Dedicated to those songs that I can’t stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Beck’s “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors,” The Clash’s “Guns on the Roof” and David Bowie’s “Starman.”
Perhaps I’m a tad over dramatic, but if I wasn’t over dramatic, what kind of rock journalist would I be (probably the most boring rock journalist on the planet, which would cause this troubled world to go into a devastating tailspin from which it might never, ever recover!) But I believe that the death of the “car song” has more to do with our world’s lack of inspiring cars. True, these kinds of songs are very trivial and naive, but are they more trivial and naive than “Genie in a Bottle” or “Some Other Boy Band Song I Don’t Care To Look Up?” Are you, and by “you” I mean society at large, telling me that K-Fed has too much to say that he can’t sing about his collection of his trucks? You just know he loves those things.
Career wise, Ronnie and the Daytonas’ big mistake was allowing themselves to be labeled a “Hot Rod” band, which meant that if they sang about anything else, they were deviating from their successful formula. But when natural the tastes of the culture ask for something more than a list of auto parts compiled from Motor Trend, a group such as this easily falls out of favor. Unfortunate for the band but fortunate for the rest of us, this turning of tastes creates a natural time capsule around the music preserving it in time and space so that whenever the song emerges, so too do the images of that era. It would be ridiculous for a Class of ’08 kid to drive his car dressed in contemporary clothes, blaring this song. At the very least he or she would have to be wearing a letterman’s jacket.
To belabor the point in a tangent, I have a real problem with the idea that certain songs get labeled timeless, and that this timelessness equates to greatness. If anything, a truly great song captures its time exactly and demands that a listener hearing the song one year, twenty years, or twenty-one years later allow for historical context in support of the song. Elvis had some great songs, but without historical context, like if we just heard “Jailhouse Rock” for the first time ever, having no idea Presley had ever sang it before, I believe we might all collectively scoff, “This guy’s just ripping off Elvis Presley and/or the end of The Blues Brothers.” If anyone shares my belief in the time capturing ability of music, then the beauty of “Little GTO” will emerge.
The song structure is rooted heavily in the standard make-up, with that last-half key change found in oh, so many of the Ramones’ songs. But I would be remiss in neglecting the absolutely best part of the song–the “Wah-Waaaaaah!” chorus. When this song first emerged in my brain, it included only three elements that could qualify as actual “words,” those being “Yeah-Yeah, Little GTO.” Technically speaking, with the repetition at the top, there are really only two honest to crack “words” in this chorus, but that only proves how simplicity pays. Or how easily taken I am by falsetto nonsense. As stupid as it seems to write, a chorus like this holds more musical power than a Dylan-esque lyrics-fest. Play this song in any scenario, and within 30 seconds, everyone’s got the “Wah-Waaaaaah!” to sing along with and to look forward to hearing again and again. And that, my friends, is how a song truly gets lodged in your brain.