Station Break: American Cars Will Never Die, Conan's First Night

Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 2, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, June 2, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: General Motors is in the tank, but Chevy, Caddies, Pontiacs and even Buicks will never die in American popular culture. Join us as we celebrate the best car songs and best car moments from film and TV. What, you thought we were going to talk about the Camry? Also, we'll touch on Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" debut.

Farhi has been a reporter at the Post for 21 years. He writes about TV, radio and totally random other subjects for the Style section.

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A transcript follows.

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Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and welcome back...Shame about GM, no? And Chrysler, too. With all due respect to the people whose working lives are going to be seriously disrupted by the auto industry's mess, I'd like to focus on something no bankruptcy filing can ever take away from us--the very rich intertwining of "car culture" and pop culture. As I wrote today (see link below), there's a very long history here. Cars are one of the great themes of rock n' roll, of course (as historian Paul Grushkin points out), and of rap and country, too (though I'd guess that country shades more toward trucks than cars). Is there anything better than rolling down the open highway with a great car song blasting away? Well, there probably is, but that's certainly one of life's little pleasures. Anyway, would love to get your favorite car/driving songs. I'll spot you "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road," but the rest is up to you.

And one more thing, unrelated: Conan. Enjoyed his debut on "The Tonight Show" last night. Thought it was fresher, more creative and livelier than almost anything that his predecessor came up with in the past 17 years. But feel free to disagree.

Let's go to the phones...

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Washington, D.C.: Two songs not so much about cars in particular but my votes for the best songs to floor it to:

"Fuel" by Metallica and "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar

Paul Farhi: Love, love, love the Hagar song. Quick story: Was stuck in traffic in on the 405 in L.A. a few years ago and "55" came on. It just about caused me to hit the gas and rear-end the minivan in front of me...

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Harrisburg, Pa.: There was never a better car song than "Hot Rod Lincoln". And in film? Everyone needed seatbelts on their theater seats when the car chase in "Bullitt".

Paul Farhi: Yes, I like the Commander Cody version (because, frankly, I don't know any of the earlier versions of that tune). And "Bullitt" chase (in a Mustang) is way cool because of San Francisco (and because it's the first great cinematic car chase, following McQueen's motorcycle stunts in "The Great Escape"). But for my money, the chase in "The French Connection" in Brooklyn is still the gold standard.

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Best car songs: Finally, a topic I can contribute to! Here are five great car songs:

For frothy fun, Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love" shines like a beacon from 1985.

"Radar Love" by Golden Earring is one of the all-time best driving songs.

And of course, Bruce Springsteen penned some of the best. My top three:

"Cadillac Ranch" -- Just plain fun

"Pink Cadillac" -- Try topping these lyrics: "My love is bigger than a Honda/Yeah, it's bigger than a Suburu"

"Wreck on the Highway" -- a tear-jerker from the point of view of a witness to a fatal wreck. Last verse: "Sometimes I sit up in the darkness/And I watch my baby as she sleeps/And I climb in bed and I hold her tight/I just lay there awake in the middle of the night/Thinkin' 'bout the wreck on the highway"

Paul Farhi: Springsteen almost deserves a separate category from everyone else. So much of his work (particularly early stuff) references cars and driving--"Jungleland," "Darlington County," "Badlands," on and on...And "Radar Love" never quite quits as a driving song, even after the 7,000th hearing...

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Turino, Italia: I bought me a Chrysler... It's as big as a WHALE and it's about to set SAIL!

Paul Farhi: A great line! Chrysler, by the way, ranks way behind GM and Ford in the song reference category...

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Minneapolis, Minn.: "Kiss of Death" by Split Lip Rayfield (a punk/bluegrass band out of Lawrence, Kan.) has to be the best song about cars ever. This song is about one man's sad, long history of "killing" cars with his bad luck. Lyrics like: "Even though Rush sounded good on the stereo, I had killed that car" tell his, and the cars', sad stories.

Paul Farhi: Obscure, but we'll take it. Thanks, Minneapolis.

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Asheville, N.C.: Hard to imagine driving my Camry to the Levee whether wet or dry. Or, when lamenting Mabelline's unfaithfulness to see the Mercedes gaining but knowing the rain under the hood was doing my motor good. Whatever happens to GM, the Chevy and Cadillac will be preserved in song. Hope there will be a chance to read your and readers comments because I will miss the session.

