5 of the best Australian road trip songs
Driving to the groove
Music and road trips go together like toast and Vegemite, suits and ties, and VB and Panadol.
Crucial to the whole experience, of course, is the actual drive song selection, a catalogue with the power to transform a long stint on the bitumen into a life-long memory. And when it comes to some of Australia’s most definitive driving anthems, the stories behind their creation are just as compelling as the songs themselves.
1. Choirboys – Run to Paradise
“People think Run To Paradise is a clever lyrical song, but it didn’t start with a lyrical idea,” explains Mark Gable of the Choirboys’ 1987 hit. “It started with a chorus that I had since ‘83, ‘84. We were sitting in rehearsal one day and I had the guys run over the song and I came up with the verse and lyrics all in the space of about 40 minutes.”
More than two-decades on, Gable can easily recall the inspiration for the anthem.
“It stemmed from watching my mates smoke dope and ruining their lives in paradise on the northern beaches,” he says. “It was a fantastic time. It was in the ‘70s, we were all teenagers and in our 20s, just going down to the beach all the time and having an absolute ball in the sunshine. I could never figure out why they chose to escape that kind of lifestyle.”
2. James Blundell – This Road
When country star James Blundell penned his 1992 classic This Road during a drive from Adelaide to Victor Harbour, he was pondering far less weighty issues.
“I had the window down and the initial image was a series of those rolling hills between the two towns that were covered in Patterson’s Curse,” recalls Blundell.
“About the same time you could also start to see glimpses of the ocean, and it was just stunning. It was one of those cosmic slaps that made me realise I had the best job in the world and was enjoying pretty much ultimate freedom all the time.
“I came up with the song while I was driving and the pieces fell together really quickly. I think it probably changed shape three or four times between the original draft and what I actually wound up writing down, but being young and fearless I’m pretty sure I played it that night at the Crown Hotel.”
3. Goanna – Solid Rock
Goanna’s early ‘80s mega hit Solid Rock is another song whose origins were inspired by its authors’ surroundings. It came together when frontman Shane Howard spent two-weeks at Uluru following his doctor’s advice to take a break due to illness.
“On my first night there I sat down and wrote, ‘out here nothin’ changes, not in a hurry anyway’, and it really just flowed from there,” recalls Howard. “A few nights later there was a corroboree and I went over and witnessed it. It was just very beautiful being under the stars as darkness fell and the dancers started to dance, the women started to chant and the full moon rose over the back of the rock.”
The final version of the song emerged following a contrasting return to Alice Springs.
“There was violence, colonisation, dispossession and racism,” he recalls. “I guess that changed the song from being one particular view in a cultural and spiritual way to being a very angry song about social injustice. The riff and most of the song structure came together out there.”
4. Adam Brand – You’re a Revhead
Sometimes, great road songs simply emerge from a life-long love of cars. Like country star Adam Brand’s 1999 road trip classic You’re a Revhead – a song that developed quickly during a songwriting session with eight-times Golden Guitar winner Colin Buchanan.
“Bucho was renovating his house so we got a room for the day at the Engadine Motel and just went in there to write a song,” recalls Brand. “A couple of hours later we had the song finished. It started with a strutting riff and the words just evolved.”
Brand says other issues also played a crucial role in the emergence of the song.
“At that point in my life I was just so into my car, I mean I always am and I always will be, but at that point I was going to the speedway all the time and going down and helping mates work on their race cars, and it was just so much in the front of my brain that all these things just sort of popped out.”
5. Travis Collins – Start the Car
Of course, cover versions like Travis Collins’ rendition of Start the Car can also strike a powerful chord.
“It’s not literally about starting the car and getting out of here, it’s more about getting away from things that frustrate you, and often that’s what people are doing when they’re driving,” Collins explains. “It was just such a great song. It made me want to get in the car and just drive until there was nowhere else to go.”
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