Road Trip Playlist: Amoeba Music, California


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From slingshots to sporks to a solar-powered phone charger, our latest Pop-In Shop, LET’S GO!, has everything you need for an epic American road trip—including expertly curated tunes to fuel long hours in your #adventuremobile between points A and B.

Today’s road trip playlist comes from Sam Davis of Amoeba Music, a West Coast institution with record shops in Berkeley, San Francisco and Hollywood. Keep reading for 10 classic tunes, complete with Sam’s detailed liner notes.


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“I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so car culture is in my blood, from my Motörhead to my lead foot. I take driving music very seriously, and long drives are one of the best opportunities to really stretch out with your favorite music. After years of testing, I’ve determined that, while your starting point and eventual destination can help determine the flavor of your cruising tunes, it’s just as important that the music keeps you awake, motivated, and moving in your seat…

“…Here’s a playlist that starts in Los Angeles, where I live, and ends up at Spiral Jetty, artist Robert Smithson’s massive land-art sculpture at Rozel Point on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. You want to see it before it gets washed away by the elements; it’s the quintessential earthwork sculpture, built in 1970 and spending 30 years underwater before coming back up for air. The mix is only 10 songs, and the drive is about 12 hours—but each song represents, to me, a mood to get into at different points on the drive.” —Sam Davis, Amoeba Music


1) “Forgiven/Forgotten” by Angel Olsen. “I’m starting with this song because usually, on the day you start a road trip, you’re a little behind. The tires are lower on air than you thought, the market is out of your favorite trail mix, and you’re just trying to get on the road and get going before heat or traffic sets in. With Angel’s help, you can rumble out of town, forgiving your starting point for its shortcomings, and feeling a little tough with a don’t-look-back outlet to get you started. Did you forget your favorite hat? No big deal, you can buy a weird one at a truck stop.”


2) “Jump Into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson. “Now we’re on the road, really cooking—transitioning out of Angel’s driving rock and into a more expansive variation, looking out for speed traps and driving longer between bathroom breaks. So, we need something especially propulsive; something that builds up in long form and gives you energy for the next few hours of driving. An anthem for mechanical motion.”


3) “Coming Up” by Paul McCartney. “After a close call during the closing rave up of ‘Jump Into the Fire,’ you’re feeling both more cautious and slightly more relaxed. Talking the highway patrol officer out of a speeding ticket wasn’t easy or comfortable, but you did it anyway, and now it’s time to put cruise control to a reasonable speed and play bongos on the steering wheel for a bit. Smile, drive, and be reasonable with Sir Paul.”


4) “Labor of Love” by Ned Doheny. “With your cruise control lifestyle in full effect, it’s time to get a little slinky and a little smooth—taking in the sights and smells around you, both in the car and out the window. Loosen up with jet-setting class courtesy of Ned Doheny, a Southern California groove-smith recently reissued by the Numero Group.”


5) “Other Life” by Sean Nicholas Savage. “Ned was great, and you’re definitely feeling smooth, sailing down the highway—but you’re also a little gross, surviving off roadside junk food and wearing the same pair of shorts over and over. So, let’s continue the forward-moving groovy smoothness, but from a suitably gross peer. Enter oil-slick Canadian romantic Sean Nicholas Savage.”


6) “Right Down the Line” by Gerry Rafferty. “An effortless transition between songs, Gerry Rafferty comes on as you notice the sun starting to shift. It’s nowhere near setting, but it’s not as hot now, and you’ve become so at-one with the car that you can really take in the entire experience with all of your senses. Be careful not to distract yourself with introspection at this juncture—road trips are great for that sort of thing, but, as always, safety first.”


7) “Southbound” by Thin Lizzy. “Despite driving northeast, it’s easy to pretend you’re driving in the opposite direction with help from some of the ultimate road-weary asphalt warriors: Phil Lynott and his pals in Thin Lizzy. The dual-guitar attack seems to give your engine and extra little boost, and you feel like the cool drifter Lynott’s singing about—moving on to better things, like weird earthworks.”


8) “Bostitch” by Yello. “The easy-going lilt ‘n’ groove of the last few tracks has you drifting out of razor-sharp road focus—so it’s time to get back on track with some to-the-point machine music from conceptual art-dance outfit Yello. It also gives you time to meditate on the nature of an artistic practice, what constitutes a work of art, and who gets to claim authorship. Does Spiral Jetty even exist unless you visit it? Does one of Yello’s hit singles stop being art when you stop dancing to it, or vice versa? Are you keeping your eyes on the road?”


9) “Leisure Suit Preben” by Todd Terje. “The sun is now starting to set, and the colors and shapes are becoming more fantastic, more foreign—so we turn to Todd Terje’s technicolor electronic exotica to soundtrack our motor-safari through this uncharted territory. Even though it’s getting dark, a well-placed gas station coffee has you bopping along to the beat like it was still mid-afternoon.”


10) “Albuquerque” by Neil Young. “As you pull into Box Elder County and head toward Rozel Point, the sun is fully set. You’re awake and a little tired—but mostly awake. Neil’s here for you with one of the ultimate road trip songs of all time. He sounds tired from driving, but excited about driving a little more. The song is filled with potential about the next place you could end up. Heck, maybe you could go back a few tracks to “Southbound” and head toward Albuquerque yourself. Heck, you could go anywhere! When the sun comes up, and you see the sparkling water and salt crystals all around Smithson’s massive earth sculpture, you’ll still be humming the chorus, pondering where to end up next.”

 

For more road trip essentials,
check out our current Pop-In Shop: LET’S GO!

 
 

[Intro photos via @amoebaSF, @amoebahollywood and @a_dree_awn on Instagram.]

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