The ultimate road trip song playlist


I would rather forget to fill up with petrol than be on a road trip without a mixtape, bagful of CDs or curated iTunes playlist (depending on your car stereo). Cars and music are a potent combination perhaps because it is one of the few places these days we can enjoy music without too much distraction. And things are even easier when you can control the whole thing just using your voice, thanks to Ford's SYNC2 connectivity system that can hook up to your music device and play music at your voice's command.

Here is a suggested playlist for when you hit the road.

Wide Open Road, The Triffids

Let's start with a classic. This love affair to road trips is a must, with David McComb's laconic vocal speaking to the overwhelming feeling that our great brown land can have when there is just you, four wheels and a road that looks like it will go on forever.

The sky was big and empty/My chest filled to explode/I yelled my insides out at the sun/At the wide open road. We hear you, David.

The sound is as expansive as the country it eulogises and the haunting production is perfect for the time on the highway when day is slipping into night.

If you want something a bit less obvious, try the Triffids' other great road tripper, Too Hot to Move, Too Hot to Think.

Mustang Sally

Who can resist this legendary song, especially after Ford just launched the iconic Mustang in Australia for the first time from the factory? Ride Sally, Ride could easily have been Ride Della, Ride as Sir Mack Rice created and performed the song as joke about Della Reese's desire to buy a Mustang. Another Motown classic, Aretha Franklin, convinced Rice to change the title from Mustang Momma. Later, Wilson Pickett re-made the song with the version that is more well-known today. Yes this is a great year for cars and tunes, which is why this made our "car-tune" list…

Mr Milk, You Am I

I could have picked Berlin Chair, Purple Sneakers or Kick a Hole in the Sky. Hell, I could have picked up any album these seminal Aussie rockers have put out in the past two decades and have a happy carload of travellers. Why this song? For the sheer joy of singing the "Woo-woo"s at the top of your lungs with the window down.


Depreston, Courtney Barnett

Perfect for the part of the trip that drags out through the outer city suburban sprawl, Courtney Barnett's forlorn lyrics pay homage to double-brick frontage houses, lawnmowers and concrete driveways – with a sly dig at our house-price obsession thrown in. Despite its title, Barnett's Pedestrian at Best is a good runner up for a livelier vibe.

I'm Deranged, David Bowie

Night driving always reminds me of David Lynch movies and while Angelo Badalamenti's creepy, jittery Lost Highway score is a good one to evoke the twisted world of Lynch as you drive, Bowie's I'm Deranged from the Lost Highway soundtrack is also a fun ride.

Warnings Moving Clockwise, Do Re Mi

Night drives require a moodier tune and this slow burn song from the '80s Melbourne band oozes menace with Deborah Conway's gorgeous vocals building like a tropical summer storm.

From St Kilda to Kings Cross, Paul Kelly

Heading up the Hume from the Victorian capital? So was Australia's greatest chronicler of the human condition and his song about the trip should come pre-loaded into the stereo of any car sold in this country.

Downtown, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

This exuberant paean to trips on two wheels makes the list for its sheer energy, as it treads the fine line between parody and playfully thumbing it's nose at the boastful nature of mainstream hip hop. Play it when the road trip boredom starts to kick in.

Cuffed and Collared, BAD//DREEMS

Everyone needs a bit of grungy post-punk apathy on the road to keep things lively. This four-piece from Adelaide is one of the freshest bands to come out in the past few years and they say their sound chronicles the badlands of Adelaide "from the port with its decaying factories and rusty Chinese tankers to the forgotten northern fringe with its salt plains and dilapidated greenhouses". Play it loud and don't argue.

Don't Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes

Things getting a little tense in the front of the car as you tussle over the GPS? The silky tones of Brittany Howard and the band from Athens, Alabama will smooth things over. This single from the 2015 Sound & Colour album has a killer groove and when Howard screams her intro fellow passengers will pay attention.

Daughters of the Northern Coast, Australian Crawl

This classic song from James Reyne and Co, name checks station wagons, dingo fences, caravans, lawns, fishing, beaches and the country's famous northern coastline. It should be a coastal by-law that you have to play this song on a beach road trip. Aussie Crawl has loads of songs that could easily slip in to a great road trip mixtape from Things Don't Seem to Errol.

Private Lawns, Angus and Julia Stone

The Stones' mellow tunes make you feel like you are on holidays. The Sydney northern beaches brothers and sister act have plenty of travelling songs like Big Jet Plane, but the quirkiness of Private Lawns, from their 2006 EP Chocolate and Cigarettes, keeps you smiling on a long drive.

Carry On My Wayward Son, Kansas

It was a good enough soundtrack for the Winchesters to slay demons to in the TV series Supernatural and those boys know a thing or two about classic Americana … and roads. Kansas' epic tune is a fight to death between guitars and keyboards with a manic drum solo thrown in for good measure.

Barracuda, Heart

While we're in classic Americana territory, many people may have been scarred by Heart's foray into '80s MOR with All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You, and that's fair enough ("I am the flower, you are the sea" really?). But a decade earlier, Ann and Nancy Wilson were in blistering form with songs like this and Magic Man.

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Because it's fun to go all Wayne's World.

Highway to Hell, AC/DC

You just have to do it. It was even written about a road. The highway in question refers to the Canning Highway that connects Perth to Fremantle and in the days before random breath testing it was a very dangerous stretch of road as hard drinkers from the Fremantle pubs would drive back to Perth drunk. It also describes perfectly how you feel when you realise you are only halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, and the kids just woke up.

This article brought to you by Ford. Ford's SYNC2 is controlled by voice, along with commands issued through an 8-inch, high-resolution touchscreen in the car's dashboard. The driver can control the car's entertainment system, climate control, satellite navigation and linked mobile devices – like compatible smartphones and tablets – with voice commands.