Greetings, pop pickers, it’s time for another CarTunes, this time brought to you by Mr Graham Eason of Great Driving Days. If you missed Peter Counsell’s opening gambit, click here. If not, continue reading for some more smash hits, mate. Not ‘arf.
Sometimes it really does just take two. Turner & Hooch. Peters and Lee. Renée and Renato. Starsky & Hutch. Into this dynamic duopoly we can add music and cars. An indivisible double act that is so much better than the sum of its parts. Music in cars is what life was made for.
These three motors and music pairings don’t necessarily represent the high-water mark of my relationships with either. But they do mark a very specific moment in time: a precise moment when that car with that song couldn’t be anything else. Here we go…
I admit that any article referencing rock’s twiddliest of twiddly-twiddly-dee-ers isn’t necessarily the must-read flag that keeps PetrolBlog’s Google Analytics account warm. But bear with me.
In 1987, with a freshly-printed driving licence burning a hole in my wallet, I was occasionally gifted the keys to my Mum’s car. Her four-year-old Volkswagen Polo was the family’s pride and joy: the first and only new car to grace our Surrey driveway.
The Polo, complete with back seat soft toy bear ‘Minty’, was not exactly cool. Or quick. Or good to drive. But none of that mattered. I was mobile in a world that, at least temporarily, was entirely my own.
Crucially the ‘breadvan’ Polo had a tape deck. Normally, with my mum on steering duties, this high-tech piece of in-car gadgetry would be blasting out Radio 2 or, at a push, the rousing chorus of The Power of Love by big-cheeked, rock warbler Jennifer Rush.
But on this day, with a newly mobilised Eason Jr at the wheel, the poodle-haired Ms Rush was out, banished to the glovebox. Instead, West Byfleet’s scurrying commuters were being serenaded with Alchemy, the seminal live double album by rock’s foremost purveyors of headbands: Dire Straits.
Despite going to sixth form and being a functioning part of teenage society, it didn’t occur to me that Dire Straits were, at the time, deeply uncool. So driving along with Sultans of Swing blasting out the Polo’s windows, I was blissfully unaware that I was advertising many things about myself. None of which were particularly positive.
The version of Sultans of Swing on Alchemy, like much of band’s live output, is very, very long. At least ten minutes long. Certainly long enough to endure the full length of West Byfleet high street and the endless string of traffic lights.
Sitting at the lights, I was, as always when Dire Straits let rip, immersed in the intense twiddlery of Mark Knopfler’s guitar gymnastics. The lights changed, I slipped the clutch just as Mr Evans the driving instructor had taught me and drove straight into the back of an articulated lorry.
All of a sudden, the masterful fretwork of Knopfler seemed very, very loud. The truck drove off. I got out. People were staring. Other cars were honking. And what had been a mastery of understated Volkswagen front-end design was now a twisted mess of plastic and metal.
I nursed the Polo home and parked it as close to the garage door as I could, imagining that not being confronted with the full awfulness of the damage would somehow assuage my Mum’s anger and my guilt. It didn’t.
A few short years after the Polo incident, my musical education was much more advanced. Well, it had to be – I was at university, where only strange people liked Dire Straits. I still liked Dire Straits, I just made sure I didn’t tell anyone.
I also liked Pixies, without the The (I also liked The The). But I didn’t have a car, so the tunes were confined to my ghetto blaster or on my new-fangled Sony Walkman. Neither of which could quite deliver the visceral thrill of Debaser, one of several standout tracks from the album Doolittle.
For that I needed a car and, because Pixies are best enjoyed in company, a friend. My best friend at university, Andrew, had a car: a knackered Fiat Strada 105 TC with a petrol filler that was entirely separate to the surrounding bodywork.
We rocked that Strada with many tunes, but one drive has stayed with me. With the Strada wound up to 60, the straight and flat road to Yarmouth before us, we flicked on Debaser and screamed. We were both fully and totally immersed in the song, shouting out its insane medley of lyrics word-perfect and totally in time.
Little did we know that Andrew would be dead within four years. The joy of that car, that song and that moment is something I will always have.
In the 1980s, when The Cult were at their peak, there was always something unsettling at the heart of the band. Billy Duffy was very cool and so was his Gretsch White Falcon. Ian Astbury, with his flouncy white sleeves and questionable headgear, definitely wasn’t.
This may explain why, when director Matthew Vaughn used the band’s She Sells Sanctuary for the iconic opening credits of the film Layer Cake, he only ever intended it as a placeholder, planning to find something better – and cooler – to replace it.
Thankfully, he didn’t, because the song’s spacey build up is the perfect soundtrack to one of the best movie opening sequences of all time.
Vaughn was much more decisive about the car that Daniel Craig and his fellow crims would drive while The Cult jangled away: an Audi RS6 Avant.
Unlike the band, the car was cool and right: understated, spacious for four and devastatingly quick. The kind of car that if you knew, you knew.
I had always wanted a RS6 Avant. Not because of Daniel Craig or Layer Cake, although watching the film just reinforced why I wanted one. But, with a classic car hire business to build up, it was always an indulgence compared to the need for another hire car.
I went through a lot of sacrifices to create my business. So finally buying a RS6 represented many things to me. And my first drive was quite an emotional moment.
Naturally the only song I could play was the one forever associated with the car. As I spooled up the twin turbos and cranked up the Bose, a little smile spread across my face.
You could check out ‘Guitar George’, but PetrolBlog suggests getting in touch with classic car hire supremo Graham Eason on Twitter to let him know what you think of his CarTunes.
In other news, the CarTunes playlist is up and running on Spotify. As mixtapes go, it’s rather special. Get in touch to add some CarTunes of your own. Next up, the choice of Ben Hooper.
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