They Call It The Driver’s Seat


Towards summer’s end, while careening around the wild dunes of Western Michigan with my good friend Joe Gannon and his family, he surprised me by pumping his car’s radio full of some high octane rock ‘n roll, Detroit’s favorite son Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Joe knows. When I’m in Michigan, I listen to a lot of Seger. Over the course of the last year, the version of “Travelin’ Man / Beautiful Loser” on Live Bullet has become one of my theme songs. The singer spins the tale of the lone road warrior, outrunning his youth, always staying one step ahead. Of what, exactly? Only he knows. Until he realizes, “You just don’t need it all.” His story has become all too familiar as I course the heartland, thousands of miles of straight asphalt spinning beneath my feet like the wheel of a worn out grindstone, spending more time out there than in here.

With the second track, Joe Cocker’s take on “Space Captain,” the highly under-appreciated Matthew Moore’s tale of the spaceman who fell to “this lonely planet,” I realized, Joe dug up a mix of tunes I’d shared with him a year earlier.

By the time his six year old was crooning from his car seat, “Learnin’ to live together, learnin’ to live together, learnin’ to live togethah…” I’d explained to Joe’s patient and loving wife that I’d created an hour-long playlist for a radio station in Saint Louis. Every weekday, for one hourĀ  — at five o’clock in the PM — the disc jockeys would turn over their impressive archive of classic rock to one lucky listener who was given the chance to play whatever — top 40, rarities, or long-forgotten album tracks — he, The Mighty Deejay, deemed worthy of play. They called it The Driver’s Seat. It was a rush hour standard when I was growing up.

While discussing the intricacies of a Tom Petty song earlier in the year, a friend who worked at the station, suggested I submit a list of songs. He promised he’d put in the good word. I chipped away at the thing in my iTunes shed for months, whittling a sonic machine, an aural aeroplane of nothing but the grooviest grooves this side of Gravytown. This thing would fly with or without my friend’s fuel. His greasy palm tactics and backroom deals wouldn’t be necessary. These radio execs, these Captains in an Industry of Cool would smack their why-didn’t-I-think-of-that heads, and smile with delight while my selections took them up, up and away, to another place, a beautiful world heretofore unseen. At the end of my hour in the cockpit, I would be carried off the airfield, Rudy-style. I sent the playlist to my friend. The e-mail came back.

RE: Driver’s Seat? How about Pilot’s Seat?

Message: They canceled The Driver’s Seat last week. Sorry, buddy.

Grounded before it even had a chance to take off. When I shared with Joe the tale of my playlist’s fate he insisted I share my selections with him. And a year later, while wailin’ from his, ahem, driver’s seat, lunging through a falsetto verse of “Sail On, Sailor,” Joe threw in the nicest compliment. “This is a pretty good mix. You should blog it.”

A week or two ago, while carting another friend, Mr. Ryan Plett around the mean streets of Chicago’s River North neighborhood, we were listening to one of the songs on the playlist. “Make me a playlist of stuff like this. Classics,” he said. I replied, “Ok. I will. But, you have to make me a rap playlist. All current. Nothing old.” Ryan’s quote, verbatim: “I’ll get you gangstered out. You get me old schooled.” Allow this to suffice as my old school (see: dad rock) half the bargain. Ryan, using the wonky 8tracks application, as I have here, make me a mix of your favorite rap music of today. The more hardcore the better.

Until he does, I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr. Bob Seger.

“He wants to dream like a young man with the wisdom of an old man. He wants his home and security. He wants to live like a sailor at sea.” – Bob Seger’s “Beautiful Loser” from the album of the same title.

So sit back, relax, click on the link below, and enjoy the flight.

They Call It The Driver’s Seat*

1) Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Travelin’ Man / Beautiful Loser
2) Joe Cocker – Space Captain (Live)
3) Ron Wood – Act Together
4) Paul McCartney – Every Night
5) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
6) The Beach Boys – Sail On, Sailor
7) The Band – Rag Mama Rag
8 ) Townes Van Zandt – Where I Lead Me
9) James Taylor – (I’ve Got To) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That
10) Dennis Wilson – River Song
11) Boz Scaggs – Lido Shuffle
12) The Allman Brothers Band – Stand Back
13) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Learning to Fly
14) Faces – Ooh la la
15) Blind Faith – Can’t Find My Way Home
16) Van Morrison – Sweet Thing

*As I understand it, you can only listen to the entire thing once from beginning to end, but it’s my hope once is enough to make you run to your local record shop and pick some of this stuff up. Thanks for listening.