Driving anthems and songs that can save lives

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I was travelling to Lurgan in my petrol-powered mobile office on Monday morning when Fleetwood’s Mac’s ‘Man Of The World’ started playing.

It wasn’t unexpected considering I’d put a Fleetwood Mac CD in the car stereo. For those unfamiliar with ‘Man Of The World’ it’s the one that goes... Shall I tell you about my life, They say I’m a man of the world.

That’s right - it’s the song from the drink driving ad.

For me, once a band have had a song featured in a drink driving advert it’s impossible to think of that song in any other context.

I saw The Undertones a while back in the Ulster Hall and amidst a cracking set they played ‘Get Over You’... I don’t wanna get over you, It doesn’t matter what you do.

As great a song as it is, I couldn’t put my full heart and soul into jumping around to it, given the images of wrecked lives dancing through my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the drink driving ads are superb for want of the better word. You only need to see such an ad once and its message is forever in your psyche. As a by-product, the songs included in the advertisements will always be tainted with sadness. Though in the grand scheme of things it’s a small price to pay if it makes someone think twice and saves a life.

The same associations are also true of ‘lighter’ ads.

I’m told it’s physically impossible for a woman to listen to Etta James singing ‘I just want to make love to you’ without craving a Diet Coke or, at the very least, a semi-naked workman.

I’m a big fan of the ability of music to transport the listener to a different time and place. When I hear the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ it evokes memories of my uni days, in particular an afternoon where Gary, Chris and I bunked off class and timed ourselves running from one end of their bungalow to the other, dodging such obstacles as beds, bins and unused textbooks. When I hear ‘Walking In The Air’ I think of Christmas sing-songs on the school bus with Bap leading the choir. And when I hear Bon Jovi’s ‘Living On A Prayer’ I want to vomit. Even typing it has made me feel slightly ill.

Whether it’s a drink driving ad or an advert for Diet Coke, once a song gets attached to a brand, gone are those unique, individual memories.

Needless to say, none of the songs featured in the drink driving ads appear on ‘Power Ballads - The Greatest Driving Anthems in the World... Ever!’

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I own this very album. I’m guessing someone left it behind after a party, because I certainly don’t remember buying it. Whilst perusing the two-disc album, I pondered what makes a driving anthem.

Those mentioning driving in the title are a shoo-in with Roy Orbison’s ‘I Drove All Night’ case in point.

Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’ wins its place by perfectly encapsulating the sheer euphoria of the driving experience.

I can only guess that T’Pau’s ‘China In Your Hand’ is included for all those who like to take a cup of tea on their travels, while Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ merits its inclusion as an anthem for motorists experiencing brake failure.

The album finishes with Meat Loaf’s ‘I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)’. I can only presume the ‘That’ in this case is going the wrong way up a one-way street.