Peter Counsell introduced the concept of CarTunes in June, when he presented three songs that take him back to a moment in time. Now he’s back, with another three tracks that will always be linked to a particular car and journey. If you fancy submitting a few CarTunes of your own, get in touch with PetrolBlog. Otherwise it will be down to the editor to pick his tunes…
Summer 1988. Just finishing our third year at university. For most of the group, this is the end of their studies. Exams are over. The summer stretches out before we are due in the world of jobs and responsibilities. We’ve been a tight group since the first week of the first year.
This year, we all turned 21 and had some fabulous times. This is the last of the birthday parties, an overnighter. My friend, Rich, shares a car with his mum and has use of it for the weekend. He is our chauffeur, taking us down from Bristol to somewhere near Winchester.
He’s put together a decent compilation tape for the journey. Some Prefab Sprout and some Lloyd Cole, both contemporary to the time. And some of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – ten years old, even then.
We plough across Salisbury Plain – deserted in my memory. The combination of moving at some speed, a perfect late summer afternoon and the languid beat of Dreams from the Fiesta XR2 tape player sits in my mind as a very happy memory.
Looking back, there’s been weddings, christenings and 40th and 50th parties, but we’re never together again like that.
Putting aside local commuting and shopping, the journey I have taken most often has been Tunbridge Wells to Bournemouth and return. Why? My in-laws live on the Wimborne side of Bournemouth, and have a cottage on the edge of some heathland. They used to run a boarding kennels and had some horses and donkeys, as you do.
As a family, we have been down there for many weekends, staying longer in the summer, particularly when the kids were, well, kids. It is a place where fun things happened – small children got to help with sit-on mowers; took lifts in trailers; walked huge dogs; and learned to drive in the fields once their feet reached the pedals.
On occasion, part of the family would travel separate from the other – usually caused by work commitments. It was not very ecologically sound, but for convenience, using two cars made great sense. The normal, and ostensibly quickest route is A21, M25, M3, M27, A31. However, the vagaries of Friday night traffic, particularly in the summer, means that other options come into play.
And so it was in August 2002. The rest of the family, having taken the estate car, was already in Bournemouth, and London’s great orbital freeway was jammed solid.
With uncharacteristic foresight, I had checked the traffic news and headed south towards Brighton to then pick up the A27 and, eventually, the M27.
I had the Golf to drive: a bright blue Mk3.5 1.6-litre SE Convertible, purchased four years earlier as we fancied the prospect of a drop-top, but with two very young children could not rationalise having a two-seater. Of the cabrios available at the time, the Golf made the most sense to us – a decision supported by keeping that one for 11 years, then replacing it with successive Mk6 Golf Cabrios.
We sold the blue one to a friend, who then sold it on to another friend a year later. It is still kicking around in Surrey, 22 years later with a Dan Gurney for President sticker on the rear bumper. The friends are still friends.
The A27/M27 route takes a long time. Quicker, obviously, than being stuck on the London Orbital, but still slow, particularly in the summer. While evening is the best time for convertible roof to be down, it is tiring on motorways, so roof up and rear windows down.
Feeling a bit jaded by the time of joining the M27, and searching for something to keep me awake, I turned to Pete Tong’s Friday evening show. After a while, Hayling by FC Kahuna came on. First time I had heard it, but it was immediately arresting and suited the drive westwards into the setting sun. How arresting? At the next garage, I stopped and wrote it down on a parking ticket. I have no idea of any other track played that evening.
You’ll know it from the fabulous opening titles to Layer Cake. And its just dawned on me that I was travelling close to Hayling Island when it came on. Coincidence? Yes, yes it was.
Rare these days that we travel as a five – university, jobs, separate holidays are all part of the growing up. But going back a few years and before the advent of Spotify, the car was packed with people, all of whom had a view on what we should listen to.
So, let me take you on a long trip from Kent to Harlyn Bay in Cornwall in a 2003 Audi A6 Avant. Easter holidays, just before eldest took AS levels and middle took GCSEs.
Kent to Cornwall is quite a long slog, easily six hours plus stops at whatever time of day. Tempers didn’t get too frayed, but after a while there was fatigue and just not quite enough legroom all round. And the available radio was a bit poor.
We loaded up a CD of ‘running songs’ with the brief that, with each passenger allowed to rank up to five points, any song scoring over 12 can play on. Twelve or under and it’s skipped.
“A girl went back to Napoli. Because she missed the scenery.” That’s an opening couplet. Team score of 24 (can’t recall who gave it four). Car rocking with singing and dancing.
Put it on now. Then follow it up with Guarda Come Dondolo by Edoardo Vianello.
Now how fast are you travelling?
Remember, the CarTunes playlist is up and running on Spotify. As mixtapes go, it’s rather special. If you’ve been inspired by the tracks laid down by Peter Counsell, get in touch to add some CarTunes of your own. Next up, the choice of Gavin Big-Surname.