Later this year, my daughter and I will be on a road-trip. That used to mean that we would have to plan the music, but that’s no longer a chore. The car is iPod ready and we both have iPod/iPhone collections of music. Faith has about 4 million songs and I have 25. I do have some that she doesn’t, including the theme song from Patton and Eric Clapton’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” which (video) looks to be more fun than musicians should have.
I remember when road trips were a constant struggle to tune the AM radio in search of a station with decent music or if we were lucky, the Pirates game. Fortunately, the airwaves weren’t that crowded and KDKA had the power (it seemed) to reach halfway around the world. Then, sometime in the late 60’s, my father bought an 8-Track player for the car. Suddenly we had music. Our own music. Music that we could carry with us and control. 8-Track wasn’t the best quality sound, but it was way better than an AM radio signal drifting in and out of the static as we traveled from western PA to central Virginia.
On the first vacation drive with that 8-Track player, my dad decided that we would alternate choices between our favorite tapes. Dad cheated by bringing a 90-minute tape – “The Patsy Cline Story” which may have started my love affair with country music (I still sometimes get “Walkin’ After Midnight” stuck in my head). I had two Neil Diamond tapes that I had picked up in a bargain bin, the album with “Cherry Cherry” and “Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show.” Mom had some musicals. Dad also had a 90-minute country / bluegrass mix-tape a friend had made for him.
I was still listening to 8-track tapes when I moved from NY to Seattle in 1977. Although cassette tapes had started to rule the world of portable music, I stuck with 8-Tracks until I got rid of my Pontiac Catalina in 1979. Auto tape players were expensive, time consuming to install and if you switched formats, you had to replace your music.
Trust me, if you’re driving across Nebraska, you don’t care about
the form-factor of the music, you just crank it up to keep you awake.
Four years later, as I moved back east, driving across Canada and the Canadian version of Nebraska, the car was a 1979 Triumph Spitfire, the media was cassettes and 70’s rock was the music of choice.
Cassettes piled up in the 80’s and coexisted alongside my CD’s through the 90’s because I had a cassette player in my truck and I had that truck for over 10 years. Pickup trucks are made for country music. I had lots of country music mix-tapes and country favorites like Highway 101 Greatest hits. On the road trip through Washington State that my daughter wrote about, Faith and I listened to that tape so many times as we tried to put the songs in order of the relationship that must have inspired them. The worst mistake ever was when that band’s founder, Paulette Carlson got all cocky and decided to start her lackluster solo career. I guess that happens a lot in music.
A couple of years later, Faith and I had a music malfunction and the worst road trip as far as music was concerned. We drove along the coast from San Francisco to Portland, OR. We toured around and bombed back down I-5. Faith was in charge of music and had brought a bunch of CDs. Unfortunately; the rental car had a Cassette deck. She had precisely 1 cassette. We listened to Fleetwood Mac “Greatest Hits” 5,000 times.
Two years ago, Faith and I teamed up for another 1,500 mile plus road trip, this time on a loop from Connecticut through Gettysburg and Pittsburgh. We had CDs, a CD player an iPod ready car and devices galore. Music had ceased to be an issue. In fact, while heading home through the middle of Pennsylvania, I added to our playlist when I purchased John Lennon’s “Imagine” on my iPhone. The only bad part about that purchase was discovering that Faith likes “Oh Yoko!”
These days, cars have CD/MP3 players, are iPod/device and Pandora ready. My car came with satellite radio, but I prefer my music and I let that contract lapse. I still have an eclectic mix of country music, rock and soft rock CDs to augment the 25 songs on my iPod Nano. One of the things I like the best though is listening to the Pirates game, on KDKA via MLB At Bat on my iPhone. When my brother and I moved my mother from Pittsburgh to Iowa last year, we listened to one of those ball games in the rental truck. Just like old times, only without the static.
Do you have some memorable road trips or favorite traveling music?