“Ripple” (Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, 1970). “Ripple,” the B-side of “Truckin’,” is another strange trip but one taken on the complex “highway between the dawn and the dark of night” and in a Romantic state of mind reminiscent of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Hunter’s opening verses echo Blake’s proverb: “Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” In “Ripple”, the speaker explains that his voice, even if speaking words of gold, is only a “hand-me-down” to the listener. In this sense, the divine fountain and “ripple in still water” are symbolic of what the listener can access but cannot know, unless she experiences it herself. The folk lyric, then, is the gnostic hand-me-down of ancient poets, reminding us “All deities reside in the human breast" (Blake). The speaker explains what he has learned but is not a shepherd, as he concludes: “If I knew the way I would take you home.”

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?
It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they're better left unsung
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

I'm the Ocean

Neil Young, “I’m the Ocean” (1995). We all know the little grunger children of the 90s were educated by Neil Young (whose one of many monikers is the “Godfather of Grunge”) and that Rust Never Sleeps (side B) was basically grunge avant la lettre. Thus, when Young went to Seattle in 1995 to record with Pearl Jam it was no surprise that the result, Mirror Ball, was one of Young’s most magnificent achievements that transcends his traditional fans, the x-geners, and on through today’s starved listeners of rock-and-roll. For many, the masterpiece of this LP’s sublime intersection was “I’m the Ocean,” a kind of anthem to the imbrication of the banal and the marvelous in life in (more-or-less) four chords, onwards and onwards, to the ocean. No chorus, no bridge (fuck bridges!)….on and on and on, like the road, like life…(Jack Irons beautifully beating the living shit out of the kit)….(Jeff Ament’s bass and Stone Gossard’s and Mike McCready’s guitars)…on and on….(pay attention to the lyrics!… “I’m the ocean, I’m the ocean.” We include the studio version as well as a live performance from Prague in 1995: Check out Irons’ drumming and McCready’s driving guitar. These boys are seamless.

I'm an accident
I was driving way too fast
Couldn't stop though
So I let the moment last
I'm for rollin'
I'm for tossin' in my sleep
It's not guilt though
It's not the company I keep
People my age
They don't do the things I do
They go somewhere
While I run away with you
I got my friends
And I got my children too
I got her love
She's got my love too
I can't hear you
But I feel the things you say
I can't see you
But I see what's in my way
Now I'm floatin'
Cause I'm not tied to the ground
Words I've spoken
Seem to leave a hollow sound
On the long plain
See the rider in the night
See the chieftain
See the braves in cool moonlight
Who will love them
When they take another life
Who will hold them
When they tremble for the knife
Voicemail numbers
On an old computer screen
Rows of lovers
Parked forever in a dream
Screaming sirens
Echoing across the bay
To the old boats
From the city far away
Homeless heroes
Walk the streets of their hometown
Rows of zeroes
On a field that's turning brown
They play baseball
They play football under lights
They play card games
And we watch them every night
Need distraction
Need romance and candlelight
Need random violence
Need entertainment tonight
Need the evidence
Want the testimony of
Expert witnesses
On the brutal crimes of love
I was too tired
To see the news when I got home
Pulled the curtain
Fell into bed alone
Started dreaming
Saw the rider once again
In the doorway
Where she stood and watched for him
Watched for him
I'm not present
I'm a drug that makes you dream
I'm an aerostar
I'm a cutlass supreme
In the wrong lane
Trying to turn against the flow
I'm the ocean
I'm the giant undertow
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the giant undertow
I'm the ocean
I'm the giant undertow
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean
I'm the ocean

Talkin' Bout a Revolution

"Talkin' Bout a Revolution" (Tracy Chapman, 1988). Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album protests economic and racial injustice that continues to plague America and other countries. While “Fast Car” is directly about the road, as the narrator wants to take a fast car away from her alcoholic father who she quit school to care for after her mom left, the road in “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is more empowering. Though paved with human suffering— “standing in the welfare lines, crying at the doorstops of those armies of salvation, wasting time in the unemployment lines, sitting around waiting for a promotion”—the road is ultimately what empowers the people to revolt—“to rise up and take what’s theirs,” as did those who marched to Versailles to capture the royal family in October of 1789.  Written at the height of the Reagan era, “Revolution” is also a warning: “Don’t you know you better, run, run, run… Finally the tables are starting to turn.” Although the U.S. was still years from turning the political tables, the song is prophetic. In 1990, Chapman sang “Revolution” at a Free South Africa concert, where she met Nelson Mandela, and in 2011, “Revolution” was covered by the Israeli band Shmemel, who added a verse inspired by the Arab Spring. The song’s empowering message will remain relevant as long as social injustice persists.