Paul Farhi: The billboard was right: "They don't write songs about Volvos." But they do, on rare occasion, write something about a Mercedes--such as the Janis Joplin ditty that was, perversely, turned into the soundtrack of a Mercedes ads a few years back.

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Harrisburg, Pa: Car Song: "Son you're gonna drive me to drinkin', if you don't stop drivin' that Hot Rod Lincoln!" - Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen (cover of the original)

Movie Car: Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in "The French Connection" chasing the El through Bensonhurst in a comandeered 1971 Pontiac LeMans. To quote Comic Book Guy: "Greatest chase scene...EVER!"

Paul Farhi: I was driving around Brooklyn back in January, just wandering, and found myself in the Coney Island-Bensonhurst area. Driving under the El, I couldn't help thinking about that scene. I guess everyone does.

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Washington, D.C.: Isn't the guy in "Born to Run" on a motorbike? I mean, I know he talks about cars, but the I thought the narrator himself is a biker.

Paul Farhi: Yep: "Strap your hands 'cross my engines." But you gotta drive a bike, no?

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Baltimore, Md.: Best car song ever written: "Makin' Thunderbirds" Bob Seger

Paul Farhi: Note to self: Check this one out. Never heard of it.

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Clifton, Va.: Best car film dealing with American car culture at its heyday. No, not "American Graffiti," but "Hollywood Knights." AG was not about cars, but Hollywood Knights is.

So Paul where is your rail job?

The Beach Boys, contrary to public opinion, knew very little about cars and surfing. The best car songs were from the real King of Rock and Rock Chuck Berry.

Another great car song: "Hotrod Lincoln"

Great car movies: "Hollywood Knights," "Le Mans," "A Man and a Woman" and "Grand Prix." "Ronin" and "Bullit" have the best car chase scenes followed by "French Connection."

Paul Farhi: The Beach Boys (or maybe just Brian Wilson) knew enough about cars and surfing to write great songs about it. Those tunes defined the genre(s).

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New York, N.Y.: I just wanted to write in to thank you for all of the song suggestions. I'm leaving tomorrow for a road trip to California and back! Keep 'em coming!

Paul Farhi: We're all about the public service here at the 'Break...

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Winchester, Va.: Thanks for having this chat. I was growing up when car songs were at their peak in West Hyattsville. "Little GTO," "Dead Man's Curve," "409," "Little Deuce Coupe," "Hot Rod Lincoln" (via our sort of homeboy, Bill Kirchen), "Rocket 88" (a little earlier I think), "Fun-Fun-Fun," "Little Old Lady From Pasadena," "I Get Around," "In My Car," "Shut Down," "Stick Shift," and on and on.

I've never gotten over the urge to jump in the car and drive. Anymore it's mostly nice rides on a sunny day, in the country. Used to be midnight races on the beltway when there was hardly any traffic. Late night drag races (speed shifting was so cool)on University Boulevard near the U.of Md. entrance by Bryd Stadium, or just outside of Goodard Space Center going towards Greenbelt. Cruising the Burger Chef or the Big Boy in Queenstown. We would take University Blvd. to Wheaton, on to Kensington and then go down Connecticut Ave. to Georgetown, go over to Rhode Island Ave and back to Hyattsville, and maybe do it two or three times in one night.

Guys with automatics cruising the Big Boy would shift into neutral and rev it up, trying to pretend they had a stick shift but we all knew they were putting up a front.

A 1968 Chevy SS 396 Camaro was $3,600. The Z-28 Camaro and Mach 1 Mustang did around 13 seconds in the quarter mile, with little 302 engines.

I'm so glad I made it through those night alive, but it was a blast at the time.

Paul Farhi: Nice memories, Winchester! Thanks....Which reminds me: Does anyone write car songs anymore? Rappers do, but does anyone in rock? I can't think of a big rock car song in the past 10 years. Perhaps this say something about rock, or the auto industry, or maybe America.

