11 Classic Rock Driving Songs: Reader Favorites

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How many times have you sung this – loudly – while in your car alone?

Your bags are packed, the car is gassed up, and you’re ready to hit the road.

Years ago, the founding editor of Guitar World offered us a list of 10 great rock driving songs. Over time, Best Classic Bands readers suggested some key omissions to his list. So on this new edition, we’re turning it up to 11… as in eleven classic rock greats to drive to.

Don’t go looking for Golden Earring’s “Radar Love,” The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” or ZZ Top’s “La Grange” on this list. They’re all on that earlier story.

So lock the doors, strap in and turn the music up.

“Roll on Down the Highway” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

What a great way to kick things off! From the band’s great 1974 album, Not Fragile, this one’s got a great lead vocal from Fred Turner and an absolutely nasty guitar lick from Randy Bachman. Time to open the windows…

“Life is a Highway” – Tom Cochran

The former Red Rider frontman scored a big hit in 1992, his first of seven Top 10 singles in his native Canada. The anthem was his only U.S. hit. Don’t worry… no one’s watching. Go ahead and sing along… Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long…

“Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper

Though the 1971 single was only a modest hit, the crowd pleaser has been a staple of his live shows ever since. The telephone is ringing…

“Highway Star” – Deep Purple

This one has that slow build up with Ian Paice’s drums and Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar and then… whoosh! You’ll be tapping your fingers to the steering wheel in no time. One of the best things about this 1972 number is that all five members of the band get their time to shine bright.

“Rockin’ Down the Highway” – The Doobie Brothers

Yep, that’s the unmistakable voice of Tom Johnston, who also wrote the song for the band’s 1972 album, Toulouse Street. The classic LP cut was never released as a single.

“LA Woman” – The Doors

This 1971 tour de force practically defines the experience of driving on the open road. Be honest: How many times have you sung this – loudly – while in your car alone? Particularly the lyrics: Cops in cars, the topless bars, Never saw a woman, So alone, so alone, so alone

“I Can’t Drive 55” – Sammy Hagar

Though its video was a MTV staple, this 1984 single was only a modest hit, peaking at just #26. And it remains one of the song’s most closely associated with the Red Rocker.

“Autobahn” – Kraftwerk

This unique song introduced most of us to electronic music, when it became a worldwide phenomenon in 1975. Here’s the whole 22+ minute version to help you pass the time.

Related: “Autobahn” is one of our surprising radio hits of the ’70s

“Black Betty” – Ram Jam

Oh yeah! Two-and-a-half minutes of toe-tapping greatness. The founder of the boogie rock group, Bill Bartlett, had been lead guitarist for the bubblegum group, the Lemon Pipers, of “Green Tambourine” fame. This YouTube clip has an astounding 150 million views since it was uploaded in 2017.

“Hollywood Nights” – Bob Seger

Absolute perfection… That piano (courtesy of Little Feat’s Bill Payne)… David Teegarden’s drums… Bullet Bob’s outstanding vocal, and those gorgeous background vocals. How do you not get chills when he sings: Night after night, day after day, it went on and on… ? (And how did this song peak at just #12?)

“Roundabout” – Yes

Road intersections in the U.K., particularly outside the cities, are more likely to use traffic circles – roundabouts – than traffic lights. A 1971 drive in Scotland inspired Jon Anderson and Steve Howe to write about their trip. (More details are here.) Enjoy this live version from London’s legendary Rainbow Theatre that features what many feel is the classic Yes lineup.

Drive safely!

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Greg Brodsky
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23 Comments so far

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  1. Hollis Brown
    #1 Hollis Brown 23 May, 2020, 02:57

    Acca, Dacca long way to the top

    Reply this comment
  2. Bluzrider
    #2 Bluzrider 23 May, 2020, 07:03

    There are a whole new set of tunes to listen to while you are riding a motorcycle, rather than driving a car,
    No motorcycle trip should ever start without putting on the Rolling Stone’s, “Give me Shelter”, When you first take off when starting a trip, that is what you want, it makes a perfect start to any trip. In the middle of the trip, the Allman Brothers “Mountain Jam” takes you to places you never been before, and it last’s for over 30 minutes. Then of course you have to put on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”, throw in Humble Pie’s, “30 days in the hole”, Then put on that playlist Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” How could you not want to stop at a bar, and pick up a hottie to ride with you for a few days? The Door’s next up with “Roadhouse Blues” That tune will get you going. That is only 5 tunes, the rest should be made to be your all time favorites. Not all motorcycles have radios, or other ways of playing music, but those that do, make for a hell of a motorcycle trip.

    Reply this comment
  3. KEN FRANK
    #3 KEN FRANK 23 May, 2020, 07:35

    YOU FORGOT( RAIDER LOVE ) BY GOLDEN EARRING !!