Don't you know
They're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

Don't you know
You better run, run, run...
Oh I said you better Run, run, run...
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin' bout a revolution

Shmemel’s added verse:

All around the Arab nation
the word is liberation
the poor are tired from this discrimination
by the people who are trying to bring us down
From Washington to Tel-Aviv to Tehran
you better pick your shit up
and start to run because we’re raising
our head like an Akbar lion
Gaddafi, Abdullah, Ahmadinejad
we’re gonna kick your ass out in a storm of Jihad
Salamat, bye bye, you ain’t never gonna see them
they may take our lives
but they will never take our freedom.



(Joni Mitchell, Hejira, 1976)
40 years ago Joni Mitchell, at the top of her fame, released her eighth studio album, mined from recent experiences and ruminations of being on the road as part of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review and a subsequent road trip back and forth across America with two friends. Hejira (from the Arabic hijra, “journey”) was critically acclaimed but not well-received by fans like Mitchell's previous LPs. Nonetheless, Hejira, like so many great albums from long and far away, in the midst of our music apocalypse, has aged quite well. Its musical complexities, as well as its subtleness, are rewardingly affective today. This is a winter album, from its award-winning cover to the cold modishness of the tracks. This is a haunting and brooding work, full of melancholic tonality but with a presence of optimism and rejuvenating spirit on to the end. The melodies are road-like in repetition, but accentuated and artfully qualified by maybe Mitchell’s greatest pure singing ever. From the flirtish “Coyote” through the heartbreakingly lovely “Amelia” (an ode to Amelia Earhart), the epic title track, on through the Steely Dan-like imbrication of rock and jazz in “Song for Sharon” and the redeeming final “Refuge of the Roads,” Hejira is worth re-listening to and reassessing. It is also worth our gratitude for providing us with arguably the most beautiful voice of the 20th century (and an incredibly underrated guitar player BTW). We include two great live performances of “Amelia” and “Hejira” from 1983 and 1986 respectively.

“Furry Sings the Blues”
“A Strange Boy”

“Song for Sharon”
“Black Crow”
“Blue Motel Room”
“Refuge of the Roads”

Lost Highway

With the iconic opening “I’m A Rolling Stone, All Alone And Lost,” this American masterpiece, written by Leon Payne, might be the mother of all road songs given its lonely but lovely metaphor of the road as the journey of life, in this case, the road of sin on the foolish lost highway which includes “A Woman’s Lies”. Not much more to say really. So many songs and so many feelings for so many years have been echoed through these lyrics.


Running On Empty

This title track to Jackson Browne’s 1977 album opens with the speaker looking back on life, “the road rushing under [his] wheels” as he wonders how the road he once called his own turned into the road on which he’s now running empty. With lyrics like “Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels / I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels / Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through / Looking into their eyes I see them running too,” the song speaks to the challenges of living on the road—an experience with which most musicians are familiar—but the song captures the challenges of living, period. At some point we’re all “running on empty / running on, running blind.” Browne is said to have written this song during his drive into the studio while he was recording the album The Pretenders. He once told Rolling Stone magazine, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car. I just never bothered to fill up the tank because—how far was it anyway? Just a few blocks.”

Run Baby Run

"Run Baby Run" (Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, Sheryl Crow, 1993).
Sheryl Crow’s “Run Baby Run” is a rock ballad about a woman who, in being taught by her father to resist the shackles of conformity at all costs, builds her own prison. The song’s protagonist was born into this “Brave New World” on the day Aldous Huxley died. (Although the song does not mention this, November 22, 1963 was also the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, an act many argue created a dystopian America, setting into motion the chain of events that created our present-day oligarchy, a Huxleyan “World State”). Akin to the soma-craving Linda in Huxley’s Brave New World, the protagonist’s mom in Crow’s song “believed that every man could be free” so she got “high, high, high,” while her father fought for equality in Birmingham, “singing mighty protest songs.” Reminiscent of the upbringing of the children Joan Didion describes at the end of “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” the protagonist in “Run Baby Run” may not be in “High Kindergarten” and dropping acid at the age of five, but rather in a never-ending escape from conformity, a never-ending desire to live up to her father’s ideals that keep her on the run.

