REWIND: Sad songs about cars, in honor of the writer’s temporarily disabled car

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the beach boys

Sad cars reacting over the editor’s brake problems, probably.

A’s closer Blake Treinen isn’t the only one on the injured list this weekend. My beloved Camaro is also on the list… well, on a lift more specifically, in my dad’s shop. Ten to 14 days with brake issues until the new parts come in.

I know, I know. This is difficult for us all. But we’re going to be OK.

To honor and celebrate my car here are some sad car-related songs, a genre with a surprisingly broad variety.


The Beach Boys — “Don’t Worry Baby”

It’s pretty safe to assume every Beach Boys song is either about a car or uses a car as a euphemism for something you couldn’t sing about in the early ’60s, and “Don’t Worry Baby” is no exception. The injury the singer is recovering from is automotive-related, after he runs his mouth and ends up in a drag race for which he’s ill-equipped.

What, you think I’m kidding? Have you ever really listened to the lyrics? “I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut/ When I started to brag about my car/ But I can’t back down now because/ I pushed the other guy’s too far” is pretty unambiguous.

Unfortunately I do not have a loving girlfriend to console me about my poor temporarily disabled car, possibly because I need consolation over a temporarily disabled car. I’m not denying the possible connection there.


Tracy Chapman — “Fast Car”

OK, so this 1988 honorable mention from the era when this column had a point isn’t specifically about cars. There’s a car in it, of course, and the word “car” appears in the title, but it is a sad song about the grass not always being greener on the other side. In the case of the song’s narrator the city isn’t better than her small town, just bad in a different way. The idea, though, could apply to a lot of things.

I refuse to take a lesson from it in this case, though. Nothing against my loaner car; I’m glad I have it so I can go places and do things, but the grass is absolutely greener with an overpowered gas-guzzler that can do an easy 150 and probably touch 200 if I was being chased. … Hypothetically.




J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers — “Last Kiss”

In the ’50s and early ’60s there was an entire genre of songs about teenagers dying in car accidents. It was a whole thing. Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel,” The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack,” Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve;” it was a recurring theme. I have no idea why. Maybe vehicular death was a new and exciting thing back then? Maybe it became more common? Someone should commission a study.

Anyway, my personal favorite is “Last Kiss” by the Cavaliers, or rather the Cavaliers’ cover of another band’s dead-teenager-in-a-car song. It was covered again decades later by Pearl Jam but they didn’t do as good a job. [Gokhman note: It was plenty good]. Probably because in the interim they invented seat belts so it lacked the timeliness.

Don’t worry, mind you, my car wasn’t in an accident. God forbid. The brakes weren’t that bad.


The Dead Milkmen — “Bitchin’ Camaro”

Ok, so this isn’t a sad song exactly. I mean there’s an AIDS joke, and several deaths, and literally two thirds of it is a tedious never-ending skit. That’s all sad by various definitions of the term. But mostly I just miss doing doughnuts on your front lawn in my bitchin’ Camaro. Which I think makes me one of the people the song is mocking but that’s never really stopped me before.




The Cars — “Sad Song”

Look, this one is only on here because it amuses me. I said this is a list of sad songs about cars, and The Cars did a song called “Sad Song,” so what was I supposed to do? Not put it on there? You expect me to suddenly stop being agonizingly literal? Good luck with that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to light votive candles to St. Frances of Rome and St. Elijah the Prophet, patron saints of cars and drivers. Though Elijah gets the honor because he was taken to heaven in a flaming chariot, which is the sort of thing I’m trying to avoid by fixing the brakes. Though Frances is also the patron saint of widows, which means music in the ’50s and early ’60s was really very good to her.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.

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