My Songs I Love – as opposed to Song of the Week – are tunes that, for me, have withstood the test of time. “Radar Love” is Music Enthusiast-certified as one of the greatest driving songs of all time. (Double whammy: song about driving that’s great to listen to while driving.)
I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hands are wet on the wheel
There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel
It’s my baby callin’ said I need you here
And it’s a half past four and I’m shifting gears
When she gets lonely and the longing gets too much
She sends a cable coming in from above
Don’t need a phone at all
We got a thing that’s called radar love
We got a wave in the air
You’re driving down the road, maybe your hands are wet on the wheel, maybe they’re not. Who gives a shit. All you know is you’ve been motoring half the night down Route 66, you’re down to your last cigarette and the radio’s playing some forgotten song.
Your buddy, riding shotgun, is half-asleep. Every once in a while he snorts, shifts around in the seat, pulls his denim jacket up over his shoulder. You try to shake him awake so you have somebody to talk to but he waves you away, tells you to piss off.
You smack the radio with your hand, change the channel and then you hear it:
Yes! Shuffle of drums. Then that insistent bass thing. You crank the radio up, way up. You shake your buddy. “Hey, idiot, wake up, man.” He stirs, looks over at you and gives you a shit-eating grin. “Fuck, yeah,” he says. And for the next, oh, six minutes or so, life is good.
The radio’s playing some forgotten song
Brenda Lee’s “Comin’ on Strong”
The road has got me hypnotized
And I’m speedin’ into a new sunrise
When I get lonely and I’m sure I’ve had enough
She sends her comfort coming in from above
We don’t need no letter at all
And that insistent bass/drum thing – that BASS thing – and the speed limit is 55 and – like Sammy Hagar – you cannot drive 55. You’re doing 65. 75. Nothin’ but open road.
And then there’s that whole guitar/organ Deep Purple-y part. “Man, I hope the cops are at the donut shop,” you mutter, nervously eyeing every patch of trees and grass for smokey. You’ve got “Radar Love”; he’s got radar gun.
And then at 3:48 the moment comes – pause, drum break, boom, yeah! You can’t play it because you’re driving otherwise you’d be all over that thing.
But your buddy nails it and he pounds it out on the dashboard. Yes! Can’t this radio go any louder? And you’re singing at the top of your lungs because of COURSE you sing like a fucking angel and how come nobody realizes it but you? And your mother.
No more speed, I’m almost there
Gotta keep cool now, gotta take care
Last car to pass, here I go
And the line of cars drove down real slow
And the radio played that forgotten song
Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong”
And the newsman sang his same song
Oh, one more radar lover’s gone
And there’s that whole buildup to the end and your buddy’s got the drums and you’re holding down the bass line which is not easy since you’re juggling a cold cup of coffee, a smoke AND trying to fucking drive. And then it’s over. Boom!
The band is Golden Earring, a Dutch band, which has been around under one name or another since 1961! “Radar Love” took over the airways back in the year 1973 A.D. They became big enough during this time period that they had Kiss and Aerosmith opening for them! Come to think of it, you and your buddy were gonna go to that show in Cleveland but you got high instead and woke up in some dude’s basement.
Now if the DJ would only play “Twilight Zone,” (“he knows damn well he has been cheated”) another great Earring song, you’d be in hog heaven. But all of a sudden in the distance you see an oasis, an all-night road stop where you can take a leak, get the truckers’ special, and enjoy a cold brew.
And you can’t help thinkin’ about your lady – baybeh! – who sends you her own particular brand of radar love from every which way. And you think to yourself, “Man, it don’t get any better than this.” Your buddy just looks out the window and smiles in that way he has, humming that nameless tune you can’t quite put your finger on. You know what I mean. I don’t have to tell you.
“Fuck, yeah,” he says.
PLAY IT LOUD!