California, April 1997
Driving songs. The songs you default to on a road trip. The songs that provide relief and make you relax, reflect a freedom and have an air of anticipation – of the destination or of the journey itself. I’m a little embarrassed to say that my favorite driving song is from a fictitious band.
One of my all time favorite movies is That Thing You Do! It’s a Tom Hanks directed film from 1996 that tells the fabricated story of a 1964 guitar- based band that rises from small town beginnings to rapidly having a record on top of the national single charts. The band is called The Wonders and their single is titled That Thing You Do! The band would have been formed just after The Beatles first visit to the USA. Their style has very ‘fab four’ texture, harmony and groove.
I fell in love with the soundtrack album from that movie – so much so that I put it on tape and took it to the USA for a family road trip in 1997. In the movie The Wonders started to play theatres and shows with other bands. The Vicksburgs were also on the Playtone label, played on the same bill as The Wonders – hence their Drive Faster appears on the soundtrack album too. There was never any vision of The Vicksburgs in the movie. The catchy songs and authentic guitar tones are appealing to me. I love the use of Rickenbacker Electric 12 string and Fender Jazzmaster on the various tracks.
On that vacation we had been to Arizona and New Mexico, then flew up to San Francisco where we picked up a rental car. We drove out to Yosemite National Park travelled to Monterey, then down the West Coast Pacific Highway towards Los Angeles.
And let’s drive drive drive ’til we get in love
We’re gonna ride ride ride ’til the sun comes up
Gotta feel that wind blowin’ in her hair
And she’s mine, when I, drive faster…
Drive faster… drive faster… drive faster
Drive Faster takes me straight back to the journey down that coast road between Monterey and Los Angeles. The catchy riff and hooks in that song, the transparent Fender guitar tones, back beat and vocal harmonies perfectly match my memory of the sunshine, the tall forests lining the winding cliff-top open road at Big Sur and the glorious views across the blue Pacific Ocean. The Californian Pacific Highway is the most similar drive I have ever had to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. In some places the road is way up high and in others hugs the sandy beaches.
The song and album make a connection to the relaxed and coastal-centred mentality of the Californian surfing culture I was driving past. The song oozes youthful freedom, chasing girls and the use of cars – very Beach Boys.
In the final stages of the movie The Wonders had moved out to the sunny climes of Los Angeles. The soundtrack album includes their forced venture into appearing in a beach movie and the drummer’s deep admiration of jazz music.
Drive Faster is an auditory postcard. The bouncy song with the somewhat predictable lyrics still reminds me of a very enjoyable road trip, a wonderful overseas family holiday, and continues to be a popular travel tune.