For most famous rock n roll musicians, life is all about cars and girls. Indeed, many were the bands that made a great living from writing and performing songs which were about one or the other. While you need not look further than Motley Crue or similar for songs of female appreciation, some musicians also show their love of cars – and the open road – by purchasing and showcasing some of the more notable ones.
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top is a big fan of car customisation; the cover of the band’s 1983 hit album Eliminator features an illustration of Gibbons’ customized 1933 Ford coupe which can be seen in several ZZ Top music videos. One of the more memorable images during the heyday of 1980s MTV is the group decked out in matching suits and beards, twirling their guitars around while the Eliminator rushes past behind them. The coupe (below left) makes appearances to this day at various car shows around the world.
Another example of a rock singer’s love for the fast lane can be heard in the song “I Can’t Drive 55” by former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. Even before his stint as singer in one of the most famous rock bands in the world, his solo album VOA contained this tribute to the rules of the road. The lyrics to the song, which refers to the American speed limit at the time, apparently came to Sammy as he sat at the side of the road, being written up for a speeding ticket in New York state by a patrolman who evidently wasn’t a fan. “I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics,” said Hagar of the song’s inspiration. “I got to Lake Placid, I had a guitar set-up there. And I wrote that song there on the spot.”
Some time later, Sammy would find himself in the Van Halen line-up thanks to a love of fast cars that was shared by band leader, Eddie Van Halen. When visiting his mechanic to pick up his Lamborghini Countach, Eddie’s mechanic informed him of another customer whose Ferrari 512 was in to be serviced. The mechanic thought that Eddie might like to meet its owner to try out for the band, numbers were exchanged, and rock history was made in an auto garage.
Some of Bruce Springsteen’s most famous songs were conceived behind the wheel of his first car. From his book “Songs”: “I bought my first set of wheels for two thousand dollars. It was a '57 Chevy with dual, four-barrel carbs, a Hurst on the floor and orange flames spread across the hood." Purchased with money from his first record deal, the car inspired Springsteen to write material which to this day remains some of his most often played; songs such as ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘Born to Run’, which deal with the romance of leaving town in search of adventure, are just some of the classics written during his ownership of the Chevy; which fetched almost half a million dollars when it was auctioned last spring. Cars play a very strong role in music as we know it today; not only as an expensive hobby of well-known artists like Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton, but as the driving force behind musicians like Springsteen and ZZ Top, it’s easy to see how the rule of the road has contributed to musical culture.