Why have so many songs have been written about Route 66? In case this is news to you, here is a brief history lesson on the Mother Road, also known as the Main Street of America, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, and its deep-seated relationship with music. In 1946, American songwriter, Bobby Troup wrote (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66. The song has been recorded by 11 artists including the Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, and John Mayer. In 1994, there was an entire album featuring a compilation of songs about the iconic highway called ‘The Songs of Route 66: Music from the All-American Highway’. Clearly, this isn’t your average highway. From Chicago, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, the Historic Route 66 remains the ultimate All-American road trip trajectory. Here’s a Route 66 playlist to inspire your next road trip and perhaps a route 66 motel stay.
Route 66 Playlist # 1: Memory Motel – For Lovers On-The-Go
If you’re headed off on your honeymoon, escaping for your anniversary, or simply one of two vagabonds on a Bonnie and Clyde escapade, The Rolling Stones’ hit 1976 ballad, Memory Motel, from the album Black and Blue, is the perfect start to your playlist. With lead vocals by Mick Jagger and guitarist, Keith Richards, the popular song was inspired by an actual motel in Montauk, on Long Island. The lyrics describe a lonely night spent at the Memory Motel with a woman named ‘Hannah’. ‘Hannah honey was a peachy kind of girl, her eyes were hazel and her nose were slightly curved, we spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel.’ Who is Hannah? Annie Liebovitz and Carly Simon are two contenders, but nothing has been confirmed. To spice up your drive, why not turn it into a car game?
Route 66 Playlist #2: Blue Motel Room – For The Lazy Drive
Recorded in the same year as Memory Motel, Joni Mitchell’s Blue Motel Room, from the album Hejira (which means ‘journey’ in arabic), is the road trip song of your dreams, literally. You may, in fact, doze off while listening to it, but that’s exactly what makes it ideal for a soothing drive along route 66. Written at the Desoto Beach Motel in Savannah, Georgia, the song is about Mitchell’s relationship with lover and drummer, John Guerin, and serves as a plea to take her back. And what better place to make up than in a roadside motel room?
Route 66 Playlist 3: Little Motel – For The Lovelorn Dreamer
Speaking of lovers quarrels, a more recent song from 2007 is rock band Modest Mouse’s Little Motel, from the album We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. The song has inspired a long list of symbolic interpretations, and like in Joni Mitchell’s Blue Motel Room, it describes a man’s yearning for his lover to come back to him. The opening lines, ‘I hope that you like it in your little motel, and I hope that the suite sleeps and suits you well, well, I can see it as time and a sight through smell and that’s why it’s nice to be by yourself’, depicts the motel as a safe space to be alone and perhaps rethink your relationship. If you’ve just broken up with your significant other and need a refuge, this is the motel song for you.
Route 66 Playlist #4: Motel Eyes – On Your Way to a Haunted Motel
This 1983 Rick Springfield song, Motel Eyes, from the album, Living in Oz, may not about about a motel per say, but I invite you to visualize a motel while you listen to it. With lyrics like “I saw a dull red neon sign flashing in her eyes, it said “VACANCY,” she had motel eyes”, Springfield invokes neon signs, while portraying his lady lover as a motel; a little bit eerie, but highly enticing. If you’re looking for a haunted motel experience with your secret lover, this song should definitely be on your playlist.