Wife, daughter, and family zoo excluded, if there’s one thing that I love almost as much as the paranormal, it would be music. I think it all stems from growing up in a music-loving family, including three older sisters who handed down their albums and 45s to me when they moved out. As a result, if you included my father’s musical tastes, my personal collection grew to include selections from the 1940s (my father’s era), the 1950s (my sister, Patsy’s), the 1960s (my sister, donna), and the 1970s (my sister, Cathy). Using all that wonderful music as a base, I added my own from the 70s through today and created the musical monster that is James A. Willis. And while I know in my heart that Queen is the greatest rock band of all time (please don’t try to argue that with me), the truth is that my musical taste has more wild mood swings than some of my bipolar friends.
It also means that I can rarely be without music. If you were to take a look at my house, you’ll find that there’s not a single room that does not have some sort of musical instrument or playing device in it, including the garage. So it probably goes without saying that when it comes to road trips, I’m all about the music.
Who do I listen to, you might ask? Well, it depends. But for the most part, I tend to lean towards something peppy and/or heavy for the trip out; Iron Maiden, Stone Temple Pilots, Glenn Miller, the soundtrack to Dazed and Confused, and the occasional Slade and Foo Fighters tend to dominate my ride. XTC likes to sneak in there, too. I guess it has something to do with the excitement and anticipation about heading somewhere new. But when I’m coming home in the wee hours of the morning, my go-to CD is Kate Bush. Something about hearing Kate’s voice while watching the fog roll off the highway gets me every time. Warren Zevon, Pink Floyd, Carole King, and, oddly enough, Paul Simon’s Graceland, are usually safe bets to hear on my ride home, too.
But as will often happen on my road trips, I will find myself 90 minutes from home and nothing to listen to. Either I miscalculated the number of CDs I would need or, what’s more often the case, the CDs ended up being packed away with the rest of the ghost equipment. And no, I don’t travel with an iPod. Ol’ Blue was born in 1997, long before any of them fancy attachments for iPods even existed. In fact, I can only listen to CDs by running a portable CD player through my cassette player in the car. I tried doing the same thing with an iPod, but Ol’ Blue wouldn’t stand for it.
So whenever I find myself far from home without any music, I will frantically start hitting the “scan” button on my radio, hoping that I will be able to find Coast to Coast AM somewhere. When that fails, I’ll try to find an FM station that plays music I like. You’d think that someone with such a wide taste in music, finding something I want to listen to would be easy. But it’s not. In fact, this is usually when I’m reminded that, according to most Ohio radio stations, my generation apparently only listens to Bon Jovi, Poison, and the ever-annoying Journey.
Every once in a while, though, I hit the jackpot and stumble across a hidden gem you rarely hear on the radio. Imagine driving down I-71 South at 4:00 am and finding Arcade Fire’s Keep The Car Running. Or heading into the home stretch on a trip back from my hometown and finding Jim Croce’s New York Is Not My Home. Simply magical.
OK, your turn: what are your go-to songs and artists for your road trips? Any suggestions for me? Send ‘em to me. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted as to what I listened to on my road trips, including any hidden gems I found along the way.
Oh yeah, and if you’re just dying to figure out all those CDs in the pic above, here they are:
- Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water
- Judas Priest: Painkiller
- Garbage: Version 2.0
- Joe Satriani: Flying in a Blue Dream
- Warren Zevon: Excitable Boy
- Louis Armstrong: All-Time Greatest Hits
- Rob Zombie: Past, Present & Future
- Queen: Innuendo
Go to music is probably my White Stripes and Raconteurs compilations, Live’s Distance to Here, Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime, and a Journey compilation I just finished. There is nothing quite like trying to stretch to reach Steve Perry’s notes to keep you awake in the wee hours.