Friday, September 10, 2010

Top car show tunes of all time. Ride, Mustang Sally, but remember, Deadman's Curve is no place to play

After attending a jillion car cruises and shows, I’ve noticed a pattern in the music that seems to be played when a disk jockey is present. I mean seriously, every single car show D.J. plays Mustang Sally. Every one of them! Here’s my list of the top most played car show songs.

Little Deuce Coupe. The Beach Boys. 1963. In many peoples’ eyes, this is the de facto standard car show tune. It was the Beach Boys at their best. Most of the song lyrics actually describe their hot rod in detail. All you have to hear is the two opening drum beats to know what’s coming. The song might have been played and played-out, but no other song is in as many car show D.J. record collections. And just one more thing—I’ve got the pink slip, Daddy.

Fun, Fun, Fun. The Beach Boys, 1964. “Well, the girls can’t stand her ‘cause she looks and drives like an ace now.” There is no car show safe from this one. It has been played so much, I’m surprised the recording hasn’t worn out. I think she’ll have fun forever, because it doesn’t look like daddy is ever going to take that T-Bird away.

409. The Beach Boys, 1963. “My four-speed, dual-quad, posi-traction 4-0-9.” The Beach Boys have several songs on this list. I guess car show D.J.’s get a cut of the royalties or something. This is a pretty good one, though. It starts off with the engine noise. It’s about a Chevy engine, and drag racing, and giddyin’ up. It is essential for every car show playlist.

Mustang Sally. Wilson Pickett. 1966. “I got ta put your flat feet on the ground.” This is another song that is 100% guaranteed to be played three or four times at every car show. Wicked Pickett never gets to hang out with Sally because he bought her that damn Mustang. Maybe next time he’ll reconsider his gifts to her.

Deadman’s Curve. Jan & Dean. 1964. “…and all the Jag could see were my six taillights.” That’s right—SIX taillights. Yeah, you’re not supposed to defile old Corvettes and all, but that is a pretty cool modification if you must customize one.

Green Onions. Booker T and the M.G.’s. 1962. No lyrics to pull from this one because it’s an instrumental, but every car guy should know it. When Milner and Falfa line up for maybe the most famous street race in movie history in American Graffiti, this is the song that plays hauntingly in the background.

Beep Beep. The Playmates. 1958. “For a Rambler to Pass a Caddy, would be a big disgrace.” Yeah, this song is kind of dopey, but you can’t help but sing along with it (in your head—don’t sing this song out loud with other people around!). I’ll tell you one thing, if that guy doesn’t stop driving his little Nash-Rambler 90 without shifting out of second gear, something is gonna blow.

Hey Little Cobra. The Rip Chords. 1963. “I took my Cobra down to the track, hitched to the back of my Cadillac.” Actually, according to the Playmates, a little Nash-Rambler might be a better tow vehicle than a Cadillac. Shut ‘em down.

I Can’t Drive 55. Sammy Hagar. 1984. “When I drive that slow, it’s hard to steer, and I can’t take my car out of second gear.” Perhaps Sammy is driving a little Nash-Rambler. Well, whatever he’s driving, he’s a maniac behind the wheel. And one thing car show people love is a song about a maniac.

Mercury Blues. Alan Jackson. 1993. “Well if I had money, tell you what I’d do, I’d go downtown and buy a Mercury or two.” I guess it depends on how much money he has as to how many Mercurys he actually buys. Also, the song indicates he’s partial to ’49 Mercs, and there probably aren’t too many of those for sale downtown at any given time.

Little Red Corvette. Prince. 1983. “You had a pocket full of horses, Trojans, and some of them used.” Gross. Hasn’t she ever heard of a trashcan? I don’t even think this song has anything to do with Corvettes. They still seem to play it a lot. Cover the kids’ ears!

Hot Rod Lincoln. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. 1972. This was actually a cover of the same song written and released 17 years earlier by Charlie Ryan, but in this rare instance, the ‘70s version is more identifiable than the original. This is a song about a nut-burger who takes an old Model A with a big engine that is unfit to drive on public roads, drives up against the guardrail wide-open, ends up in getting tossed in jail, and has to call his dad to bail him out. Genius!

Little GTO. Ronny and the Daytonas. 1964. I think we’ve determined here that 1963-’64 was the golden era of the surfer car music genre, and this song fortifies that position. Heck, the song is like an advertisement for the potent Pontiac, detailing the 389 engine and three-carburetor setup. Why would anyone buy a Gasser or a rail-job when you can actually take your GTO to the drive-in movies between the run-what-you-brung nights at Pomona? The little GTO is really lookin’ fine, and this song is doin’ fine at car shows all over America.


  1. I'd like to hear Johnny Cash's "One Piece At A Time" at more shows and cruises!

  2. Yeah, that's a good one that you don't seem to hear as often.