Ten traffic jams to get you through Carmegeddon
It was only about a month ago that Angelenos started being warned in earnest that the L.A. roads would become hell on earth on July 16 and 17 due to demolition on the Mullholland Drive bridge. The orange roadway signs started popping up, and predictions of impending doom flooded our radios, televisions and news sites. The word “Carmegeddon” officially became part of the L.A. lexicon.
But before the car crunch sets in on the Westside’s busiest freeway—said to be driven by nearly 500,000 cars every weekend— it’s important to understand where you'll be: in a sweltering asphalt crawl surrounded by a chorus of horns, a sticky car seat and a steering wheel ripe for banging your head against.
As an antidote to this most recent potential downfall of civilization, and in the interest of preparedness, Pop & Hiss recommends that your iPod be ready for the occasion. Herewith: a playlist of 10 songs to make Carmegeddon feel more like a party than the end of the world.
Sammy Hagar "I Can't Drive 55"
If there's one thing you won't be doing on the 405 Freeway this weekend, it's driving the speed limit. Frankly, if predictions come true, you may be lucky to go half that. It's times like these that the squealing guitar riffs of this classic Sammy Hagar tune can bring out your roaring, fist-pumping inner lion. Hagar can sympathize: "When I drive that slow, you know it's hard to steer/And I can't get my car out of second gear/What used to take two hours now takes all day/Huh - It took me 16 hours to get to L.A.!" With the Red Rocker's defiant vocals, turning this song up in the weekend chaos will turn the gridlock into a heavy metal parking lot -- and those are way more fun.
War "Low Rider"
Few songs more anthemic driving (or in this case, parking) on a busy the freeway than the signature harmonica funk of War's "Lowrider." Not only does it indicate your loyalty to home-grown sounds of one of L.A. County's most notable acts, but it pretty much makes you feel like a gangsta for the duration of the song (or an extra in Cheech and Chong's "Up In Smoke").
This much is true: Nobody wants to be stopped by a cop in the middle of Carmegeddon. Especially when it's in a sea of smelly car exhaust on a stagnant freeway. For that reason, the bass-rattling attitude of the Chamillionaire track "Ridin'" ft. Krazie Bone can serve as a warning: "I been drinkin and smokin holdin' ... 'cause a brother can't focus/I gotta get to home before the po po's scope this big old Excursion swerving all up in the curve man." Watch out people, just because you're not moving doesn't mean cops aren't still looking to catch you ridin' dirty."
Gary Numan "Cars"
Can you really have a car-themed list post without mentioning Gary Numan? But even more than its precise title, "Cars," from the 1979 album "The Pleasure Principle," is appropriate for just about any situation that involves driving on four wheels. With tambourines and synth lines aplenty, the searing laser beam riffs equals four minutes of futuristic, spaced-out daydreams that may mellow you out a bit. And the fact that Numan says that song was inspired by an episode of road rage makes this classic '80s track all the more appropriate.
Prince & The Revolution "Little Red Corvette"
If there's one thing we learned from 21 shows at the Forum last spring, Prince always knows how get the opposite sex in the right mood. In the grips of Carmegeddon, that's a difficult task. But if sexual car metaphors rev your engine, then treat yourself to the glittery synth sounds of "Little Red Corvette." When it came out in 1983 on Prince's seminal album "1999", the song's tale of fast love and loose morals was an anthem for the self-indulgent '80s. Two decades later, this jam will still drive you to the place where your horses run free.
Pop culture owes a lot to the dirty South, more than many on the coasts acknowledge -- especially when it comes to road-range anthems. By the time you've hit your third hour in traffic, playing a song like Ludacris' "Move" may not be the best idea, or it could make you feel better. Pumped up by surging bass drops rattling your sedan like a tin can, this raw club banger just might be the perfect expression; and since the windows are rolled up, you might be able to fill in the blanks with a choice cussword. Ludacris does: Move ... get out the way/Get out the way ... get out the way/Move ... get out the way/Get out the way ... get out the way."
Rihanna "Shut Up and Drive"
There's something to be said for effective backseat -- or passenger side -- drivers, especially when they're Rihanna. When you've hit your wit's end on the 405 Freeway, she'll tell you to muzzle up and get a move on. Equal parts sexy and saccharine, the premise of her "Shut Up and Drive" will make you snap to it: "Got a ride that smoother than a limousine/Can you handle the curves?/Can you run all the lights?" Unfortunately, no, the traffic's backed up from Pico to Sunset, so we're stuck.
The Clash "Brand New Cadillac"
As much as we'd love to save every ridiculously expensive drop of our L.A. unleaded, any American-made list of auto songs would be a farce without a tribute to the gas-guzzling Detroit land shark the Cadillac. And who better to do that than British punk band the Clash. The rockabilly-infused 12-bar blues tune originally belonged to fellow Brit Vince Taylor before it was given a super charge of aggression on the 1979 album "London Calling."
Snoop Dogg "Gin and Juice"
After some hard time spent locked down in traffic, the ability to finally take that freeway exit you've been waiting for should have you feeling like a bit of a gangsta. You did it. You've beat Carmegeddon. It's officially time to lean back in your ride, roll the windows down and let a little G-funk filter into the air courtesy of a West Coast classic. You know, the kind of jam that makes you want to drive slow because you want to, not because you have no choice.
What songs did we miss? Chime in below.
Photo: Traffic on the 405 in West Los Angeles. Credit: Reed Saxon