; two other songs that need to be on there.

    Reply this comment
    • Noe the G
      Noe the G 5 September, 2020, 02:40

      If the dog man don’t getcha then The Katmandu. I hear ya but mama don’t play no Bob Seger.

      Reply this comment
  11. Guidopm
    #11 Guidopm 7 July, 2019, 16:48

    Take it Easy, Take it to the Limit, Already Gone, Life in the Fast Lane…need I continue?

    Reply this comment
  12. Uncle Gare
    #12 Uncle Gare 10 July, 2019, 16:31

    If you are taking a long road trip it gets no better than listening to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn.
    The long version of course.

    Reply this comment
  13. TSM0566
    #13 TSM0566 12 July, 2019, 14:03

    All good choices, but needs to have Black Betty by Ram Jam on this list!!

    Reply this comment
  14. RedRok
    #14 RedRok 15 August, 2019, 13:05

    How can this list not have a single Bachman-Turner song? They have written more driving songs than anyone else.

    Reply this comment
  15. jasmoon
    #15 jasmoon 27 May, 2021, 20:19

    great list- one more ‘Drive’ by Todd Rundgren

    Reply this comment
  16. Schulzie
    #16 Schulzie 28 May, 2021, 05:05

    Peter wolf, ‘nothing but the wheel’. Better make it 20 songs!

    Reply this comment
  17. Howard
    #17 Howard 28 May, 2021, 09:33

    I would add “Born to be Wild” – “Runnin’ on Empty” and
    Long Train Runnin’

    Reply this comment
  18. Kilowatt
    #18 Kilowatt 28 May, 2021, 10:44

    Chuck Berry ‘Promised Land’
    Gourds ‘Lower 48’

    Reply this comment
  19. Barbarita
    #19 Barbarita 29 May, 2021, 17:37

    Top 10 (or 11) driving songs. How in Hell did Eagles “Life in the Fast Lane” not make either of these lists? That’s a sacrilege!!!! Unbelievable.

    Reply this comment
  20. Cosmic Cowboy
    #20 Cosmic Cowboy 26 May, 2022, 00:50

    No one list is definitive, that is one reason these discussion boards, when addressed with civility, make for enjoyable reading and exchange.

    My two cents worth, if I was on a long road trip, and wanted steering wheel-tappin’ music, I would have in the mix (but limited to 10 songs here), in no particular order:

    (As well as many selections from previous readers/commentators):

    “Radar Love”: Golden Earring
    “Roll On (Down The Highway)”: Bachman-Turner
    “Rocky Mountain Way” (Long/Live Version): Joe Walsh
    “Free Ride”: Edgar Winter Group
    “Free Bird” (One More From The Road/Live Version): Lynyrd Skynyrd
    “Green Grass and High Tides” (Long/Live Version): The Outlaws
    “Highway Star”: Deep Purple
    “Two-Lane Highway”: Pure Prairie League
    “If You Want To Get To Heaven”: Ozark Mountain Daredevils
    “Ramblin’ Man”: Allman Brothers (Courtesy of Dickey Betts)

    Reply this comment
  21. Kola
    #21 Kola 26 May, 2022, 01:08

    !!!??!!!?!!!!?! BTO’s Roll On Down The Highway, Let It Ride, Four Wheel Drive and Freeways not even mentioned!??????!!! This band should be in the HOF and at the very top of this list!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  22. U021650
    #22 U021650 26 May, 2022, 10:50

    One of my favs didn’t make the list or the comments yet – Bat Out Of Hell (the song for sure and others from the album like All Revved Up and Paradise By The Dashboard Light).

    That’s driving music!

    Reply this comment
  23. Jamie Reno
    #23 Jamie Reno 23 December, 2022, 00:30

    None of these songs are great driving songs. A great driving song is one that actually makes you feel the car itself as we cruise. Better examples are Peace of Mind by Boston, 24 Hours at a Time by Marshall Tucker Band, California Man by Cheap Trick, Fool for the City by Foghat, etc.

    Reply this comment
  24. 122intheshade
    #24 122intheshade 23 December, 2022, 01:07

    Jessica and High Falls by the Allman Bros. If you’re stuck in traffic, Stormy Monday.

    Reply this comment
  25. JennyB
    #25 JennyB 23 December, 2022, 04:00

    “From the Kentucky coal mine to the California sun…”, I’ll ride that road with Janis and Bobby McGee any day of the week!

    Reply this comment
  26. lighterup
    #26 lighterup 23 December, 2022, 23:33

    For those willing to wander off the beaten path a bit.

    Moon Martin – Rollin’ In My Rolls
    Rodney Crowell – The Ballad of Fast Eddie
    Neil Young – Fork In The Road
    Screaming Blue Messiahs – Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge
    Mike Ness – I’m In Love With My Car

    Reply this comment
  27. Twink
    #27 Twink 2 September, 2023, 20:58

    I live next door to the Rocky Mountains. Misty Mountain Hop by Zep is definitely a highway tune.

    Reply this comment
  28. Jonesy
    #28 Jonesy 4 September, 2023, 03:37

    Driver’s Seat by Sniff and the Tears

    Reply this comment

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