"Driving and listening" VS Driving and Listening

There’s no accounting for taste. This is true, as anybody who has looked through my CD changer will tell you (it currently contains Lamb, Pink Floyd, Underworld, James McMurtry, Moulettes and Brian Eno). But it’s surely better to express poor taste than to express no taste. At least it demonstrates that you have an interest.
Heart FM is a UK network of “Adult Contemporary” radio stations operated by Global Radio. Its playlist contains exclusively high-charting, recognised pop records from the last few decades. Musical heavyweights like Michael Buble, Little Mix, Take That, Robbie Williams, all inoffensive, all wildly popular, all bland to the point of being insipid. Every now and again they’ll play a blue chip classic by Michael Jackson or Sister Sledge, but it’ll be something really familiar and overplayed like Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ or We Are Family. And if you miss a track, then don’t worry, because they’ll broadcast the exact same musical menu the next day in a different sequence, you know, just for a bit of variety.
I always shudder when I get in a car and this radio station is selected. This driver clearly has so little interest in music that they physically choose to listen to Heart FM- rather than any one of the hundreds of other better radio stations, or MP3’s, a CD, even silence. So how much interest can they possibly have in driving?

The noun “driving” is a broad one. It covers the operation of any motor vehicle either for work or for pleasure. It can be deconstructed into many, many sensations and experiences, each of which are lapped up by the enthusiast. Joyful attributes of acceleration, inertia, vibration, noise and fear, as well as the less pleasurable factors of expense, despair, pain and disappointment. All of these, and more, will feature in our driving careers at some point. We’ll remember them all, because we find them interesting. Driving is interesting. Yet many “drivers” can only appreciate it for its most basic quality, that of moving from place to place. Treating driving as a way of “going from place to place” is the equivalent of treating music as background noise. For some people, that’s all it’s for.
We all have our favourite songs and many of us will be able to explain exactly why it is that we return to that song over and over again. For example I have, since childhood, held Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms to be my favourite song of all. The sparse, simple percussion, the tremolo organ which fills in the background, the call and response between vocals and guitar and Mark Knopflers mournful solo work. All of this comes together to create a whole which I have felt especially comfortable with for my entire life. It’s my taste, and it’s probably bad. I drive, and will continue to drive until it becomes impossible or illegal, a Rover 825. This is, in many people’s view, a bad car. But one which is at least worthy of having an opinion of, and I have strong reasons for liking it, many of which are probably only understood by me.
Heart FM is the Kia on reasonable monthly payments of the radio world. You cannot listen to it with passion. I simply cannot assimilate the idea of a Heart FM listener being an enthusiast of anything, let alone driving. In my mind their modern, convenient house is full of beige walls, instant coffee and processed food. They don’t own a stereo system, they don’t read books, their holidays are always warm and pretty. Variety is not the spice of their life.
What’s your view? Is there a link between musical and automotive taste?
(All opinions are very definitely not the official views of Hooniverse.com. Dull image taken from 8tracks.com)

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  1. mdharrell Avatar

    “Is there a link between musical and automotive taste?”
    All but one of my vehicles are without even the simplest of radios and the one exception goes unused, so I’ll say yes.

  2. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    automotive taste? hard to say. i know metalheads in automatic Civics and a classical piano enthusiast with an MS3.
    what i want to listen to while driving is so tied into what i’m doing. when commuting i find myself unable to listen to anything without words – i need NPR, or an audio book, or a rapper who is a good storyteller. it’s the repetition of commuting through farmland – my mind needs to be engaged in something, or i’ll go crazy. the closest i can get to wordless, storyless music while commuting is jazz. but on long drives, i can do softer, slower stuff. classical music is fine. even silence is tolerable. i can’t imagine any situation in which i’d be interested in listening to that Heart FM-type garbage.

  3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    I love Pink Floyd, but it’s difficult to listen to in the car with all the road noise.

