Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 3, 2016

Road Trip Playlist

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When you set out to drive 800 miles from Los Angeles to Albuquerque (and back, nine days later), as we did last week, an essential question is: What tunes will we play?

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You’ll cross deserts, mountains and, for a considerable portion of the trip, depending on your route, follow The Mother Road, Route 66.

There is, as it happens, an official Under Western Skies Road Trip Playlist that kicks off the journey.

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Here are some selections.

“Born to Be Wild,” Steppenwolf – “Get your motor runnin’/Head out on the highway!” No other words — at least for members of my generation — can start any trip. No, I wasn’t riding a motorcycle, nor was that Dennis Hopper riding next to me, but when it comes to travel anthems, this is it, period. All road trips start here.

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“Back in the U.S.S.R.,” The Beatles – The Lads on the road, both rocking and funny, with some irony thrown in for good measure.

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“I Get Around,” The Beach Boys – “I’m gettin’ bugged, drivin’ up and down this same old strip.” Thank you, Mr. Wilson.

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“Take It Easy,” Jackson Browne (The Eagles’ version also acceptable) – You are, after all, going to pass by Winslow, Arizona.

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“Theme from Route 66,” The Nelson Riddle Orchestra – Isn’t that Martin Milner and George Maharis up ahead in that ’62 Corvette?

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“Route 66,” Nat King Cole Trio – The “Route 66” you probably know from the Rolling Stones and umpteen other versions. Mr. Cole’s from 1946 is classic.

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“Lodi,” Creedence Clearwater Revival – Every touring musician has written about being on the road. No one has done it any better than John Fogerty.

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“Down to London,” Joe Jackson – Riding in the back of a Transit van, headed for musical fame and fortune in the big city.

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“Highway 61 Revisited,” Bob Dylan – Try to drive for 100 miles through the desert and NOT think of this song. Better simply to put it on the list and get it out in the open. “Set up some bleachers out in the sun/Have the whole thing out on Highway 61.”

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“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen – Duh.

That’s a sample. As the miles and hours pass, we branch out into albums. Faves include Sharon Isbin’s “Dreams of a World,” and fellow guitar master, Wes Montgomery’s “Far Wes.” Sinatra’s “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” holds it own in any landscape, plus more from Jackson Browne, Beatles, add in ZZ Topp (especially “LaGrange”), and — as the wide miles really stretch out — some Mozart quartets and Vivaldi.

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Have a road trip playlist favorite? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. Photo #3 © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission.

c.f. “Radar Love” isn’t on this list, because it has to be at night, and the woman was already in the car with me. I played that one in ’93 en route to California from the Midwest — on cassette, natch.


  1. Nice post brother 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1,600 miles of driving a car on asphalt in the hot desert sun 🌞 — most admirable! 😎 I couldn’t do that. Welcome home, Amis. Hope you had a great trip.


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