I have needed utter silence to pack my bags, boxes, books, and radiator hoses for six weeks on the road. But when the key turns in the ignition of my old ’67 Comet ragtop, my playlist is ready to crank up to the skies.
I have learned that road-trip music provides an ear to the future, as well as to the past and present. To put it another way, sound is second only to smell in my Proustian lobes, and this June and July, starting today, are my next batch of good old days. So, I aim to remember the summer of ’09 even more clearly and fondly than I remember the summer of ’89, when I crossed the same continent in the same car. (I dug the cassette soundtrack for that trip out of a closet for this trip, but we’ll get to that.)
Topping my Summer of 2009 playlist is the Eagles’ “Already Gone.” Not a very original choice, perhaps, but just so: I defy anyone to lay down better screaming guitar and lyrics to accompany laying down a patch of rubber on asphalt than “I’m aaaalready gone, and I’m feeeeeeelin’ strong/ I will sing this vict’ry song, woo-hoo-hoo, my, my, woo-hoo-hoo….” It is what it is.
Next up is Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Vince Gill with “Oklahoma Borderline,” The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” Lyle Lovett’s roadhouse pickup special, “Cowboy Man,” Bob Seger’s Live Bullet version of “Get Out of Denver,” Hal Ketchum’s “Mama Knows the Highway,” and—of course—Tina Turner taking us home to “Nutbush City Limits.” There are 74 songs on this list, a gut-punch compilation of the best tunes in my music library, all with the following singular qualification: They are meant to be played very loudly.
As the summer goes on, I will doubtless acquire new music and create new playlists. But this one, this sequence of selections, some of them already imbued with deeper layers of memory, is sacrosanct. Pass the madeleines.