  4. Batshitbox Avatar

    If you’re trying to delineate a character in a novel, I suppose you could correlate musical taste with automotive taste, “Brian listened to Z-Rock, drove an IROC, and drank Rolling Rock.”
    In reality? No. Your human brain is a pattern seeking machine, and it so wants there to be an association between the two but there’s not.
    There are a lot of Adult Contemporary fans in the world (Don’t try and understand ’em; just rope ’em up and brand ’em.) and there are a lot of incurious vehicle operators who never caught the driving bug. That the two large groups have a sizeable overlap is just due to their ubiquity.

  5. fede Avatar

    I don’t think there is a link, but if you’re passionate about one, it’s more likely to be passionate about the other. Just because you have the ability or capacity to be passionate about something.
    But I do think certain type of cars have their own music… (I really like a 66 and 67 Mustang fastbak and also really like Belle & Sebastian, but that may not happen with most Mustang fans).
    By the way, great article!

    1. JayP Avatar

      Fastback music.

  6. theskitter Avatar

    There’s a great scene in Once where they say, OK, this sounds good on studio speakers.
    Now we have to see how it sounds on crappy car speakers.
    I love the story of Rage Against The Machine topping the UK Christmas single list.
    Basically, someone on Facebook got tired of Britmerican Idols dominating the charts.
    So he urged people to buy Killing In The Name instead.
    It worked.
    A reuinited rage was summarily cut off during a live BBC performance.
    What did you think was going to happen?
    The refrain is f*** you I won’t do what you tell me.
    Here’s the important part:
    It didn’t win by a lot.
    Took around 600,000 copies to get the number one slot.
    The UK is a country of 60 million people.
    That means the rest of the year, it’s the 1% defining ‘taste’ for the rest of us.
    The majority usually isn’t.
    Music does not make me want to dance.
    It makes me want to drive.

  7. JayP Avatar

    My Mustang has Sirius and all I’ve been able to bother with is Ozzy’s Boneyard.
    The Ranger – Green Grass, High Tides and Bounty Hunter.
    Vic – the Peggy Lee CD is came with.
    What was the question?

  8. Alff Avatar

    Is there a link between musical and automotive taste? I don’t know. Both of my two most driven cars are so loud as to render listening to the radio impossible. Both are marginally interesting shitboxes that few others would be interested in living with. Perhaps there is a link between lack of musical and automotive taste.

  9. karonetwentyc Avatar

    Something that I do when I get behind the wheel of a rental for the first time: scan both the AM and FM bands, and set the presets – in anal-retentive order of station frequency – according to taste.
    When I return it, I generally end up bringing it back with the classical station selected. Apart from the fact that I like classical music, it’s generally the least-disappointing and the chances of finding any one station (or combination thereof) of stations that play music that I like is fairly slim.
    That said, my CD / MP3 collection has confused more than a few people. Bach next to the Dead Kennedys alongside the Pet Shop Boys nudging up to AC/DC with the KLF buffering them from Rammstein and so on and so forth… It’s complicated. And these are bands, composers, or artists that have been with me through many, many vehicles, amongst others (on both counts).

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      I don’t think there is any genre that ISN’T in my iTunes library, from dub step to Japanese choral music. Some of the stuff I couldn’t listen to all day (country, blues, rockabilly, metal), but it’s all in there and appreciated.

  10. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
    dead_elvis, inc.

    Props on the James McMurtry inclusion! The man can tell a story (as can his father, novelist Larry McMurtry); his son Curtis is a musician as well, with a very different sound.
    A couple years ago, I saw McMurtry at a roots music festival I’m involved with. The man put away 4 (750mL) bottles of wine in the hour before going on stage, but while he had a guitar in his hand, you couldn’t tell. He could barely walk afterwards, but put away a few more & seemed to get steadier while doing so. Same deal the next night; unfortunately, he performed the same damn set.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      Ah, so he is related to “Lonesome Dove” McMurtry.
      I spent an evening listening to two or three James McMurtry albums and two or three Corb Lund albums with the intent of deciding which one from each I would buy. I couldn’t make up my mind, and I couldn’t afford all six. I gotta make a move on that soon.

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        Which ones? McMurtry’s debut is truly great. It’s been in my collection since it was released in ’89, and it’s aged quite well. I’m not as familiar with Corb Lund, but I’ve dug everything I’ve heard by him.