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Car culture, pop culture: I seem to recall a VW commercial a couple of years ago that featured a song by a deceased musician who hadn't done all that well when alive, but the use of his song in the commercial made him very popular and resulted in many people "discovering" his music. I can't remember his name, but I really liked his music in the commercial--very plaintive and delicate. IIRC, the commercial featured four young folks driving in a convertible VW though the countryside at night under a shining moon. It was a very peaceful commercial.

Paul Farhi: Doesn't ring bells with me. Anyone?

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Car songs: Speaking of Springsteen: "Seaside Bar Song" has some great lines and imagery, and "Ramrod" is his second best car song that's not really about cars (the first being Pink Cadillac).

Paul Farhi: Kinda weird that two pop songs ("Pink Cadillac" and "Freeway of Love") that came out very close to each other both reference the same car model and color. I'm just sayin'...

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Annandale, Va.: Paul, there are the obvious songs like "Drive My Car", and the Rolling Stones' cover of "Route 66", made when they were a real rock and roll band. But I think a classic dead-teenager song like "Teen Angel" really captures the mood of today's GM. Or, maybe, Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve", where the Corvette driver survives, unlike his competitor in the Jag.

Paul Farhi: Fun fact: Jan and Dean went to my high school (University High, West L.A.), though way back before my time.

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Boston: I know I am really dating myself, but the three best car songs, all from the 1960s, are:

"Little GTO" (as originally sung by Ronnie & the Daytonas, 1964)

"Mustang Sally" (sung by Wilson Pickett, 1967)

"Baby, You Can Drive My Car" (Beatles, 1965)

Paul Farhi: All good 'uns. Car music peaked in the '60s, don't you think?

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VW commercial:: The late Nick Drake.

Paul Farhi: Okay, but....

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Burbank, Calif.: Volkswagen ad music- Elliott Smith. His music was featured in Good Will Hunting...died of a suicide, as I recall.

Paul Farhi: Round II...

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Alexandria, Va.:

Best car song, hands down: "Beep, Beep" by the Playmates.

Paul Farhi: Another soon-to-be-checked-out rarity. On my list....

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Albany, N.Y.: I tried to think of a car song about a German-made car, but all I could think of was "The Ride of the Valkyries," as in the Blues Brothers movie.

Paul Farhi: Well, it would be if a Valkyrie were a German-made car. But that tune might be a better in the category of "great helicopter music" (see the chopper attack scene in "Apocalypse Now").

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Silver Spring, Md.: Best driving song: "Going the Distance" by Cake.

The driving beat makes me want to keep accelerating and end the song at about 150 mph.

Paul Farhi: Ah! There's a recent one. Too ironic and cartoony for my money. The singer sounds like he's narrating a Speed Racer cartoon from 1962.

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Englewood, N.J.: Can Paul Grushkin tell us more about the confluence of rock and cars?

Paul Farhi: Sure. He wrote a whole book about it: "Rockin' Down the Highway: The Cars and People That Made Rock Roll." Voyageur Press. 2006. Available at fine web sites everywhere.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Car songs:

"Long May You Run" - Stills-Young Band "Song About Cars" - Original Fetish "I'm In Love With My Car" - Queen "Little Deuce Coupe" - Beach Boys

Paul Farhi: Never thought of "Long May You Run" as a song about a car, but I guess it could be...

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Maybelle, Neb.: The ultimate car song has to be this Chuck Berry tune-

"As I was motivatin' over the hill I saw Maybelline in a Coup de Ville. A Cadillac a-rollin' on the open road, Nothin' will outrun my V8 Ford."

It's got rivalry between men and between machines, romance, danger, crime and punishment. What more could you want?

Paul Farhi: Great imagery in that song, too. Every time I hear it, I'm picturing a fantastic car chase between two monster rides.

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VW Song: Pink Moon

Paul Farhi: Apparently, yes. And...

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Burbank again: From Elliot Smith's obit:

The folk artist left behind only three official studio releases and became a cult favorite. In 2000, the title track to his 1972 album "Pink Moon" was used in a Volkswagen commercial, spurring further interest.

Paul Farhi: I think we have a winner. R.I.P., Mr. Smith.

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Olney, Md.: Classic American cars from Pontiac GTO's, Bonnevilles, Catalinas, through Studebaker Golden Hawks, and even the AMC police stock Matador, seen currently on Retrotelevision's broadcasts of 1971-1972 episodes of Adam-12, all of these American cars are fondly remembered.

