Selecting the right music for a road trip is almost as essential as remembering your underwear (which I forgot a couple of years ago – not fun at all). If you don’t have the right music, you might as well just hop on the interstate and stay in hotels.
There’s a good reason why Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and Johnny Cash often get thrown on road trip mixes – theirs is music from the road. It originated there and when you listen to it, you feel quite at home. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’ve already thrown Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and Johnny Cash in the car.
But there’s also another way to look at road trip music. I like the challenge of making music fit the environment, rather than perfectly matching up the environment to the song. For example, the last time we went through the back roads of the Utah desert, we listened to hours of early Carter Family. And sure, that might fit easily enough, but when we did Route 50 through Nevada in a June snowstorm, several Kraftwerk albums kept us going.
And that’s what I’m going for with this trip. I’m not exactly eschewing the traditional stuff, like the aforementioned Springsteen, I’m just dipping into a bit of obscurity. In this case, we’re taking along the Nebraska demos. As for the Dead, I’ve selected two live shows, one from 1971 and another from 1990. Cash is taken care of by Ballads of the True West and Orange Blossom Special.
From there on out, however, things get weirder. Like last time, we’re fortified with both Kraftwerk and Carter Family (which we’ll listen to again across the Utah desert). I’ve decided to follow the Kraftwerk lead and focus a bit on early electronic music.
I’ve got the first two Human League LPs, the first four OMD albums and then a bunch of fairly obscure stuff like Dalek I, OGI (both from Seattle’s own Medical Records), John Foxx, Deux.
The obscurity doesn’t stop there. How about some 80s era Chumbawamba or the new (yes new!) Men Without Hats or Mission of Burma records? I’ve also tossed in a bootleg of Smiths demos. Speaking of boots, we’ve got three Duran Duran shows from 1981, 1983 and 2003.
And if you’re going to have Pink Floyd along with you, why have Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall when you can have Obscured by Clouds and More? Why settle for safe, early Beach Boys when you can have Smile and Pet Sounds?
Rounding out the selection are a couple of Handsome Family records (perfect for crossing the Rocky Mountains, for some reason) and the original Jesus Christ Superstar album, because why not?
As anyone who follows my personal blog knows, I have made mix CDs for years and years. Some of these will be our companions for the journey as well. I’m bringing along one of my newest, including the one based upon the Beach Boys Smile record. Others cover 80s hip hop, remixes, and a mix made up of the second song of the second side of 26 different albums.
I even made a mix for this trip, called Have Love Will Travel. It was based mostly upon Utah with a nod to other things we’ll see along the way. I’ve sort of taken my mixes to a strange level recently. They’re all one track with around 20 or so songs, stitched together with samples and oddities. If you’d like, you can download it at the link above. Or listen to it below:
We may not yet be packed. We may not have all the food we need or even the exact route nailed down for each day, but we most certainly are prepared when it comes to music for the road. What will be our next Kraftwerk in a desert snowstorm? Tune in and find out!