Aug 05

DAY 41: Route 66

I Hate Music1 comment • 748 views

Sitting in the back of the car while Crispian is driving is a little bit like stepping into a time warp. That and the gin made it feel like three months had passed, when actually it was only a day. Yes, Amarillo had been as depressing and as horrible as I had expected, but when we saw the on-ramp, I just got a bad feeling.

Route 66. America’s main street. So famous (and rubbish) there is a song about it. I had a bad feeling as soon as our black vehicle hit the asphalt. Yes, it was the fastest way to LA and therefore out of America which had taken up half of our allotted time. But it was just so long, nasty and – as I found out to my chagrin – lacked any shops which sold tonic water. I like neat gin, but not 18 hours a day.

Still it took us out of Texas, which was something, and New Mexico also whizzed by. It was only by the time we got to Arizona I noticed the slightly shady truck that had been following us for the last hundred miles.
“Crispian, is that truck following us?”
Apparently he found it hard to understand my cut glass (full of Tanq) accent.
“The truck, he seems to be signaling us.”
“Oh, you mean like the film?”
“Convoy. I hate that film. I hate the song, and especially the risible Convoy GB by Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks. Dipsticks indeed. I tell you if I get my hands on that Dave Lee Travis I’ll show him what a dipstick is, and I’ll give you one guess where I’ll be dipping it -”
My tirade was interrupted by the truck ramming us in the rear, much like I was suggesting I would do with Dave Lee Travis and a dipstick.
“No,” said Crispian. “More like Duel.”


Considering pop music had been around for two weeks when Chuck Berry came up with covering Route 66, it is a pitiful display of how moribund the artform was and still is. List records have always existed, and have always been terrible: I always think of Its The End Of The World As We Know It by REM, and point out that had it been the end of the world it would have been a release for anyone listening to it. Route 66 is a list of places that the road goes to. It is a summary of off-ramps, or junctions if you will. I suppose it might be useful as a kind of aural journey planner: except even there it is no good as it does some of the junctions out of order.

Route 66 has been covered hundreds of times, because it only has one chord and the lyrics as a list are easy to remember. The Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode are two who spring to mind (for interment) and I suppose one could suggest that names like Flagstaff and Winona were in some way exotic to them. It is even more indicative of the lack of imagination in pop that they covered a song about an American road than wrote one themselves about a British Road. The Stones could have written about the Kings Road. And I am sure Ver Mode could have happily written about the A127 from London to Southend-On-Sea (bypassing Basildon to the north). I can just hear it now, to the strains of a weedy eighties synth,

“Going from Gallow’s Corner, up to Squirrel Heath
Cross the M25 into good old Essex
Then East Horndon passes, Laindon, Basildon
Thundersley* thunders by, up to the A1015,
Cuckoo Corner flies by and before you know
Southend Municipal Airport flashes by to window
Coming up infront is Southend On Sea
Get Your Kicks on the A127”

See, just cos its easy, does not make it good!

*Does anyone else think it is a coincidence that Depeche Mode live a stones throw away from Thundersley, the home of the turquoise disablist chariots the Thundersley Invercar. And that even something as moribund and mundane as the Invercar has a song written about it.


  1. 1
    Simon Beck on 17 Mar 2007 #

    Sadly the Southend song has (with minor changes) been done already. And by none other than that left-wing player of Burns guitars, Billy Bragg. Here, in full is The Bragg’s version:

    “A13 – Trunk Road To The Sea”
    Words: Billy Bragg
    Music: Bobby Troup

    If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness
    Take the A road, the okay road that’s the best
    Go motorin’ on the A13

    If you’re looking for a thrill that’s new
    Take in Fords, Dartford Tunnel and the river too
    Go motorin’ on the A13

    It starts down in Wapping
    There ain’t no stopping
    By-pass Barking and straight through Dagenham
    Down to Grays Thurrock
    And rather near Basildon
    Pitsea, Thundersley, Hadleigh, Leigh-On-Sea,
    Chalkwell, Prittlewell
    Southend’s the end

    If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness
    Take the A road, the okay road that’s the best
    Go motorin’ on the A13

    “Southend’s the end!” Too true.

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