Sunday, February 28, 2010

SONG #85: Stickshifts And Safetybelts


To close out February, the Pod spits up one of my favorite two minute songs.  This song will always be the sound of the interstate that connects Santa Fe to Rowe, New Mexico.  In my first year of graduate school, I was studying at the Native American Preparatory School (now sadly closed due to fraud and mismanagement-- a damn shame).  It was a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, and every once in a while you just had to get off campus and re-enter the world, and that summer, that meant jumping in Tim's (remember Tim?  He turned 40 in a blog a few weeks ago?) jeep and hurtling to Santa Fe.  

In all seriousness, the only open bar in Rowe.

The soundtrack for all of those trips were mix tapes (remember cassettes?) that Tim's students had made for him for his drive from Las Vegas (Tim taught in Vegas for two years, which deserves to become a book) to New Mexico.  Many, nay most, of them were intolerable.  His volleyball players in particular served up a heaping stew of boy-band crap.  A few kids, though, had figured out who their teacher was, and had some solid tastes of their own.  Thanks to some Las Vegas teenager who recognized a teacher who cared, I got to hear this song for the first time, and then about fifty more times.

I had written off Cake as a joke band.  They're still a one-trick pony, but it's a damn good trick.  This song made me pay attention to them.  It's a total throwaway tune and a ripoff of "Hot Rod Lincoln," but everything about it is just perfect.  The lyric is adorable and funny without being cloying.  It harkens back to old soul music, when the vocal would suggest what's coming next instead of coming right out and saying it.  Great harmonies too.  The guitar playing is just white-hot-- I love everything that happens here, from the single note rockabilly twang to the driving chords that underscore the second half of the verse at 0:47.  Listen to that rhythm playing-- it's such a great contrast to the rest of the track.  The bass sounds terrific, and the skeletal percussion fits everything together.  I've probably listened to this song 100 more times, and I always start singing along at "Well a lot of good carrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs... are Japaneeeeeze!"  I can't help it.  

And can you imagine how good this sounds going 85 miles an hour in an open jeep on a deserted southwest highway at night?  It's the perfect soundtrack.  You can taste the dust in the air.  

Everyone has songs that transport them back to a place and time.  When this song comes on, it's 1997, I'm on my way to get a beer, and all is right in the world.

See you in March...



  1. I hadn't heard this song and you;re right it's really good. I had similarly written Cake off, so I'll take a listen through this record.

  2. Hello Jeff,

    I recently discovered your blog from one of your students, and I think it's a pretty interesting read. Keep up the good work!


    P.S. Cake is great :)