Quality American cars, driving my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry, are more than just nostalgia, they are classics.

I think what drove some Americans away from GM, Ford and Chrysler is price. They would rather drop 25 grand for a Camry than 25 grand on a hot Malibu. And heck, look at the roads today, nearly 80 percent of the cars are 5 years old or newer. So who can afford to trade in every 5 or 6 years, like our dads did for the next family Olds 88 Cutlass, Chevy Impala or Dodge Polara.

Just because car radio (or any commercial on air radio) is dead, doesn't mean the American car is a dodo.

Paul Farhi: My dad had a Chrysler station wagon. I forget the model, but it had power windows and a push-button transmission, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. On the other hand, my mom had a Dodge Dart. Which was not the coolest thing ever.

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Car Song: "Eight Piece Box" by Southern Culture on the Skids:

"Drivin' all night It's all right, it's all right I got a 8-piece box"

Any song that combines road trips and fried chicken is okay by me.

Paul Farhi: Love that! It's hot, it's humid, and you're zipping down the highway with some great greasy food. Man, that's livin'!

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Alexandria, Va.: I think the reason that there are many fewer car songs in rock and roll these days is that the great car songs all saw cars as distinctive places for (a) unbridled freedom to go where you want to go and do what you want to do and (b) spending time and performing physical acts of affection with your significant other. The car doesn't carry out the same function today, what with how much more expensive it is to operate (or rebuild in your driveway) a car, how many other kinds of freedom teenagers have today, and how many other places you can, um, go sparking.

Paul Farhi: So, what are the kids gonna write songs about then? The joys of texting? Making out over Twitter? Sad how deprived these young whippersnappers are...

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Alexandria, Va.: Mannix drove a 'cuda and the Mod Squad had a Challenger. Things started going wrong for Detroit when Magnum showed up in a foreign car with -no name-! (What the heck is a "308GTSi"?) Now there's hardly a signature vehicle to be found on the tube. Did cars kill the TV detective, or did the TV detectives kill cool American cars? Lifelong gearheads with a crush on Peggy Lipton want to know.

Paul Farhi: And Jim Rockford had a Pontiac Firebird! But then Tubbs and Crockett had Ferraris (of course, they were posing; can't do that on a Miami PD salary). Yes, I think this theory makes perfect sense...

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Sorry, Burbank:: In 1972, Elliott Smith was in grade school. It's Nick Drake.

Paul Farhi: Oh, the battle continues! How about you two get a room...?

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Driving Song: Has no one really said "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane yet?

Great scene from "The Office" featuring that one, too.

Paul Farhi: No, but that's a fun one. Very sing-a-long-able...

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Manassas, Va.: I made a Car Tunes CD a few years ago when we went to the BMW homecoming in Spartanburg, S.C. While the Z3s and Z4s are far from American, the car tunes CD was a big hit with our car club. Many of these songs listed here are on it. Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place to Go" sums up many of the experiences listed here and is about as American as you can get.

Paul Farhi: I think justice and tolerance compels us to permit foreign-car owners to listen to American tunes about American-made cars. It's only fair.

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Boston: Just a quick comment. I just bought an '09 Focus. I love it! I'm getting 35 mpg and the car rides and drives great. Ford is making better cars these days and people need to know. Thanks

Paul Farhi: Prediction: If anyone ever writes a song about a Ford Focus (and I'm not saying that will happen), it will be a song making FUN of a Ford Focus.

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Richmond, Va.: I'm shocked that introducing HUMMERS to the public didn't save GM.

Paul Farhi: You mean the trucks, I assume...

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Laurel, Md.: It's hard to believe Leno did the Tonight Show half as long as Carson did. Of course my 30s and 40s sped by a lot quicker than my youth and 20s did.

I know this is the wrong lesson to take from GM, but I'm actually glad my retirement is a 401k and not a defined-benefit company pension. I don't half to worry if my company will still exist and make profits when it's my time to collect.

Paul Farhi: Um, well, my 401k isn't doing all that hot these days, and I suspect I'm not the only one.

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Bethesda, Md.: Rihanna's "Shut Up and Drive" qualifies as a great recent car song and at least walks the line between Rock and Hip-Hop.