Born to Run

Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen, 1975). There are many songs, particularly from the 1970s, that seem to channel On the Road almost perfectly, in another place, another time. “Born to Run” is an epic poem about the restlessness that fuels the American dream: a wish to go somewhere else, to literally run away and fulfill those “dreams and visions” with abandon into the unknown. Of course, the trip includes your Marylou (Springsteen’s is a girl named Wendy). This is great American poetry, as good as William Carlos Williams (Spring and All), Jack Kerouac (Lonesome Traveler), Allen Ginsberg (“Howl,” “America”) or Bob Dylan (“Tangled Up in Blue”) in its uncanny capturing of the music of the American landscape: 

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

A road of fulfilled and broken dreams:

Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss
The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight
But there's no place left to hide
Together Wendy we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
H-Oh, Someday girl I don't know when
We're gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
Baby we were born to run


Roam, The B-52s, 1989 (Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, Robert Waldrop, Cindy Wilson). 
"Roam if you want to, without wings, without wheels." Traveling has been a human necessity since the first hominids wandered out of eastern Africa. We now travel as much from necessity as for pleasure (could we say pleasure is a necessity?). We are all explorers of the world, many times looking for ourselves (the much popular and overdone self-search-narrative, i.e., Under the Tuscan Sun; Eat, Pray, Love; etc.). Roaming is wandering, and wondering about the wonder of exotic foreign lands. We are all orientalist, really. We now live as nomadic beings on the literal road, on the internet highway searching like the hominids, for survival, for love: “Take it hip to hip, rock it through the wilderness / Around the world the trip begins with a kiss… Roam if you want to / Roam around the world / Roam if you want to / Without anything but the love we feel.”

Hotel California

Describing the origins of this Eagles ballad, lead guitarist Don Felder once said, “If you drive into L.A. at night, you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images that start running through your head of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have.” While “Hotel California” captures the experience of chasing the California Dream—as Henley, Frey, and Felder traveled from the Midwest and Florida to chase theirs—the song echoes greater Homeric themes of the traveler faced with seductive sirens and tempting vices. As has been the case for many who travel the long highways to California looking to strike it rich (and even for those who do), underbelly culture can present another type of journey, one through the excesses of drug abuse, partying, and fame from which it’s nearly impossible to recover. This allegorical road song reminds us that while optimism might encourage us to take to the road in pursuit of our dreams, we can easily become trapped by the cruel optimism of reality.

Ramble On

“Ramble On” Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, 1969)
The connections between Led Zeppelin, Norse mythology, magic and folklore is well documented. Do we need to rehearse the so-called “Curse of Led Zeppelin,” according to which (if you believe the legend) Jimmy Page’s and Robert Plant’s obsession with that mother of all 20th century occultists, Aleister Crowley, including the purchase of Crowley’s legendary manor (Boleskine House) near (of course!) Loch Ness which was purchased by Page, eventually led to some satanic covenant and thus the eventual death of John Bonham among others close to the band? You can delve into this lore if you wish, but one thing for certain was Page’s and Plant’s influence from J.R.R. Tolkien. The great trilogy in Led Zeppelin IV of “The Battle of Evermore,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Misty Mountain Hop” is perhaps the most clear example of Norse/Tolkien influences on Page & Plant. One could argue that House of the Holy is literally an album-length Edda by Led Zeppelin. But Led Zeppelin II’s “Ramble On” is the most acute and literal homage to Tolkien specifically. The song, a paean to the road and travel, was inspired by Tolkien’s poem "Namárië," which appears in The Fellowship of the Ring. Written in Tolkien’s invented Elf language, Quenya, the poem speaks of the paradoxical melancholy and adventure of the “farewell” (namárië) and Page’s and Plant’s lyrics are evocative of this very formula, albeit with an accent of dreams of love and adventure that the road evinces: 

“T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah.
Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.”

Let’s not forget that “Ramble On” is textbook Led Zeppelin at its best, a beautiful imbrication of acoustic and electric that we will never get tired of down the road. And note that the song preceded the epic instrumental “Moby Dick” on the album. Perfect!

Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...

Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Got no time to for spreadin' roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On.
Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Mine's a tale that can't be told, my freedom I hold dear.
How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.
T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah.

Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Gonna ramble on, sing my song. Gotta keep-a-searchin' for my baby...
Gonna work my way, round the world. I can't stop this feelin' in my heart
Gotta keep searchin' for my baby. I can't find my bluebird!

Chariots of Fire & Jerusalem

(“Chariots of Fire,” Vangelis, 1981) (“Jerusalem,” William Blake 1804-1810).
Sprinting into the 1981 academy awards with seven nominations, Chariots of Fire has been an enduring inspiration about champions Eric Liddell's and Harold Abrahams' journeys  to Paris for the 1924 Olympics. The athletes' hurdles go beyond the track as Liddell is torn between running and God and Abrahams faces anti-Semitism. While much of the movie’s inspiration comes from watching these men succeed, even those who have not watched the film have likely been influenced by it. Earning the film best original score, the theme song has become widely used to dramatize scenes in various movies and has made the playlists of runners and beginning musician. Composed by Vangelis, the title score uses classic instruments and modern synthesizers and plays during the opening and closing scene in which the Olympians of Great Britain run barefoot on the shores of Broadstairs. 

