Thursday, June 24, 2010

Things You Can Do in a Prius: Greasetruck Attempts to Enter the Rockabilly Pantheon

There is a long tradition in popular music of singing about automobiles. The car, like rock and roll, is loud, powerful, adventurous, and sexy. And not only is it sexy, but it is also (especially when you are young and don't have a swinging pad of your own, and especially in the '50's and '60's when cars were BIG and had trundle seats) a great place for sex. It is both the theme and the setting. This post is certainly not a history of the car in music-- there are plenty of places you can read about that. Here is a great list, and here is a LONG list, and here is an excellent little history.

I am going to discuss something more specific, and honestly, I think my thesis is groundbreaking, so bear with me. And, as an added bonus (or punishment, it's all a matter of taste) I have written and recorded a Greasetruck song to illustrate this theme.

If I were going to make a general list of my favorite songs about cars, I would wax poetically about "Bitchin' Camaro" by The Dead Milkmen and "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" by Camper Van Beethoven and "El Camino" by Ween. But though those songs are quirky and funny, they only allude to the sexual power of the automobile in our culture. They certainly prove my point, but I'm going to use more obvious examples to show you something particular and profound about the automobile. I assure you, you will never be the same.

I further need to limit my thesis to rockabilly car songs. And again, I can't afford to be general. If I were to get into my favorite rockabilly songs about cars, then hands down, my favorite is "One Piece at a Time," which was written by Wayne Kemp and sung by Johnny Cash. It was the last Johnny Cash song to reach number one on the Billboard charts. I love the song because the hero, a working class guy at the Cadillac factory, steals a Cadillac part by part. He's patient, clever, and creative. He perseveres, not only over the years, but also over difficult engineering dilemmas-- and the song specifically addresses these; it explains how they drilled out the frame so it would fit the engine block, and the general asymmetry of the car. And then, after all this work, there's a great plot twist at the end: when he registers the car at the DMV, it takes them all day to type up the title because it is so difficult to determine what year and make the car is.

This difficulty in determining if the car is new or used or something else entirely addresses a classic philosophical dilemma-- if you were to replace parts in your own car, piece by piece, when you had replaced every part, would it still be the same car? Or would it be a different car? If you were to replace your brain, synapse by synapse, with circuitry-- circuitry that worked essentially the same as your brain-- say at a rate of one percent per day, when would you cease being you? Or would you still be you? Or a would you be a clone of you? But that's the subject of another song.

The song that inspired me to get to work on my own rockabilly car song was originally done by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Brothers, but it was made famous by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. It's called "Hot Rod Lincoln" and it starts with a spoken couplet: "My pappy said, "Son, you're gonna drive me to drinking if you don't stop driving that Hot Rod Lincoln." This song tells the story of a drag race, and again, it alludes to the power and sexuality of the car, but it's not the perfect example. The reason I need to mention it because when I heard it on WRSU the other day, the lyrics to my own rockabilly car song came to me in a flash. I’m not going to claim it’s the best song I’ve ever written, but it is definitely the fastest song I’ve ever gotten down on paper—from start to finish it took me five minutes to write. It came to me in a dream, like the way Mohammad received the Koran or Joseph Smith received the Golden Tablets of Mormonism or George De Mestral thought up Velcro.

The kind of rockabilly car song I’m talking about is when the car obviously represents sexiness and the engine obviously represents the sexual act and the driving represents full on doing it (riding, as they say in Ireland) and the car is also the place to have sex in. So you've got the outside of the car, which is a phallus itself. And compare a sports car to a minivan-- which is more phallic? Which will snag you more snatch? The humming throbbing engine is obvious enough as a symbol, but the smooth leather interior is symbolic as well. The folds in the seats, the new car smell. You’ve got both the male and female apparatus here. The outside is male, and the inside is female. Your driving a penis while sitting inside a vagina.

Now this is the paradox. The car is the thing and it is the setting for the thing. The long sleek body of the the fifties vehicle, with it's odd attachments, fins and such, is the male genitalia. And everyone knows what that greasy engine represents when it's trucking along. And the shiny smooth inside of the car, leathery with plenty of folds, is the female genitalia. You get inside and it has that nice smell (if it's clean) and a lousy smell (if it's not.) But the car is also the place to have sex, so it is the penis, the vagina, and the bed, all rolled into one.

So the car is having sex with itself, inside itself. There’s something deeply philosophical about this, and maybe that’s why cars are so deeply embedded in our culture, and so often sung about. Before I had this epiphany, I hated cars-- I thought they were loud, annoying, dangerous, overblown, and an environmental disaster-- and perhaps that’s why Greasetruck has only recorded one song about a car, and it's not very sexy at all. It's called "George Bush Stole the Plans for My Air Powered Car" and it features a monologue about how George Bush and Bill Clinton like to ride around together in a pneumatically powered car and visit nudey bars. But I have seen the light, and now I understand why public transportation will never make it in the United States (although trains are pretty sexy when they go into a tunnel). Now Greasetruck will attempt enter the car rockabilly pantheon, but the competition, is to say the least, stiff.

The archetype is Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go.” The narrator and his girl are simply “driving around” with no particular place to stop and have sex, so of course, they park “way out on the Kokomo" and decide "to take a stroll.” The lyrics are ambiguous. Is the stroll into the woods? Into her pants? The next lyric helps: the narrator is foiled because he “couldn’t unfasten her safety belt!” I appreciate this because I didn't learn how to undo a girl's bra until I was thirty-six. Does the safety belt represent her bra clasp? Or is it just the car's seat belt? That seems unlikely, considering people didn't wear seat belts back then. Perhaps it is a chastity belt. I'm sure Chuck Berry didn't specify so it could be all these and more. I wish I could be so playfully obtuse in my lyrics.