    Reply this comment
  4. Guv
    #4 Guv 23 May, 2020, 08:45

    I can’t believe that either listing does not include “Detroit Rock City” by KISS. It is the 3rd Greatest “Classic Rock Driving Song” behind only the Doors “LA Woman” and Golden Earrings ‘Radar Love”.

    Reply this comment
  5. Jester
    #5 Jester 23 May, 2020, 09:43

    The whole album of “Bat Out Of Hell”!

    Reply this comment
    • Pete
      Pete 23 May, 2020, 12:21

      Little Feat, Let it Roll. A must.

      Reply this comment
      • Steve
        Steve 29 May, 2021, 19:07

        Pete, you are so right about let it Roll! There’s no better driving song. I recently played it for my friend Charlie, and he had never heard it. He was up & dancing immediately through the whole song.

        Reply this comment
  6. Mad F Dawg
    #6 Mad F Dawg 23 May, 2020, 11:28

    Freeway Jam is a hell of a good road song

    Reply this comment
  7. Skow78
    #7 Skow78 23 May, 2020, 19:41

    Doors . Light my fire . Kinks come dancing

    Reply this comment
  8. lighterup
    #8 lighterup 24 May, 2020, 22:03

    Jude Cole – Start the Car

    Reply this comment
  9. oxnard
    #9 oxnard 25 May, 2020, 15:51

    its only 1 song, but when i was going on a trip first song on would be “stop” by the james gang. Sunny day, windows down, wind in whats left of my hair and just listen to joe walsh and his band jam away

    Reply this comment
  10. Gary
    #10 Gary 26 May, 2020, 16:44

    Born to be wild by Steppenwolf surely deserves a mention on this list? Maybe it should be the top 50 driving songs to include all the great tunes?

    Reply this comment
  11. Father of Tarzan
    #11 Father of Tarzan 3 July, 2020, 06:38

    What about ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ by Tom Petty?

    Reply this comment
    • Woody
      Woody 5 September, 2020, 01:17

      TP—Good one! Drivers Seat!! Sniff n the Tears? C’mon Man! Haha Gary Numan. Here in my car I feel safest if all?? Lol. Also, Detroit Rock City has a not so PC Ending so unfortunately I bet it was left out due to that technicality.

      Reply this comment
  12. Fab 4 Fan
    #12 Fab 4 Fan 5 September, 2020, 18:44

    Can I mention “Back Seat of My Car” from McCartney’s “Ram”?

    Reply this comment
  13. 122intheshade
    #13 122intheshade 4 September, 2021, 00:51

    Brothers and Sisters by ABB has two: Ramblin’ Man and Jessica. And for good measure, let’s dust off the 60s classic “Stick Shift” by the Duals. Panama should get an honorable mention just for the lyrics.Finally, when you’re broken down in the middle of nowhere and you need a good laugh, flip over “Drag City” and get real with “Schlock Rod”.

    Reply this comment
  14. baybluesman
    #14 baybluesman 10 September, 2021, 01:10

    So many great songs on this, and the initial list, that it would be difficult to have a definitive list that satisfies every reader’s favorites. With that disclaimer……..here are two I would have pumping out of the Jensen Quadaxials on a road trip; Foghat’s live.version of ‘Eight Days On The Road'” and Johnny Winter’s live version/rendition of Dylan”s ‘Highway 61 Revisited”.

    Reply this comment
  15. muddywatersmann
    #15 muddywatersmann 26 May, 2022, 00:29

    how about either studio or live versions of I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE by JOHNNY CASH? [hank snow tune]

    Reply this comment
  16. Cosmic Cowboy
    #16 Cosmic Cowboy 26 May, 2022, 23:52

    Agree wholeheartedly with BCB readers who mentioned “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” – one of the greatest driving tunes ever, whether you are rolling down the highway, cruisin’ the boulevard, or even waiting for the light to change.

    Reply this comment
  17. Misspent Youth
    #17 Misspent Youth 2 September, 2022, 04:31

    Guys!! You did a column about driving songs and DIDN’T INCLUDE GOLDEN EARRING’S “RADAR LOVE”?!?!? I’m truly shocked! That has got to be the driving song of all driving songs!

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky Author 2 September, 2022, 10:48

      Misspent Youth… You missed the 3rd paragraph of the story: “Don’t go looking for Golden Earring’s ‘Radar Love,’ The Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ or ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ on this list. They’re all in Part 1

      Reply this comment
  18. GoodHulk
    #18 GoodHulk 2 September, 2022, 09:24

    BTO is WAY OVERDUE for the R&R Hall Of Fame!!!!! Get them in before thier health fails them!!!!!

    Reply this comment

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