The film’s working title was “Running,” but after screen writer Colin Welland watched Songs of Praise, a TV show that featured “Jerusalem,” he changed the title to Chariots of Fire, a line from the song. Written by William Blake for the preface of Milton (1804-1810) and later put to music by Sir Hubert Parry to boost the morale, “Jerusalem” gained popularity and is considered an unofficial anthem. While it is hard to imagine Blake, an anti-monarchist who was put on trial for sedition, agreeing to use his verse for a national anthem, it is impossible to deny the verse’s power to spark revolution in the soul of its listener/reader, which is perhaps why “Jerusalem” is sung as a hymn in the scene just before the closing credits and the second time the audience watch the Olympians run on the shore of Broadstairs.

Blake’s Elijah About to Ascend in the Chariot of Fire (1795)

"Jerusalem"/"And did those feet in ancient time"
By William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land

The Boys of Summer

"The Boys of Summer" (Don Henley,  1984)
The metaphor of life as a journey is perhaps the most primordial mythological theme. Summer has also always been the season of youth, the season of Halcyon Days spent and always remembered. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” is a superb MTV-era classic which articulates the notion of the melancholic passing of time. The video, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, a black-and-white masterpiece, is generally considered one of the best ever and deftly echoes the song’s repetitive rhythm and driving pace. The end of the video is a classic example of cinematic mise en abyme that would have made Baudrillard proud. One remembers the great drives taken by Jack Duluoz in Big Sur. The journey of “The Boys of Summer” is punctuated by the memory of love and summer, the inevitable of the the passing of time and the reality of the present. Henley actually saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac Seville, the status symbol car of the yuppie generation, and was reminded that the 80s was the era of sellouts and forgotten idealism. The song repeats the idea of being on the road and its symbolism of the long drive that everyone takes from childhood through summers on and onward.

Walk on the Wild Side

Initially inspired by Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side, Lou Reed’s 1972 hit song evolved into a description of the journeys of several real-life characters—Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis—known as The Warhol Superstars. Before Andy Warhol launched them into stardom with films like My Hustler (1965), Flesh (1968), and Women in Revolt (1970), these actors and actresses survived the rough streets of New York on prostitution, drugs, and crime. As Reed tells it, “Holly,” a transgender actress hitchhiked from Florida to New York, learning to pluck her eyebrows on the way. “Candy,” also a transgender actress and the subject of Reed’s “Candy Says” for The Velvet Underground, grew up on Long Island and frequented the backroom at a popular restaurant and nightclub, Max’s Kansas City. “Little Joe” (Dallesandro) prostituted himself while Sugar Plum Fairy (Campbell) dealt drugs, and “Jackie” struggled with addiction. Surprisingly, despite its risqué topics of drug use, male prostitution, oral sex, and transsexuality, “Walk on the Wild Side” experienced wide radio coverage with little to no censorship. While in the end Algren’s book has little to do with the Lou Reed song, Algren noted, "The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives." Reed once said of his song, “I always thought it would be kinda fun to introduce people to characters they maybe hadn't met before, or hadn't wanted to meet.” So, come on, get lost, meet new people, and take a walk on the wild side.


One White Whale, Pieces and Parts, & Noisy Sea

“One White Whale," “Pieces and Parts,” & “Noisy Sea” Songs and Stories From Moby Dick (Laurie Anderson, 2000). Moby-Dick begins with Ishmael lamenting the feeling of the drizzling November in his heart, at which point he knows he needs to take to the sea, though penniless. This is where his journey begins: “Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a day, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region.” 

When Ahab set sail on his monomaniacal, vengeful pursuit of Moby Dick, he had onboard a crew that was interested in the whale not for revenge but for the Doubloon— for wealth. This is one place where Laurie Anderson sees Moby-Dick as a novel still relevant. In an interview with Bomb’s Clifford Ross, she discusses Songs and Stories From Moby Dick, an electronic opera she wrote and performed in 1999-2000. She explains, “How do you drive men to action? You get some really good bait and dangle it in front of their eyes. Ahab did not have great respect for his crew; he thought they’d only respond to money. Now that is the great American story.” 

Anderson’s music and lyrics, however, go beyond the critique of capital. Moby-Dick’s timeless and quintessentially American themes of journey and conquest are connected to America’s self-created religious destiny and its inevitable dimension of violence. Moby-Dick is an inexhaustible fount of profound loomings about America, the human condition, and the sublime mystery of the sacred journey. Anderson's opera is a testament to the currency of perhaps the greatest single work in American literature.

