With the gluttonous American holiday of Thanksgiving this week and the other holidays right around the corner, the busy traveling season is almost underway. Partially influenced by the ‘80s Thanksgiving movie Planes, Trains And Automobiles, Chris Rooney presents a really moving selection of songs all involving transportation. (To listen via Spotify, click here.)
KajaGooGoo, “On a Plane” (1984)
The boys from Kaja had less baggage on their flight in 1984 after they had unceremoniously kicked out original vocalist, Limahl the year before.
The Motors, “Airport” (1978)
Back when British Airways and Air France introduced flights on the supersonic Concorde to the United States in the late 1970s, a round trip ticket from London to New York was typically five times the price as flying on a 747. That certainly would have been an expensive way to say goodbye to your girl if you were a member of power pop band, The Motors.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Enola Gay” (1980)
OMD vs. The BBC. The duo weren’t allowed to perform the song on a children’s television show called “Swap Shop”, because the BBC ignorantly thought it promoted homosexuality instead of actually addressing the famous warplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during the final stages of World War II. Silly BBC.
Split Enz, “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” (1982)
The song references the time it took English pioneers to sail to Australia and New Zealand and could be seen a metaphor for lead singer Tim Finn’s nervous breakdown. It also endured some some controversy when some thought the song was a veiled attack on Britain fighting with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Even though the song was recorded months before the Falklands conflict, the song was removed from radio play lists in the UK.
Erasure, “Ship of Fools” (1988)
The allegory “Ship Of Fools” has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. Th synth duo’s first ballad shared the same title as songs by Echo & the Bunnymen, World Party and Robert Plant all released within the same two-year time period.
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, “Speedboat” (1984)
Guess that Lloyd is more of a landlubber with lyrics like, “It wasn’t my style to find surf in my eye / It was much more my style to find sand in my eye”.
Thomas Dolby, ”One of Our Submarines” (1982)
The inspiration for the song was Dolby’s late uncle who died in a submarine accident during World War II. Dolby instilled a sense of despair in the song’s lyrics both for the sub and once-mighty British Empire.
The Cure, “Subway Song” (1979)
Robert Smith warned you not to take the subway late at night. A guy with big bushy hair and lipstick might be lurking down there.
The Jam, “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight(1978)
The London Underground, also known as the Tube, was the world’s first underground railway system and has been in operation over 150 years. Again, taking the subway home after hours in the late 70s was probably not the wisest decision based on the song’s unfortunate lyrics.
The Smiths, “The Draize Train” (1985)
One of the few Smiths’ songs that Morrissey didn’t write lyrics to Johnny Marr’s hard-chugging guitar composition. Perhaps Moz was too busy riding his bike around Manchester in preparation for the “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” video made after the group broke up.
Kraftwerk, “Tour De France” (1983)
In the Tour De France’s 111-year history, Kraftwerk’s native Germany has only won the 2,200 mile cycling race once back in 1997. Maybe it was a good thing that Kraftwerk recorded a version of the song both in German and in French.
Gary Numan, “Cars” (1979)
Gary is so synonymous with his biggest hit, but he is first love was always piloting stunt planes, as he once was quoted saying, “Flying made me feel alive more than being Gary Numan the pop star.”
Depeche Mode, “Behind The Wheel” (1987)
Back in their very early days, the blokes from Depeche transported all of their keyboard equipment on the London Tube to their first gigs. So nice to eventually make it and let the roadies handle such matters.
Adam & The Ants, “Cartrouble” (1979)
Poor Adam. His light blue car broke down on the side of the M2 and now his has to hoof it in his goody two shoes to the nearest service station.
It’s Immaterial, “Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)” (1986)
So if Jim and his mates venture further north to Newcastle after their 39 mile drive from Liverpool to Manchester on the M62 motorway it would be another 144 miles along the M62 and AI. The last stretch of the trip after Newcastle would be another 151 miles on the A6 and A74 until you arrive in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city.
Duran Duran, “The Chauffeur” (1982)
Sure, sitting on the bow of yacht in the Carribbean while singing about a woman named Rio is great, but when you have literally hundreds of teenage Duranies chasing after you, it’s best to get away in a stretched limo driven by a chauffeur.