Mood Music: the summer holidays are nearly here, and the time is right for family listening on long car journeys. Laura Barton takes the wheel...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine July/August 2012
ALABAMA SHAKES HANG LOOSE
The song to herald the start of a vacation—a warm, lolloping testament to the joys of being carefree, with a pleasingly wormy guitar line and a hefty sing-a-long chorus. "Hang loose, hang loose/Let the ocean worry ’bout bein’ blue," it buoys. "Hang loose, hang loose/Go with the tide, and I’m a-take care of you..."
JOHN “COUGAR” MELLENCAMP JACK & DIANE
Narrative songs are an excellent way to engage tetchy young travellers, and they should be young enough not to think this is uncool. A sweet little ditty from 1982, it tells an engaging tale of teenage romance in America’s heartland, all chilli dogs, James Dean and running off to the big city.
MELANIE BRAND NEW KEY
Melanie’s plaintive tale of childhood crushes and rollerskating supplies the pop frivolity a summer holiday requires. The younger members of the family may require a bit of background along the lines that, once upon a time, rollerskates attached to one’s shoes by means of a small key, easily misplaced.
STAPLE SINGERS I’LL TAKE YOU THERE
If you’re a parent with control of the CD player and a captive audience sitting in the back, you might care to use the time for a little musical and social education. This 1972 hit wraps up civil rights, religion and striving for a better place in a blanket of gospel call-and-response, funk, reggae and sweet Muscle Shoals soul. Music at its richest.
ANDREW BIRD DANSE CARRIBE
One of the best things about holidays is the shift in rhythm they bring to our days. This track, from the multi-instrumentalist Bird’s recent album “Break It Yourself”, is a real celebration of rhythm—all polyrhythmic loops and near-Afropop pace, embellished with whistling, violin and near-jabberwocky lyrics.
VIOLENT FEMMES BLISTER IN THE SUN
Communal activities are a crucial element of the family car journey, and what finer example than the double hand-clap? The annals of rock and pop history offer many examples, but this thrilling, lyrically abstruse record from 1983 is propelled by a sneery bassline and a repeated double drumbeat: made for a clap-along.
STEELEYE SPAN ALL AROUND MY HAT
For all the staycationers in Britain—or visitors relishing the unapologetic celebrations of this much-Jubileed and Olympic summer—here’s a taste of sublime Englishness: a Cockney costermonger’s song from the 1820s, telling of mourning for a far-flung love, full of green willows, prudence and farewells. There have been many recordings over the years, but this electric folk version from 1975 is the definitive one.
PAUL SIMON GRACELAND
Simon’s 1986 album, a marriage of American folk pop and South African vocal harmony and instrumentation, is enjoying a revival this summer with a 25th-anniversary world tour. For many, it remains the definitive sound of family car journeys, and its title track, the tale of a divorced dad and his son driving to Elvis’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, is the jewel in its crown.
All songs available at iTunes
Laura Barton is a novelist and Guardian feature writer