Paul Farhi: Another one that will go on my list of future check outs (and, man, how many hit singles does Rihanna have? The list seems endless).

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washingtonpost.com: Washington's Wolfman Jack

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The REAL reason car songs peaked in the '60s...: ...was that bucket seats became more common and eventually seat-belt use became mandatory. Guys couldn't drive down the street one-handed any more, with the right arm around their best girl.

Paul Farhi: But they could still get a one-armed (left) tan from resting their elbows on the driver-side door. VERY high style...

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Del Ray, Va.: Too bad about Pontiac. I drove a Pontiac G8 as a rental car once and thought it was such a smooth ride (and I drive an Infiniti G35), I would consider buying one as a next new car.

I'm glad Conan is still doing the same things he did at the later time slot. I like his methods of interacting with people on the street (a la the tourmobile) rather than things like Jaywalking or guessing whether random people have tattoos.

Circle! Circle! Circle!

Paul Farhi: That was a great bit. And you have to like Conan for pointing up the cheesiness of the Universal Studios tour. Biting hand that feeds him n' all...

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I blame Berlin.: When the techno, new wave kids starting singing about "Riding on the Metro" I knew the car culture was coming to an end.

Even JLo sang about riding "On the 6."

Or maybe we can blame Joni Mitchell for "Big Yellow Taxi."

Paul Farhi: "Riding on the Metro" came out at roughly the same time as one of my fav transportation songs: "Walkin' in L.A." There are actually some good "walking" songs, now that I think on it. "Walking in Memphis." "Walking on Sunshine"...

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The Airless Cubicle: Nothing will ever duplicate the experience of driving in Southern Maryland on a summer day in a Pontiac convertible with the radio tuned to 1580, WPGC and the Good Guys on. What I wouldn't give for one of the old AM car radios again. They were better radios than the ones we had in the house, if you didn't count Dad's AM/FM phonograph.

Of course, nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Paul Farhi: Greetings, Airless!...Personally, I despise nostalgia, even as I wallow in it. There's nothing worse than verifying your rosy memories with the actual facts. Then you discover it wasn't at all like you thought it was. Which is a good reason to never check your facts.

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Arlington, Va.: The rapid erosion of iconic America is just more evidence to me that my childhood was the last "Golden Age" - of automobiles, newspapers, radio, and heck, even TV.

Who would think the '70s would be so remembered?

Paul Farhi: Oh, get outta here. Everyone thinks that about their childhood, even people who had terrible childhoods. See previous mini-trashing of nostalgia.

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Conan O'Brien: OK, so The Daily Beast panned the first show as being too retro and not ironic or edgy enough. Will Farrell was great...but Pearl Jam? Pearl Jam?

I actually liked the energy level of the new show, but I found out something about myself a about two years ago...

I'm becoming a big fan of Kimmel. I can't help it. The guests are more current, the band is awesome and the musical guests are hot off the charts. The Black Eyed Peas debuted their new song on Kimmel's show. I saw the Ting Tings on Kimmel before I saw them anywhere else.

Paul Farhi: Kimmel stays just below that radar, doesn't he? But I've never warmed up to his show. Given the alternatives (Conan, Ferguson), I've never felt much reason to change channels.

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Annapolis, Md.: I like the car/detective theory a lot! There were a lot of detectives with signature cars after "Magnum PI" but they are mostly vintage: two random examples include the Ford Mustang on "Spenser: For Hire" in the 1980s and the Plymouth convertible on "Angel" in this decade. (I just realized that a lot of recent crime shows feature public employees rather than PIs; those folks tend to drive fairly durable and boring American cars rather than performance vehicles.)

The most prominent American car on TV these days? Michael Scott's Chrysler Sebring.

Paul Farhi: That's a rare sighting/reference to a Chrysler. Jeeps get some love, as do Dodge muscle cars (hello, "Dukes of Hazzard"), but I can't think of too many Chryslers, per se, on TV or in movies.

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Reston, Va.: My son's band (Black Helicopter) recorded "Buick Electra" a few years ago. It was his first car and he loved it. Unfortunately it was rear-ended and the insurance company wrote it off. The song is a nice ode to the great cars that Detroit used to manufacture.

