We kick-off in 1973 with Golden Earring’s epic Radar Love which rocked the charts both sides of the Atlantic. Surely, the best opening four lines of any drive-related rock song (you know the tune):
“I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
It's my baby callin', says I need you here
And it's a half past four and I'm shiftin' gear”
Johnny Cash - One Piece At A Time
And at the other end of the scale, but equally memorable, is the novelty country music song One Piece at a Time by Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three in 1976. It was Cash’s swansong, his last to reach No1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and the last to reach the Billboard Hot 100. It is a simple narrative about a production line worker at General Motors who steals a Cadillac, one piece at a time, smuggling parts out in his lunchbox. Incredibly, after 25 years, he makes a car, is charged with theft, and he takes the CB handle “Psychobilly Cadillac”. Enjoy.
Don McLean- American Pie
Earlier in the decade (1971) Don McLean’s American Pie - nothing to do with the cult classic film franchise - topped the charts. This was a tribute to the "day the music died" referring to the 1959 plane crash which killed rock and roll legends Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. Another classic car song.
C.W. McCall - Convoy
And we go back to something a little more light-hearted again with CW McCall’s Convoy in 1975. The song capitalised on the popularity of citizens band radio, includes a good deal of CD slang, and was the inspiration for the 1978 Sam Peckinpah film Convoy.
Rose Royce - Car Wash
A bit of disco from 1977 provides us with Rose Royce and Car Wash. The song was allegedly penned by Norman Whitfield on a paper bag from a fried chicken takeaway. Car Wash sold two million copies and was a number one success on both the Billboard popular and R&B charts in the United States and reached the top 10 in the UK.
Janis Joplin - Mercedes Benz
The beginning of the decade (1970) brought us Janis Joplin’s “Lord Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” which also makes our top 10. It was originally an a cappella written by Joplin with the help of poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth. In the song, the singer asks the Lord to prove His love for her by buying her a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a "night on the town”. The shrinks reckon the song “manifests a rejection of snowballing 70’s consumerism”. Whatever. Once heard, never forgotten.
Queen - I'm In Love With My Car
Just where would we have been without Queen in the 1970s? I’m in Love with My Car from 1975 makes our list of the best 70s cruising tunes. The song features the revving sound of Roger Taylor’s Alfa Romeo, and was inspired by, and dedicated to, one of the band's roadies, Johnathan Harris (“boy racer to the end”), whose Triumph TR4 was the "love of his life".
Gary Numan - Cars
Numanoids will delight in the fact that the aptly named Cars has made the top 10. Released as a single from Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle album in 1979, Cars was spawned by Punk but is now considered a new wave staple. It was the first release by Numan as a solo artist after he dropped the Tubeway Army.
You know you want it. No list of the best 70s cruising tunes would be complete without the T-Birds’ Greased Lightning with jelly-legged John Travolta on lead vocals. Released when the film, Grease, came out in 1978, the Greaseboys - our hero Danny, Kenickie, Putzie, Doody and Sonny - sing about how a modified hot rod will improve their image and help them arouse women.
Bruce Springsteen - Thunder road
Bring on The Boss, I hear you demand. OK, drum roll… Bruce Springsteen completes our list of best 70s cruising tunes with the brilliant Thunder Road from his breakthrough album Born to Run in 1975. Ranked as one of Springsteen's greatest ever songs, it also makes the list of the top rock songs of all time in Rolling Stone magazine. And you can’t argue with that.