The Ghost of Tom Joad


"The Ghost of Tom Joad" (Bruce Springsteen, 1995). Inspired by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Woody Guthrie's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," Springsteen used Depression-era imagery of the disenfranchised traveling from the dusty fields of Oklahoma to California along Route 66 in a contemporary setting. In Springsteen's song, men walk along the tracks and cook their meals over an open flame, but do so under the eye of police helicopters and in the context of the first Gulf war. The lyrics "Shelter line stretching 'round the corner/ Welcome to the new world order" is a reference to George H. W. Bush's delusion that cooperation with the Soviet Union in Kuwait would lead to one harmonious, post-Cold War world. But as Springsteen knew, Bush's new world would not be realized, as "Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest" have "no home, no job, no peace, no rest." The song was also recorded by Rage Against the Machine, and in 2009, Springsteen performed the song with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Don't Come Around Here No More

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and David Stewart, 1985). Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic story about a journey into a strange world where animals play games with unfixed rules and ask riddles that have no solutions. From the Caterpillar to the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle and the Queen of Hearts, Alice’s adventures sound a lot like a night spent with Stevie Nicks, the spark that inspired David Stewart’s suggestion to focus on Alice in the video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The video begins in a hazy mushroom-filled landscape, where the Caterpillar (Stewart) offers Alice a snack that sends her tumbling into another wondrous, checkered landscape. There, she nearly drowns in the tea of the Mad Hatter (Petty) and is harassed and chased by the members of the Queen’s court. Alice is finally turned into a cake and eaten alive by the Hatter and his friends, a feeling Stewart was likely familiar with, for when he left Nicks’ house the morning after the party, Nicks, wearing Victorian-style clothing, said, “Don’t come around here no more.”

Walking in My Shoes

This 1993 hit single from Depeche Mode’s album Songs of Faith and Devotion might not have much to do with Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy if it weren’t for director Anton Corbijn. Clearly influenced by Dante’s descent into Hell, his pilgrimage through Purgatory, and his ascent into Paradise, Corbijn’s video opens with lead singer Dave Gahan peering out from the darkness, an image which speaks to opening lines of the Inferno: “In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” Throughout the video, the arduous winding road to redemption remains an ever-present backdrop against which Dante-esque characters blatantly commit “sins” before our eyes. Yet, while Dante travels the path to attain an enlightenment that “leads men straight on every road,” the lyrics of Depeche Mode’s song invite listeners to travel another path. The narrator in this song is “not looking for a clearer conscience” nor “for absolution / forgiveness for the things” he does. While the lyrics divulge neither what this confessed sinner has done nor the sins committed against him, sins for which both parties would likely be judged harshly, the song’s refrain, “try walking in my shoes,” instructs us to reevaluate the routes we take to our moral judgments of others.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road / You're Off to See the Wizard

Dorothy Gale’s journey down the yellow brick road began in L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. Dorothy’s Kansas house is dropped by a cyclone some ways away from the road’s origin, the center of Munchkinland, and she must search for the road. In the book, the sole purpose of the yellow brick road is to lead all who traverse it to the Emerald City, which stands at the center of the Land of Oz. The book has often been interpreted as a political allegory about populism in 19th century America, and it was briefly met with skepticism for its fantastic qualities. Nevertheless, Dorothy’s dream journey to learn where she truly belongs has persisted for over a century. Thanks to the 1939 Technicolor film adaptation The Wizard of Oz, made popular as a yearly TV event that aired throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, the yellow brick road meanders through much of American popular culture, from Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to Lady Gaga’s “Gypsy.” Current references to the yellow brick road are largely positive and often associated with the idea of remaining true to oneself in the face of adversity and pressures to conform.  

Born to be Wild

"Born to be Wild" Steppenwolf (Mars Bonfire, 1969).
Although this was not Dennis Hopper's first choice- Steppenwolf being a relatively new band- the song became not just the theme song for Hopper's classic swansong to hippie America- a kind of late 60s cinematic "On the Road," but it became an iconic tune which references much of what we identify with the conduit between the road and music in the 1960s. Hopper's and Peter Fonda's characters ride through what is now a deeply divided American landscape- picking up George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) who is at once anarchic and nostalgic. All three ride and trip, hoping and roaming towards a time that will never return. The hybrid of Hopper's, Fonda's, and Terry Southern's screenplay with music and the motorcycle road trip echoes the roots of road rebellion going back to Brando's "Wild One". A great example of the praxis of music that even Adorno would (perhaps) appreciate (he died in 1969).