Paul Farhi: Ah. Buicks are sadly (or maybe not so sadly) underrepped in the pop culture pantheon. Although, nostalgia-wise, I learned to drive in high school in a Cutlass.

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Freehold, N.J.: "Wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims and strap your hands 'cross my engines" -- waitaminute, he was singing about a motorbike?

I just thought he was the master of the single entendre.

Paul Farhi: I, personally, do not have "velvet rims." Mine are made of titanium...

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Walking?: "Walkin' to New Orleans" by Fats Domino came out in the late '50s or early '60s, I believe.

"These Boots Were Made for Walking", by Nancy Sinatra, was a hit in the mid-'60s.

Paul Farhi: Yes! More great walking songs...

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Nostalgia? : I grew up in the '70s. Nothing to be nostalgic about there.

Paul Farhi: I was at a 50s-themed diner the other night and was joking with my wife about opening a chain of '70s-themed diners. We couldn't exactly imagine what it would include. Disco balls?

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Washington, D.C.: Re the VW commercial: I don't remember the name of the song, but it was by Nick Drake, a British singer/songwriter who has a cult following among folk types. He committed suicide in the early '70s after making several highly acclaimed albums, including one called "Five Leaves Left."

Paul Farhi: Oy. The plot thickens...

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Reston, Va.: Conan did okay. He gets very hyper when he is nervous though. His real test will come when Leno starts his 5-a-night gig. Some, not sure how much, of the viewing audience may get their late night fix early and forgo the 11:35 version.

Paul Farhi: Very possibly, yes. Conan's job, obviously, is to make "The Tonight Show" so distinctive that people will wait for it. Otherwise, I'm not sure there will be a lot of momentum for another hour of talk after Leno.

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Washington, D.C.: I think the car/detective theory puts too much blame on detective shows. The real problem started when Detroit (and everyone else) stopped making interesting cars. Seriously, the machines that are put out today basically exist to deal with coffee spills and tween soccer players.

Paul Farhi: I guess you don't find the Ford Focus as interesting as the previous poster....

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20002: Best car song ever - "One Piece at a Time" by Johnny Cash. Not really - but it's definitely worth remembering because it's about a car, and building cars - right here in America.

Paul Farhi: Another one I don't know. But this is why iTunes was invented...

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Harrisburg, Pa.: In the flashbacks to his high school years in the mid-'70s, Homer Simpson's car is an early '70s Plymouth Duster, with a chain-link steering wheel.

Paul Farhi: Hahaha! My mom did NOT trick out the family car that way. I think having white-wall tires was the gnarliest she got.

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Car Movie: How about Dazed and Confused? Great cars along with a great soundtrack. Reminds me of my High School days.

Paul Farhi: Practically a documentary of my high school. And the one movie where I really liked Matthew McConaughey.

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Car Song...: "Red Barchetta" by Rush

Paul Farhi: Yes, one of the few odes to a foreign car, as far as I know.

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Arlington, Va.: Current country music LOVES cars.

Paul Farhi: This is a truthitude. But in the long history of country, I wonder if truck songs edge out car songs.

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Clear channel radio stations (and I don't mean the company!): Remember being able to pick up a 50,000 watt clear channel AM radio station at night from half-way across the country? WLS in in Chicago, WHAS in Louisville, KCBS and KNBR (nee KNBC) out of San Francisco, KSL from Salt Lake City and KOA from Denver throughout the West? Now those were the days...

Paul Farhi: I still think that's cool. Unfortunately, all the stations kind of sound the same these days. Maybe they always did...

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Car Song: Move B%-*h by Ludacris. Perfect for driving.

Paul Farhi: Especially in traffic!

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THE Clash: "Car Jamming"

Paul Farhi: British groups don't really write car songs, do/did they? (Yes, the Beatles did a few, but mostly they didn't). The Brits don't have the same car culture we do, so it figures they wouldn't have the same output of car music...

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New York: Country music is all about the automobiles - especially pick up trucks. "Pickup Man" by Joe Diffie "There's just something women like about a Pickup Man", Mercury Blues most recently recorded by Alan Jackson "Crazy about a Mercury"- , "Little Red Rodeo" by Colin Raye, etc. But one of my favorite automobile related - "Mustang Sally!"

