A great summer driving song — music that virtually propels you toward your next adventure — requires an aggressive beat. An insistent snare drum snap like Charles Connors' on those early Little Richard songs. Propelling percussion like the Allman Brothers Band, Rush or Bob Marley. Granted, even with a strong backbeat, some things drag on too long. That's where compelling interplay makes all the difference.
It isn't AC/DC's rhythm section that makes some of its tunes such great summer driving music, it's Malcolm and Angus Young's guitar interplay.
And if the music lacks both those qualities? A prime exception would be Boston's earliest work. Basing his dynamics and layered orchestration on Beethoven, M.I.T. graduate Tom Scholz created some of the most classic driving music of the '70s. Sneer if you want, but there's a reason the sales and airplay statistics of Boston's debut album blow away all but a handful of other artists'.
Here is some other classic, high-octane music bound to make your summer road journeys rock:
"Vertigo," U2: It's the ultimate exercise in mutual music-making.
"Radar Love," Golden Earring: It isn't the nearly indecipherable lyrics that make this a favorite, it's the Dutch band's ensemble work.
"We Can Work It Out," "She Said, She Said," Beatles: Packing the most into a brief song was a specialty of the best band ever.
"Jamming," Bob Marley and the Wailers: It's the propelling interplay of the band that makes this so good for your drive.
"Peace of Mind," "Foreplay/Long Time," Boston: Scholz played almost every instrument on songs inspired by Beethoven.
"Highway Star," Deep Purple: Jon Lord's Hammond organ drives this tune.
"Thunderstruck," "Back in Black," AC/DC: An intense rhythm section combined with Malcolm and Angus Young's guitar interplay demands a driving adventure.
"Statesboro Blues," "Jessica," the Allman Brothers Band: Six or more real musicians mix blues, rock, R&B and country with jazz undertones and jamming techniques.
"Panama," Van Halen: Eddie Van Halen's guitar and brother Alex's drumming propel their band's only song about summertime, cars and driving.
"I Wanna Be Sedated," the Ramones: You'll never find the word "intricate" associated with the Ramones, but this is undeniably compelling.
"Won't Get Fooled Again," "Who Are You," the Who: a devastating rhythm section and slashing guitar work.
"Rock and Roll," "Gallows Pole," Led Zeppelin: When it comes to driving songs, the Zep had it down.
"Hollywood Nights," Bob Seger: a true story of driving passion, musically conceived on the 101 Freeway.
"Subdivisions," "Red Barchetta," Rush: When musicality means more than sex appeal, Rush rules.
To hear a sampling of music, go to latimes.com/roadtunes. Joe Benson, an L.A. DJ for 25 years, can be heard 2-6 p.m. weekdays on KLOS-FM (95.5.) He can be reached at email@example.com.