Thursday, 18 August 2016

My Top Ten Traffic Jam Songs

Fortunately, this blog never gets enough traffic to cause congestion, so this is dedicated to all those bloggers who live life in the fast lane... and then have to pay to avoid blockages.

Special mentions, of course to Traffic and The Jam (although, we'll hear from one of those in just a moment).

10. Vega4 - Traffic Jam

Late single from the early noughties indie band, very much follows the Snow Patrol template, but pleasant enough, I suppose.

9. The Jam - London Traffic

Can't blame the so-literal-they-hurt lyrics of this one on Weller as it's a rare Bruce Foxton composition. Not sure how well thought out his solution to London traffic jams is though...
Take a look at our cityTake the traffic elsewhereLeave the city free from trafficGive the place a chance to surviveDirt and filth cover LondonGive it a chance to breathe again
Thirty odd years later, Weller would eventually tackle the subject himself in Fast Car, Slow Traffic.

Question: were The Jam named after a traffic jam... or strawberry, raspberry and boysenberry?

8. Paul Buchanan - Cars In The Garden

Yearning melancholia from the Blue Nile frontman... or an old geezer whinging into his piano about all these new-fangled motor cars clogging up the roads? I remember when this was all fields, etc. You decide.

7. Peaches & Herb - Four's A Traffic Jam

70s soul is always at its best when there's a long talky intro (this one even begins: "You know, baby...") and this one scores double points because both Peaches AND Herb get to have a mumble at the beginning.

While there was one ever one Herb Fame (real name... well, not really, but don't just wish it was?), seven different women filled the Peaches vacancy between 1966 and the present day. This is from their must successful album, 1978's 2 Hot (the one with Reunited on), when the third Peaches, Linda Greene, was doing her thang. Sadly, at no point in his career did Herb Fame ever consider hooking up with this particular Peaches...

...because, let's face it, that would have been monuMENTAL.

All that aside, I love this track. The lyrics feature a couple talking themselves out of an extra-marital affair because of how it'd hurt their respective spouses and kids.
Our story ends without kissing
Fair thee well
And a promise not to tell

Three's A Crowd, Four's A Traffic Jam
6. Warren Zevon - Gridlock

Leave it to Warren to hit the nail on the head always...
It's 5:00 PM on a weekday, friend
I'm going home, but I don't know when
I hate this traffic, and I hate this town
Gotta honk my horn, try to get around
I feel like going on a killing spree
Tomorrow I'm going on the R.T.D.
The traffic crawls, and the engine stalls
I'm stuck on the edge of the urban sprawl
5. Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour

The Go-Go everyone remembers after Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin also released 4 solo albums, although this was her only hit single. Still it must be one of the biggest radio hits of the 80s, so I suspect she made a pretty penny from it.

Anyway, Jane likes traffic jams because it gives her an excuse to smooch her man. She obviously didn't like them enough to feature them in the video though. You can see how that meeting went...
"So, Jane, for the video, I thought we'd get a road full of cars..." 
"I wanna swim with dolphins." 
"Yeah, but it's about the rush hour. So I thought maybe we start with you behind the wheel of a nice, sexy Mercedes (I'm sure we can do a product placement deal)..." 
"Maybe you could stand on the hood of a Porsche playing your guitar...?" 
"Betty, can you get me some dolphins, please? Don't ask."
4. Catatonia - Road Rage

Not, strictly speaking, about traffic jams as such, but included here for three very good reasons:
i) Traffic jams always give me road rage. 
ii) Any excuse to hear Cerys's heartbroken Welsh growl again. 
iii) It's a far better song than any of the alternatives I had which were more on target.
(By the way, I did reject some other fine songs which mentioned Traffic - Lloyd Cole and Ned's Atomic Dustbin come to mind - because they didn't mention jams at all.)

3. Slaves - Do Something

Incredibly, even though Slaves have only released one album to date, I had two songs to choose from for this Top Ten. The more obvious title would have been Despair & Traffic, but Do Something works better for me, from its apt chorus of  'If you're not moving: do something!" to the Fight Club-esque mantra (appropriately stolen from an advertising campaign, like most 21st Century wisdom): You are not stuck in traffic: You ARE traffic!" The band even close with a little safe driving advice, "cheers!"

Every time I think I'm getting too old for punky rackets and I'd be better off listening to nothing louder than my old Billy Joel records, a band like Slaves come along and blow the cobwebs away...

2. Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic

All hail James Marshall Hendrix and his tissue-paper & comb kazoo. Hendrix is often remembered only as a serious artist and guitar god, but there's a lot of humour to his lyrics too, and Crosstown Traffic is a great example. If you're going to use traffic jams as a troubled relationship metaphor, this is the way to do it...
I'm not the only soul who's accused of hit and runTyre tracks all across your backI can see you had your funBut darlin' can't you see my signals turn from green to red?And with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead

1. James Taylor - Traffic Jam

From James Taylor's most successful album, 1977's JT, this fun, jazzy little number is a great antidote to traffic jam blues.

Which one gives you road rage?


  1. Does Pull Up to the Bumper by Grace Jones meet your strict criteria Rol?

    1. Top Ten Songs I Didn't Realise Were Packed With Filthy Innuendo When I Was A Teenager.

  2. 'Road Block' by Stock Aitken & Waterman might fit the bill.....though that doesn't necessarily mean I want to hear it!


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