The Best Road Trip Songs: Hit Play Then Hit the Gas

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Planning a road trip? Here’s everything you might need to plot a cross-country journey, a family vacation, or a solo trek.

Ah, the open road! It beckons us to cast aside responsibility, embrace the unknown, jump in the car, and just … go.

This playlist has been sizzling on the sun-scorched dashboard of a muscle car to give you the high-octane, rock ‘n roll-fueled power you need to hit the long and winding road with all pistons firing. And though it’s near impossible (as always) to pick favorites, some roadside landmarks of note are highlighted on the road trip planner below.

“Road Trippin'” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

The bulk of this mix is rocking but, to get things started, we warm up the engine with the definitive ode to automobile wanderlust in the form of “Road Trippin'” by RHCP. Anthony Kiedis and company’s homage to traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway is a rare, percussion-free, acoustic track for the Peppers.

“Let’s go get lost anywhere / right here in the USA” proves an apt catchphrase as this emotive and stirring track greases the wheels quite nicely for the more raucous affair to follow (realized most immediately via Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again”).

“Can’t Get There From Here” by R.E.M.

R.E.M. has given the world a wide variety of colors, shapes, and vibes when it comes to their extensive music catalog. “Can’t Get There From Here” off their third album Fables of the Reconstruction (1985) was one of their earliest (almost) hits (of sorts), featured prominently in the early days of MTV’s 120 Minutes on Sunday nights. Augmented by an uncommon horn section, R.E.M.’s signature guitar-driven sound still comes through as Michael Stipe and Mike Mills feast on the confusion of interpreting the map in the days before GPS.

“Put the Message In the Box” by World Party

It’s hard to understand how World Party never broke through the glass ceiling of the ’90s to become a proper rock ‘n roll sensation. They had the cool, catchy songs; a Beatles-worshiping leader; and a whole lot of universal observations via said leader, Karl Wallinger.

We’re still not exactly sure what message Wallinger is putting in the box, but the notion of the road being wide open to the heart of every man makes for some top-notch road trippiness.

“On the Road” by Keep Shelly In Athens

The strangely named Keep Shelly In Athens is the unique combination of Greek musician and producer RΠЯ and a variety of female singers (presently Australian novelist and poet Jessica Bell). Adding sensuality and lyrical depth to down-tempo electronica and its derivative, niche chillwave genre, Keep Shelly In Athens provides a dreamy, electro-pop take on road trippery. As Bell muses, “Out on the road / where the eagles sing with the tide / When I’m driving through my mind / I forget / all the lonely sounds / of the sun,” one can’t help but bop along for the ethereal journey.

“The High Road” by Broken Bells

Super producer Danger Mouse (aka Brian Joseph Burton) first came to fruition by deftly mashing up The Beatles’ The White Album with Jay-Z’s The Black Album to create the remarkable Grey Album. He’s since collaborated with Cee-Lo Green as Gnarls Barkley (giving us the globe dominating “Crazy” back in 2009) and produced records for Gorillaz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Beck (to a name a few). His ongoing project, Broken Bells, with Jeff Mercer of The Shins has generated some of his finest work in creating beat based tunes with alternative rock sensibilities. And though “The High Road” is more metaphorical in its lyrical content, “The high road is hard to find / A detour to your new life / Tell all of your friends goodbye,” this laid-back groove keep us keeping on down the road to the bittersweet end.

May this mix help you hit your optimal speed, set the cruise control, and drink deeply from the mythical essence of life on the road (while making Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady proud)! Drive safe!

Best Road Trip Songs

Road Trippin by Red Hot Chili Peppers Going Up the Country by Canned Heat Put the Message in the Box by World Party Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham Ventura Highway by America Road Trip by Chance Encounter
On the Road Again by Canned Heat Running On Empty by Jackson Browne Range Life by Pavement Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross Take It Easy by Eagles Road Trippin’ by Band of Frequencies
The Passenger by Iggy Pop Life in the Fast Lane by Eagles Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads Road Trippin’ (Punch Drunk Dub) by WD4D Budapest by George Ezra Roadtrip by Bassti
Radar Love by Golden Earring Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash Roadhouse Blues by The Doors Roadtrip with the Homies by Drips Zacheer Summer Road Trip by Relajacion y Guitarra Acustica The High Road by Broken Bells
Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers All Right Now by Free Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf Roadtrips by Raiza Biza On the Road Again by Willie Nelson Farther on Down the Road by Taj Mahal
Middle of the Road by Pretenders Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac Free Ride by The Edgar Winter Group Little Red Corvette by Prince Six Days on the Road by Dave Dudley Midnight Ride by The Allman Brothers Band
Can’t Get There From Here by R.E.M. Interstate Road Trip by Steve Ronald Ouimette Keep the Car Running by Arcade Fire Road Trip by Samwise King of the Road by Roger Miller
Stickshifts and Safetybelts by Cake Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and the Wings Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers On the Road by Keep Shelly in Athens Good to on the Road Back Home by Cornershop

Article originally published May 16, 2018.

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