Per Gessle – Gessles nio i topp – Nine songs about cars

Last Saturday Per Gessle picked nine songs again in Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio. This time it was all about cars. Per thinks cars are a basic topic in pop and rock history and you can find tons of songs about cars. He states at the beginning that he didn’t include Sleeping In My Car in the list, just like he didn’t include Fading Like A Flower in the flower songs list. Sven adds that car songs reflected a time before climate anxiety. They were always connected with pleasure, freedom and youth. Sven asks Per if there is any Bruce Springsteen song on the list. Per answers he could have come up with Pink Cadillac, Born To Run, but they are not on the list.

Per’s Top 9 songs about cars

9. Deep Purple – Highway Star
8. Canned Heat – On The Road Again
7. The Cars – Drive
6. Iggy Pop – The Passanger
5. Gary Numan – Cars
4. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner
3. Wilson Pickett – Mustang Sally
2. The Beatles – Drive My Car – Remastered
1. Billy Ocean – Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car

The ninth on the list is Highway Star from Deep Purple. Per thinks it’s an awesome song, terrifically good music and he loved it when he was a teenager. It’s on Deep Purple’s Machine Head album, but Mr. G heard it on the band’s live record, Made in Japan. No one Per knew was listening to the drum solo in The Mule. Smoke on the Water, Highway Star and Child in Time were fab songs on it. Sven says ’70s hard rock doesn’t get any better than that. Sven adds the guys wrote Highway Star because they wanted to have a new opening song on tour in autumn 1971. Before that, they always opened with Speed King. They wrote HS on a tour bus while on their way to a gig and actually played it on that gig for the first time. They were effective. Per recommends the song ”if you haven’t heard it before, you’re in for a treat”. After they play HS, Sven says Per has just finished his air guitar playing. Mr. G says it’s so hard to resist.

The next song is On The Road Again from Canned Heat. Per says his brother had this album, Boogie with Canned Heat and this song was outstanding on it. Mr. G always loved Alan Wilson’s falsetto vocals. Bob ”The Bear” Hite was the other singer in the band. Sven says Alan was collecting old blues records and tells the story that Son House, American blues singer and guitarist was rediscovered in the ’60s. House had forgotten his songs due to his long absence from music and it was Wilson who showed him how to play again the songs House had recorded before. Alan Wilson was a real blues nerd. Per says the band members died at a very early age, however, the band still exists, there is one living original member. Sven adds Alan died at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix died 2 weeks later at the age of 27, then 2 weeks later Janis Joplin also died at the age of 27. Per says it’s scary.

After the song, Sven and Per are talking about falsetto singing. It’s fun to hear Mr. G’s falsetto voice saying ”I don’t know” in Swedish at 12:25. Haha. Per says he sings falsetto quite often, e.g. on Come On from Son of a Plumber. Sven says it’s one of his favourites. Sakta mina steg is another one. Here Per mentions Marie Fredriksson’s vocal capacity that was similar to Joni Mitchell’s.

Seventh song on the list is Drive from The Cars’ Heartbeat City album. The production was new, it sounded really special in 1984. The producer was Robert John ”Mutt” Lange who is still great. He also produced Def Leppard and the early Bryan Adams albums, AC/DC and Rock n’ Roll Love Letter from The Records. The Cars was a guitar-oriented pop band in the beginning, but here they used a new sound. There was synthesizer and they used programmed drums that sounded better. It felt more digital. The Cars sold millions of their debut album, but Drive was kind of a turbo fro them. Per says it was in the early years of MTV and The Cars shot cool videos. They became an MTV band. Heartbeat City was their greatest album and Per thinks it’s still an awesome record. Sven remembers that in spring of 1984, when the album was released, he wrote hastily about it. Then when he was on his way home from Malmö to Lund on a Friday evening and Drive came on the radio, he didn’t recognize it and thought that was the best he had heard. Then he realized it was from that album. Per says Drive is written by Ric Ocasek who was lead vocalist in The Cars, but this song was sung by bassist Benjamin Orr. He sings phenomenally. Per says Ric has a very special voice and that doesn’t really fit this song, so he understands why it wasn’t him singing it. The guys say it wasn’t No. 1 in the US, but peaked at a high position. Sven adds it was Paulina Porizkova in the music video to Drive, who later became Ric Ocasek’s wife. She was Czechoslovakian, but lived in Lund from the age of 10 and as a model she left for Paris and New York. Per says it’s such a romantic story, it’s so warm he has to take off his sweater. Sven laughs and asks Per to keep it on.

