Some of my fondest memories are of car journeys immersed in music. They were not necessarily remarkable drives – it was the music that made them memorable. There is something about listening to music in a car – the enclosed space, the lack of distraction, the possibilities of high volume – that means it becomes all encompassing, you can focus on a melody, a beat, a rhythm while your mind drifts elsewhere.
A childhood drive through France will always be associated with The Beatles Red Album; a birthday trip to the beach with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Some of my favourite music has been discovered this way… A late night drive home through country lanes, my parents just returned from a work trip, sitting on knees because the car was so full of cases, Nirvana Nevermind played at full volume. Or a slowing of the car through Ipswich suburbs on a visit to my Grandmother to allow Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song to play all the way through, so loud that I’m sure they could hear us streets away.
The most enduring of these memories is another from my childhood: tired and returning late at night from a trip away to who-knows-where, driving down the motorway through Port Talbot – an industrial cityscape: cranes, towers, chimneys lit up by a web of lights and flames – the rain on the windows catching the lights from steelworks and cars alike… I drive through Port Talbot often still and every time I think of the album that was playing that night - Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. Rough, bedraggled, melancholy, menacing and beautiful downtown New York music, brought to life in urban South West Wales.
My latest discovery is The Imagined Village’s self-titled album, in particular their song Cold, Haily, Rainy Night. The drums, the chorus of singers, the fine drone of sitars, and the story-telling lyrics make for perfect driving music – a song to take you far away from the present whilst simultaneously anchoring the moment in your memory forever.