Got a Feel for My Automobile

queen 575 freddie mercury, brian may © chris walter photo by chris walterwireimage
Got a Feel for My AutomobileChris Walter
queen 575 freddie mercury, brian may © chris walter photo by chris walterwireimage
Chris Walter

When queen sang “I’m in Love with My Car” on their sublime 1975 album, A Night at the Opera, the line “got a feel for my automobile” worked because it rhymed, not because Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and drummer Roger Taylor (who sang this song) were gearheads. But history brims with rock stars who really did love cars, who sang about them, collected them, even died driving them. Popular music, especially after World War II, has been mortally linked with cars.

For the average teenager, the car radio became as important as the car itself. I had suitcases of mixtapes and dubbed cassettes, then books of CDs that dates and buddies flipped through as I carved the side roads in southern Maine. I knew which ­station was getting the Led out at any given hour. But my undying love for Pink Floyd and Bruce Springsteen had to take a back seat for this, the first-ever Road & Track Music issue, where we’re taking a fresh look at the inseparable histories of two very Ameri­can phenomena.

To avoid the old car clichés, we made a banned-band list to prevent ourselves from steering down an editorial highway jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive. Go ahead and make your own list. Here’s mine:

Eric Clapton. Say what you will about Clapton’s music; he had a Ferrari named after him.
Enough said.

Nick Mason. Again, I love Pink Floyd, and like most gentleman guitarists, I worship the playing of David Gilmour. Floyd’s drummer, Mason, was no John Bonham, but he has a fantastic car collection. So good, in fact, that car mags have been covering it forever. You’re a nice guy, Nick, but you’re overexposed.

James Hetfield. Yeah, I don’t care about his cars.

Springsteen. What exactly is a last-chance power drive?

ZZ Top. While they were once heroic mumblers with nasty ­guitar work, the cheese of Eliminator nearly led to a cars/music divorce.

The list is much longer than we have space for. There’s at least 70 years of car clichés in pop. So instead, read on and discover the fresh stuff we went for: the sonic landscapes that Elliot Scheiner created for Acura, the little-known road trip that led to the Sgt. Pepper’s album, the car collection of Killer Mike, and Hunter S. Thompson’s death-defying quest to hang with Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Then there’s our profile of Miles Davis, who was very effortlessly the car guy Clapton only wishes he could be.

Road & Track

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