So, this morning I was up bright and early putting brake rotors on my wife’s car and it struck me how many blues tunes use cars, auto mechanics, parts and repair at double-entendres. Even “working the rotors” sounds dirty, as do “checking out my toolkit” and “tight fit.” Later on my way to work I heard Johnny Adams doing “Body And Fender Man.” After all that, the Hump Day theme has to be car songs that are probably about sex. Probably?
I thought about where it all started and the car-as-sex-metaphor songs seem to originate with Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues.” The Terraplane was a popular, affordable automobile with one of the first, if not the first closed cabin. Guess what a closed cabin is good for? I’m paraphrasing Bill Bill Broonzy here, but he once spoke about song writing saying you think of a thing and everything you can do with that thing and you’ll get a song. Apply that principles to cars and you get a long tradition of risque car songs.
I really enjoy Eli Cook’s versions of old blues tunes so I chose his version of “Terraplane Blues” to share with you. Eli manages to add some menace to the song and is definitely not happy that someone’s been driving his Terraplane for you since he’s been gone.
One of my favorite tunes from Johnny Winter’s Serious Business LP is “Master Mechanic.” It stuck in my teenage mind to this very day! He’s going to align your front end and pump some air in your spare. Don’t you panic. He’s a master mechanic. He gets the jargon right too and it doesn’t see as forced as our next entry (that too sounds dirty!).
“Check My Baby’s Oil” is a fun tune from Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials‘ Full Tilt album. The words are a bit hokey and cheesy but Ed has so much fun with it, we can forgive him. I’ve just never been sure what he hoped to learn by checking the oil. Mileage, sure. Tire wear, definitely. But the oil? He’s no master mechanic like Johnny. Anyway, how can you not like a song about dipsticks and oil pans?
One more before we go and maybe I’ll get some angry comments about this one but at this point I’ll take angry comments over no comments so here goes… Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot.” If not for Led Zeppelin I may have never heard the Blues. I will defend their lyrical indiscretions vehemently to anyone who wants to argue. Robert Johnson got about the same percentage of his lyrics from Skip James as Led Zep got from Willie Dixon. People can pretend all they want that Zep stole songs but the tradition started about five minutes after the first song was written. 20th Century recording capabilities created records of songs and in doing so made ownership of hand-me-down songs possible. Blues musicians continued the tradition any way and just about any post-war blues tune can be traced to an earlier recording. Anyway, Trampled Under Foot is Led Zeppelin’s tune in the style of “Terraplane Blues.” Just lay back and enjoy it. That sound dirty.
Eli Cook – Terraplane Blues
Johnny Winter – Master Mechanic
Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials – Check My Baby’s Oil
Led Zeppelin – Trampled Underfoot