Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Silver Machine"

I'm a confirmed and faithful car-driver. I love being behind the wheel, particularly if I'm beetling along some gorgeous rural landscape. I've driven through the lakes and passes of backwater Switzerland, along the dusty, deserted B roads in Italy, along the stark industrial nihi-scapes of eastern Europe and across the vast vacuum of the midwest US. And loved every damn second of each and every trip.
And when I'm driving, I'm listening to music. Over the past hundred or so years I've gone through countless cassette tapes, I've warped CDs in the heat of Arizona and hunted down 500,000-watt Mexican AM stations in the middle of the night. All in search of that moment when you recognise the song, you wriggle in the driver's seat to reach a more comfortable driving position, and let out a long, satisfied sigh of pleasure.
Nowadays, I'm told I don't have to do all this. Instead, I could saunter into my local music emporium and purchase any number of "Driving" compilations which have been lovingly assembled to enhance my motoring pleasure.
I can see what they're trying to do here, and you can but applaud the intention, but my God, the selections! Since when was the Waterboys' "The Whole of the Moon" a driving song? Or Prince's "Purple Rain"? Check out the compilation I've hotlinked above. How many of those songs would you actually like to drive to?
Who makes these compilations? Cyclists? Pedestrians? Certainly not drivers. I mean, who in their right mind is going to enjoy listening to Chris Rea siinging about the "Road to Hell" when they're loafing along the motorway at 80-something mph on their way to the Continent for their summer holiday?
Which brings me to today's song. Many, many moons ago I blogged "Silver Machine" in the tersest of terms, saying only that it was one of two heavy rock songs that everyone needs to own. But having thought it through over the last couple of years and having driven many miles with it, I'm here today to state, categorically, that this is the ONLY driving song with which every car should be equipped as standard.
Firstly, the title alone says "car." Well, purists could argue it says "spaceship", but I'm not here to quibble. The Silver Machine we drive every day is as close as most of us will get to a spaceship.
Secondly, the song drives. And when I say "drives" I mean it's un-bloody-stoppable. It's like being at the controls of some piece of heavy industrial machinery without any idea of how to turn the damn thing off.
Thirdly, it's not a "fast" song. It cruises, arms resting on the open windowsill, shifting up a gear every four bars and to hell with the mileage and when the next rest stop is. It makes a pleasing hissing noise as it zips along, like big trucks on a wet road.
Last of all, if you play it really LOUD, it slowly dulls your senses in the same way that your brain goes fuzzy after 400 miles at the wheel. The guitar, the frantic drums, the effects all blend together into some weird sound-scape that whisks past you like a blurred service station at 3 a.m.
What other song can lift you off your sofa and into the fast lane of Interstate 60 like that?