Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Could electric vehicles lead to the demise of rock'n'roll? 

Bruce Springsteen and others have relied so much on the traditional gas-guzzlers for inspiration, I fear this year's influx of the silent, eco-friendly autos just won't cut it
Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Could electric vehicles lead to the demise of rock'n'roll? 

I'm not sure if Bruce Springsteen will ever sing about the smooth ride and the range anxiety of a journey in an electric vehicle. 

Spare a thought for Bruce as he faces an existential crisis. In his day he has seen off his dad, small town expectations, the Vietnam war and various Republican presidents. 

But he is no match for this new foe. Mr Springsteen, the poet laureate of cars, please meet: the Electric Vehicle.

It’s coming for all of us. 

Experts believe this year will be the tipping point, like mobile phones in the 1990s. One minute you couldn’t see the point, the next you had two. And trust me, like people who wore their mobiles on their belts, it's musicians who have the most to lose.

Cars and music have been synonymous since day one. The Beach Boys were having ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ ‘til their daddy took their T Bird away. 

The Beatles were happy for you to drive theirs, and Mustang Sally, once gifted a 1965 model, just wanted to ‘ride’ all day long.

It was a match made in heaven, ideally with your ‘baby beside you’, the top down and the speakers blaring. As Irish band The Alsatians sang, it was, ‘Five Honours and a 175, an education and a licence to drive.’

 Innuendo was everywhere. Engines were powerful and throbbing. You were extolled to ‘look under the hood’ and assured you wouldn’t be disappointed. Prince took it, naturally, to the extreme. In his Little Red Corvette, amidst talk of ‘Trojans’ and ‘other jockeys’ his lover asks if he is sure he has enough gas, and she isn’t talking fossil fuel.

As music changed the car kept up. Kraftwerk brought us down the German Autobahns, Gary Numan only felt safe in his. Madness had one, The Saw Doctors had one. And the obsession only grew. In ‘I’m in Love With My Car’ Queen’s Roger Taylor declared he would rather spend money on a new carburettor than his girlfriend. Which is where the EV issues begin.

You see, EV’s don’t have carburettors. In fact they don’t have fuel injectors, turbochargers, spark plugs, high performance gear boxes, or, indeed, engines. Songwriters lifting the hood expecting to find inspiration amongst its powerful mass of pistons, valves and horsepower will be sorely disappointed.

Putting your foot to the floor produces no audible sound, no revving, no purring, no roaring. This takes a lot of getting used to. For many of us, the engine was the car. You might own a 1.3 litre family saloon but you dreamt of one day letting rip on a highway behind a V8, 6 litre monster. That dream is passing.

In its place comes not a dream but anxiety. Range Anxiety, the fear of not having enough battery power to reach your destination. 

Awkward if you’ve to collect your cousin in Fermoy, devastating if the plan had been to pick up ‘Mary’ on her porch and get her across the State line before her daddy knew she was gone. Yes, for romantic escapes, this is a game changer.

Some song lyrics will no longer make sense. By The Time I Get To Phoenix will need to become, 'By The Time I Get to Phoenix – factoring in a few two-hour top-ups and a possible overnight - She’ll Be Well Aware I’m Up To Something'. This just isn’t rock and roll.

So where does this leave Bruce ‘petrol in my veins’ Springsteen? From the first time he stood outside his lovers house offering her 'redemption under this dirty hood’ and the promise that ‘two lanes will take us anywhere’ cars has been his thing. 

As recently as The Wanderer (2019) he was singing of spinning wheels and white lines in his head. And even his recent drink-driving charge wasn't going to change that.

How will he adjust to this new world? Hard to just ‘hit the road’ if you have the wrong app on your phone and the charging point won’t recognise your car. Not to put too fine a point on it but you can’t ‘Drive All Night', if you can’t drive all night.

The only winners in all this, apart from the planet and future generations, is the hip hop community. Bling will remain unaffected by electrification; in fact will only be enhanced by it. Electric cars are just as good at chilling champagne as their petrol equivalents and ideally suited to short hop – nightclub to nightclub - drives.

It’s the rest of us who will suffer but in particular simple petrol-heads like Bruce, The Eagles and ZZ Top. All they ever wanted was a ‘dream machine’ and an open road. Was it too much to ask?

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