Paul Farhi: Yep. As I was sayin'...

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"...I'm not sure there will be a lot of momentum for another hour of talk after Leno." : And that doesn't bode well for the unspeakably lame, unfunny, not-possible-to-get-high-enough-to-enjoy Jimmy Fallon after Conan.

Paul Farhi: Fallon is an appealing performer, and his show isn't bad, but I think you're basically right--after TWO hours of similar programming, will there be anyone left for a third hour? I wouldn't be optimistic if I were NBC.

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Silver Spring, Md.: At least in the first season, Harry Orwell took the bus. In LA!

But, Farrah was his next-door neighbor.

Paul Farhi: Pretty obscure, Silver Spring. You refer to "Harry O," the David Janssen TV series of the mid-1970s...

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Arlington, Va.: How hasn't "Smokey and the Bandit" been mentioned? Or those classic race across America flicks "Gumball Rally," "Cannonball Run"... what the heck, another Burt Reynolds classic- "Stroker Ace."

Car Songs-"Mercury Blues," "Fun Fun Fun" "Surf City"

Paul Farhi: Those pics were really popular when there were drive-in movies. And let's not get started on nostalgia for drive-in movies...

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Alexandria, Va.: I can't believe no one has mentioned "Little Red Corvette" by Prince. Or "Cross Town Traffic" by Jimi Hendrix. Both classics.

Paul Farhi: Of course. Yes, of course...

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Bethesda, Md.: For Chryslers on TV, check this out.

Paul Farhi: Man, there's a web site for EVERYTHING! Thanks, Bethesda...

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Manassas, Va.: Per the comment about listening to songs about American cars in foreign cars, I have a Z28 and a Jeep too!! This is a great column by the way. More fun than work.

Paul Farhi: One more nostalgia dip: I remember a summer where I got to drive a Camaro some of the time. Man, that was a FUN car...

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Brit Car Songs: The BBC used to (maybe the still do) prohibit the mention of brand names in songs. That's why there's different versions of "Lola" with "tastes like cherry cola" and "Coca-Cola."

Paul Farhi: Okay, but how about just referencing "cars"? There aren't many British songs that are even that generic...

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Great British car lyric (well, one verse): "I'm drivin' in my car/ And the man comes on the radio/ He's tellin' me more and more/ 'Bout some useless information/ Tryin' mess my 'magination"

Paul Farhi: Good 'un! A classique, of course...

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Arlington, Va.: What I loved about the '60s-'70s crime shows - the bad guys always drove a blue van. Think back to Rockford Files, Mannix, even Starsky and Hutch -- baddies drove dem vans!

When we see those old vans, we rate 'em for overall evilness, i.e., does it have windows on the back doors etc.

Paul Farhi: Never thought about it, but I think you may be right. The van, of course, enabled the director to put the entire gang of bad guys in one place (the better to discuss the next step in their evil plot or to browbeat the person they've just kidnapped). And the chief bad guy never drives! It's always some other mook handling that job...

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Little Deuce Coupe: You might need a separate category just for car songs from the early '60s -- or even just by the Beach Boys.

Speaking of the Beach Boys, I know they sang about cars by GM ("GTO") and Ford ("...and she'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her daddy takes the T-Bird away..."), but did any members of the Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth family ever make it into their songs?

Paul Farhi: See, that's my point. Chrysler got no love. And what's not to love about the Gremlin and/or the Pacer?

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Product Placement: Besides auto manufacturers, are there any other companies besides Coca-Cola whose brand names have been mentioned in multiple popular songs?

I can only think of Boeing ("Jet Airliner" and "Never Rains in Southern California")

Paul Farhi: I think GM (and less so Ford) is way ahead on this. The next companies, or their products, are way back. I can't even think who might be in the top 5, after the car companies.

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Paul Farhi: Folks, this has been a grand tour, a veritable Indy 500, of the songs playing in my head. I'll be checking out your car-song suggestions and compiling a great big eight-track tape of 'em to play in my mom's Duster (or was it a Dodge Dart? And was there really any difference?). Anyway, let's wax nostalgic (or wax something else) again next week, same time (I'll be beneath that giant Exxon sign, that gives this fair city light). Until then, as always, regards to all! --Paul.

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