  11. Sjalabais Avatar

    I was at a school reunion a couple of years ago, and the two questions I got the most were: “Do you still listen to Frank Zappa?” and “Do you still like Volvos and Soviet cars?”. That I had moved to another country come in a solid third. So cars and music were probably more relatable and both expressions of taste considered equally odd.

  12. crank_case Avatar

    Why anyone would choose Heart FM in a country that provides BBC6, a music station for grownups who actually like music but aren’t too sniffy about it (They’ll play Can or Jon Hopkins, but then they’ll play Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince) where you don’t even have to put with ad breaks or dumb competitions boggles the mind. It’s DAB only, but if I lived on the other Island, I’d make sure my car had a DAB receiver just for that. (Currently listening in work thanks to the wonder of the interwebs)

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yep. DAB in both my ’90s cars because this.

  13. alex Avatar

    I listen to nothing but the sound of my car. Never turned the radio on in more than 2 years with this car. Tried to play a CD for a special occasion, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work.
    BTW: CD was Miles Davis classic “Kind of Blue”

  14. Ayreonaut Avatar

    Yes without a doubt… I only own and drive jeeps. But my music range is eclectic. I love metal, to the point of being a “metalhead”. But the past few months its been allman brother, CCR, CSNY, grateful dead ( that’s a wormhole in itself), and of course RUSH.

  15. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    Not sure about link between the two in terms of taste…thinking it’s more of a venn diagram type ordeal in which some things can overlap, others can’t. Each section tailored to each individual.
    As per music & cars, though, I’ll delve into that…
    How about considering them as existing but not necessarily being inter-related? I’m a car enthusiast (clearly), but also love music. I listen all day, go to shows as often as I can, and generally consider music to be a huge part of my life. Maybe not as much so as cars, but it’s up there.
    I can separate music from cars and cars from music, but I also enjoy them together. The right road and right song can enhance each other, and in other cases, vice versa. And then there’s people like Vaughn Gittin Jr. who blasts AC/DC in his drift car…
    In other cases, driving serves as an excuse to listen to music, and likewise music can improve a drive drastically. But they can still be totally separated from each other. I spend a lot of time driving, so music can be sort of a vehicle of its own, paralleling what’s going on in my life and narrating in some cases the background to many memories.
    None of this really pertains to musical taste being related to taste in cars, but music can absolutely improve cars, and cars can enhance music. For me at least…

  16. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    When I go to British car shows, they like to have some English folk music thing, hot rod shows have some 50s/rock-a-billy band. Concours like easy listening jazz. Seems a bit cliche.

  17. Preludacris Avatar

    The only link I can think of is the obvious one about age. It may be stereotypical but that’s for a reason. Your musical tastes and automotive taste are both often influenced by how old you are, what was popular when you were a certain age, and so on. I know I’ll get at least three replies along the lines of “well I’m 75 and I love Skrillex and my CBR1000” or “I’m 22 and I drive a Taurus while listening to Simon & Garfunkel” – but that’s because this is Hooniverse.

    1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
      Dean Bigglesworth

      I grew up in the nineties mostly listening to my parents records and cassettes, in addition to whatever was on MTV and the radio. So back then i listened to everything from CCR to ABBA to Charlie McCoy and Pantera and all the Eurodance that was popular then. I liked it all just as much, and my taste hasn’t got any narrower.. Eurodance is probably what i’ll be listening in my rocking chair when i’m old. Masterboy and prunes for lunch!

  18. GTXcellent Avatar

    I actually take umbrage to these types of statements. Music is sooooo subjective, so why get bent out of shape that somebody else prefers main stream pop garbage music instead of some obscure Oceanic dolphin chant?
    This seems to happen all the time on the interwebz – especially when it comes to music and beer. I’m probably too old, and I’m obviously out of touch with today’s eWorld, but there seems to be a lot of almost smug arrogance of people proclaiming their love of bat-piss ale and shaming anyone who dares enjoy a Budweiser. Again, I don’t understand it. Like what you like, but who cares what someone else does?
    (I’ll get off my soapbox now and enjoy a nice Hamms while I jam out to Hair Nation on Sirius)

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Aren’t cars just as subjective? 😉

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