Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac

I love the pop culture archetype of the lonely hero on the road, searching for something or someone. I guess it's the soulful flipside of that rebellious American cars 'n' girls aesthetic... the mechanical-age equivalent of the lone rider. American romance at its moodiest. Here are three great examples.

At this point I have to quote Clueless.
"Is it more James Dean or Jason Priestley?"
"Carpe diem, ok? You looked hot in it!"

(I'm with Cher on this one. Jason Priestley is cheesy as hell, but still. Roy. Oh, Roy.) I also really like the Maccabees' cover of this. Orlando Weeks has the kind of crooning vocals that suit this song, and I'd be surprised if he didn't claim Orbison as an influence generally.

God knows where to start with Springsteen, seeing as this archetype fills about a quarter of his songs, from the age-old and magnificent Thunder Road ("my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk from your front porch to my front seat") to the comparatively recent Radio Nowhere, with its brooding "trying to find my way home" opening. But State Trooper is an understated and amazing example.

I still don't subscribe to the Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling school of thought, but Drive is a stupendous movie. It's the absolute perfect amalgamation of ruthless, violent action and still, almost unspoken romance. It's noirish without being pastichey, and it's far bigger than the sum of its influences. Gosling is really well chosen as the taciturn, unstoppable driver/hero, a character who'll go to any lengths for either the task at hand or the girl he loves, but thankfully eschews grand gestures or any of the sort of schmaltzy shit that would ruin this kind of movie. He's essentially kind of ordinary looking, not some dark, towering, smouldering screen idol. That works. The Lone Driver aesthetic is a pretty sparse one; pile on too much detail, tell us too much backstory, and you lose its punch. Drive does it tremendously.

And as per the post title, I want to give an honourable mention to Don Henley's Boys of Summer. Partly because if you really don't like that song, you may well be dead inside. And partly because I love the pictures it paints; a guy alone on the road with just his car and his memories... a dead seaside town... a girl in shades, once in the front seat, now just in the recesses of the past... and the line "A little voice inside my head / Said 'don't look back, you can never look back'". The sense of running desperately towards, and away from, something. It's not often a great big power pop song can conjure such feelings of nostalgia, elation and dread all at once.

1 comment:

Sara Coppola said...

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Sara Coppola