I am also partial to Chuck Berry’s "Maybelline," both for the content-- a high speed car race with a cheating woman-- and the use of the verb "motivating," as in, "I was motivating over the hill/ I saw Maybelline in a coupe de ville." The race is a sexual contest—a courtship ritual, like when male elks butt antlers or peacocks strut with their tail fanned or when basilisk lizards do those crazy dances-- and Chuck Berry needs his engine to run fast and powerful to court a girl as wild and sexy as Maybelline. So he's in the phallus, racing his engine, but she's in a phallus, and racing her engine, and maybe not with him. It's racy because "Maybelline" is an assertive powerful woman who makes her own choices. Once again, "she done started doing the things" she used to do. The narrator can't control her sexuality-- and he's having enough trouble controlling his own engine, but he does catch her at the top of the hill-- the climax of the song, and it's all downhill from there. And now, with looser censorship laws and new technology to assess, Greasetruck will try it's hand at the genre. Though I know I can't compete with the greats, I believe my new song conquers new territory; it is the first rockabilly song celebrating the sexuality of the hybrid vehicle. It's called "You've Got to See Us in Our Prius." Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to offer your own automobile analysis. You've Got to See Us (Driving Round in our Prius) by Greasetruck

You've Got to See Us in Our Prius

So if you need to pick up chicks,
then a cool set of wheels is your fix:
a Lamborghini or maybe a Porsche.

Something sleek and something fast--
the chicks will think that you're a blast
but maybe that's not your style at all.

Maybe the girl you want to impress
likes whole grains and patchouli scent.
Maybe she just got back from saving the whales.

Then the car you want runs really quiet,
Let's put the world on an oil diet.
I'm talking about 78 horsepower here.

Hey baby, you've got to see us,
driving round in our Prius,
The wind blowing back my Moonbeam's hair.

But I got to tell you something if you don't know:
hippie chicks don't dig fellatio . . .
something to do with not eating any meat.

And the car's too small for full on screwing,
so you can guess what we've been doing--
I feel like I'm back in the tenth grade.

Well, look at me I've come real far:
getting hand jobs in an electric car.
Who could guess what the future would bring?

So if you see a Prius driving real slow,
and my smiling face in the window,
you'll know what's going down in there.

We'll be driving this little car forever,
can't sell it cause of the stains on the leather
actually, you would think it would be faux-leather, but it's not.

So we're driving this thing come Armageddon.
Driving this thing to my grand-kid's wedding
I suppose I'll be doing Viagra then.

Getting hand jobs in my electric car--
who ever said I wouldn't go far?
I know all you guys are all turning green.


zman said...

You should add a stanza comparing Toyota's unintended acceleration with something unintended that rhymes with accelleration.

Mr. Truck said...

dammit-- i need to vet my lyrics through you before i record the songs-- perhaps that premise will be a song of its own.

TR said...

The Slovakian captin looks like the nerd from Sixteen Candles that was buddies with Jon Cusack and Anthony Michael Hall. If that nerd had spiked hair and a neck tat.

zman said...

QEII is at Wimbledon today for the first time in 33 years. 33 years?! What's the point of being titular royalty if you don't take advantage of good seats to sporting events? I'd be up in that Royal Box all day.

TR said...

I'd be up in that Royal Box all day too. And I'd go to Wimbledon as well.

TR said...

Isner and Mahut now tied at 62-all. I'm looking for Isner to take it 71-69.

Geoff said...

Brilliant and spot on.

zman said...

Indeed. Although his suit is too ala mode to be a real pol.

zman said...

Isner has 10 double faults through something like 43 service games. And a 73% first serve in. Impossible.

TR said...

2-0 Slovakia!!!

Fun to hate on Italy almost as much as it's fun to hate on Fance.

zman said...

Make that approximately 87 service games. Impossibler.

zman said...

Two break points converted in 179 games.

zman said...

69-68 Isner. Under the P.R.N. Klam theory of "first to 69 wins" I predict Isner to advance.

T.J. said...

Dave, can I convince you to do a Weird Al-type parody song, perhaps "Commencement Song" (to the tune of "Redemption Song")?

Mr. Truck said...

dave doesn't do that kind of drivel, but you might try asking me, mr. truck.

zman said...

Isner wins, 70-68. Two games away from the frattiest score possible.

T.J. said...


Mr. Truck, can I convince you to do a Weird Al-type parody song, perhaps "Commencement Song" (to the tune of "Redemption Song")?

T.J. said...

Have fun with this site:

zman said...

So ... Slovakia?

T.J. said...

Fucking powerhouse they are Zman.

Fucking. Powerhouse.

Anonymous said...


T.J. said...

Why does Hideo Nomo continue to get up in our business?

zman said...

I thought that was Hideki Irabu.

T.J. said...

Jesus, the draft hasn't even started and I'm confused as hell. The Bulls just traded Kirk Hinrich and the #17 pick to the Wiz for...a future 2nd rd pick?

Chicago really thinks they're gettin' LeBron, huh?

T.J. said...

And my boy Wes Johnson is wearing some absurd pants tonite.

Greg said...

Driving in my fast car. On the highways. On the byways. Mr Robotron.

Mark said...

NBA Draft post coming at 7...ish

T.J. said...

Mark, please go to twitter and find a shot of Wesley "Ted Knight" Johnson's pants for that post...

rob said...

wiz playing the lebron card really nicely - that's terrific value.

Mark said...

Teej. I'll be posting in a few minutes. Grab the pick and add it once post is up.

Mark said...

Post is up. Just in time...