The compilation I named “Drive All Night” was born more than 20 years ago, I bet. It began as a C-90 cassette but had to be cut in the CD era to 79 minutes. It’s made up of songs with lyrics that speak to me in some way, and/or songs that conjure up a contemplative and/or autumnal vibe.
Not long ago, I discovered a forgotten version of “Drive All Night.” In 2014, I expanded it to four CDs, 56 songs in all, everything from the original and other songs that fit with them. It’s possible I may never have listened to it—that I burned it, put it in a box, and forgot about it. But it’s been riding in the car with me these last few days, and I noticed something about it that I find quite interesting.
But before I can tell you that, I have to tell you this: I am a fortunate guy, really. I have been married for almost 34 years to a woman who had yet to murder me in my sleep as I so richly deserve. She has put up with the peregrinations of my career, up and down the radio dial when we were young, and more recently in the up-and-down world of the gig economy, all the while going to work at her own job every day to bring in a steady paycheck and carry the health insurance. We have a roof over our heads and money in the bank. We have friends we cherish, and while we have no children of our own, we have lots of nieces and nephews and honorary grandchildren, and it’s a lovely thing to watch them grow up.
But as I listen to “Drive All Night,” I notice that many of the songs, express a powerful sense of loss: Justin Hayward’s “Forever Autumn” (and the Moody Blues’ “December Snow,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “Your Wildest Dreams”), “I Was Only Joking” by Rod Stewart,” “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” by Gerry Rafferty, “The Last Resort” by the Eagles, and “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne, to name a few. There’s a desire to stop time or turn it back (“Time Passages” by Al Stewart, “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder, and “The Sad Cafe” by the Eagles), expressions of road-weariness and/or the urge to go home (“Philosopher’s Stone” by Van Morrison, “Memory Motel” by the Stones, “Run for Home” by Lindisfarne, and “Carey” by Joni Mitchell), and the ever-popular pining for love lost (“Lost Her in the Sun” by John Stewart, Crystal Gayle’s “I’ll Get Over You,” and Maria Muldaur’s “Oh Papa”).
So despite all of my good fortune, I like an awful lot of songs that wish what is lost would be found, or that what is past could return.
That’s not the whole thing, though. Gerry Rafferty’s “Days Gone Down” is about loving someone with whom you have traveled countless miles; in “I Believe in You,” Don Williams promises that when you can’t depend on anything else, you can depend on each other. Susan Tedeschi’s “Sweet Forgiveness” is about love that sees the worst in us and doesn’t give up on us, and Marc Cohn’s “True Companion” is about love that will not be dimmed by age, or even by death. Fleetwood Mac’s “Warm Ways” feels the way you do after you make love to someone you love, a languid vibe also evoked by Elton John’s “Blue Eyes” and “We’re All Alone” by Rita Coolidge. There are happy times, as on “All Day Music” by War and Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” and deeply romantic interludes, as on “When the Leaves Come Falling Down” by Van Morrison. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Late for Your Life” and “This Is Love” are hopeful songs about making the best hand you can out of whatever cards you’re dealt.
And there are other songs different enough from all of these to make it possible that my characterization of this compilation is totally wrong.
But first impressions mean something, so my first impression of “Drive All Night” must have some truth to it. My writing has always been about the difference between here and there, and between now and then. It is also about trying to recapture “there” and “then.” And what’s that, if not a wish for that which is lost—times, places, people, experiences?
I’m busted. You caught me.