Song number six is The Passanger from Iggy Pop. The guys are laughing again saying apropos romantic, there is this guy who never wears a sweater. Per says it’s maybe not a car song, but a vehicle song. He thinks the riff in it is so ridiculously simple, it’s brilliant. It was a B side song on the single Success. Per says if you check Iggy Pop on Spotify, you can see that his most popular song is The Passanger. Iggy has a kind of roughness in everything he does. When he sings lalalala is also a bit dangerous, but one must like it. The song is from Iggy’s Lust for Life album that came after The Idiot, which had a little arty sleeve where Iggy was standing in the rain. Lust for Life also has Iggy on the cover, with a huge smile, however, Sven says one can never see Iggy Pop laughing. Per adds the album was recorded in Berlin together with David Bowie. Mr. G says it was a productive year for both of them. Bowie released 2 albums, Low and ”Heroes” and Iggy released The Idiot and Lust for Life.

The fifth song is Cars from Gary Numan and Per thinks it’s still an awesome song. Gary is from Tubeway Army, a band Per was listening to a lot. When the song Cars came out, it was innovative pop music. The riff sounds exciting. Sven says it’s 1.5 minutes singing and then 2.5 minutes synth festival. What differentiates it from other songs is that the other songs were programmed, while there is live drums and live bass on Cars. Per says the song is from 1979 when they were young. Sven says Per is still young. Mr. G reacts ”like Benjamin Button” and they laugh.

Sven says he has the feeling that the next song was written and recorded at the same time. It’s Roadrunner from Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. There are a lot of versions of this song from different years with different producers. The first version was recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale. Many say that it’s the first new wave single in a way. It sounds a bit like it was inspired by the Velvet Underground.  Jonathan comes from Boston and he also played in the movie There’s Something About Mary. There was a version of the song produced by Matthew King Kaufman for Beserkley Records. Starting Stiff Records was inspired by Beserkley Records, Sven mentions based on Nick Lowe’s biography.

Song number three is Mustang Sally from Wilson Pickett, released in 1966. The original title was Mustang Mama, but songwriter Mack Rice changed it after Aretha Franklin suggested Mustang Sally because of ”ride, Sally, ride” in the chorus. The song was recorded in the famous FAME Studio. Sven tells the story that Rice knew a singer who wanted to give a Lincoln as a thank you gift for one of her band members, but at the time everyone wanted a Mustang. Rice got inspiration from this story and wrote the song. According to Per, Wilson Pickett made the best version of it. Sven comes up with The Commitments, a movie about an Irish band. There this band also plays Mustang Sally.

Drive My Car from The Beatles, released in 1965 is No. 2 on the list. It was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. They sing this song wonderfully together, however, Paul is dominating. DMC wasn’t a single, it was released on Rubber Soul as a fantastic opening song. Sven thinks ”beep beep yeah” in the lyrics is 100% pop. Per likes it too. The text refers to dirty things like in old blues songs. In the ’60s, ”drive my car” referred to intimate relations. Per thinks this one is one of the coolest songs in the world.

Before Per announces which song is No. 1, he mentions a few other car songs. Then it turns out that on top of his list is Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car from Billy Ocean. This is the second song on the list produced by ”Mutt” Lange who is also the songwriter of it. It was before he met Shania Twain. Per likes Billy Ocean’s songs, e.g. Carribean Queen which is a cozy pop song. Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car is very much of an ’80s hit. Sven says one was kind of bombarded by this song and he always tried to avoid it. It came out in spring of 1988. Sven tells when he was collecting info about Per for his book, he found out Mr G. bought a synth in spring of 1988 and wrote The Look on it. It was inspired by ZZ Top. Per says there was a lot of synthesizer music back then, dance music of the time. If you are listening to it today, it’s quite radical. Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car went to No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot100. And one year later, Marie and Per were No. 1 with The Look. Per says he didn’t think about it when he bought that synthesizer. Mr. G says he liked the ’80s style. After they play GOMDGIMC, regarding the No. 1 song choice Sven says Per is the man of constant surprises.