Car-aoke | #3

“Driving Home for Christmas” by Chris Rea

Few other everyday objects have shaped modern music as much as the car. In this column, our editors regularly write about songs that tell a car-related story. Some of them have even gone down in music history. But by no means all of them ...

Two and a half years ago I had a close encounter of the third kind: I was in Tel Aviv, maneuvering a rented car through a narrow parking garage. On the top parking deck, where I was supposed to leave the car, there was not a single square centimeter of shade. The August sun was blazing down mercilessly, the temperature was 40°C which caused even more sweating than the many turns of the steering wheel necessary to get there. Just as the sweat dropped down my forehead, the DJ of the local radio station decided to play one very special song: “Last Christmas.” From time to time we have similarly bizarre situations here in southwestern Germany, where our local radio station sometimes has a “Crazy Day,” during which it plays listeners’ requests for very strange selections. Some pranksters enjoy requesting the Christmas classic I just mentioned specifically on days when the weather is mild. Ha ha, very funny.

Fortunately, these weird song requests are real exceptions. I’d like to note here with appreciation that when it comes to Christmas songs, people are significantly more disciplined than they are with Christmas cookies and gingerbread. Christmas goodies are already decking supermarket shelves in late August, which means that by the end of October at the latest we no longer have any appetite for them. Christmas music, however, is really limited to a few weeks in December (at least that’s my gut, or more precisely, ear feeling). That makes it easier to put up with the whole thing. And that’s why I have quite a friendly relationship with most Christmas songs — I even like some of them very much. One of these songs is “Driving Home for Christmas” by Chris Rea.

There is probably no other song about cars that fits this season better than “Driving Home for Christmas”.
There is probably no other song about cars that fits this season better than “Driving Home for Christmas”.

What makes this song so appealing is the fact that it captures the modern magic of the Christmas season with such wonderful precision. I know that people who work in retail stores or nursing may not share my opinion, and I perfectly get their point. But for me the period between Christmas Evening and Epiphany on January 6 is simply the best time of year to slow down and take it easy. Public life shifts down two gears, there are practically no e-mails, no traffic, and your diary leaves you all the more time to spend with your loved ones. In his Christmas story, Chris Rea, who himself has two daughters, sends his narrator on a drive during this cozy Christmas season. He’s looking forward to home so much that even the flickering of the brake lights in the unavoidable pre-Christmas traffic jam suddenly seems to him like the sparkling of Christmas lights. In the best of spirits, he sings, “Top to toe in tailbacks / Oh, I got red lights all around,” as he inches forward through the crush.

And because stop-and-go traffic of course gives you plenty of time to take a look around, the song ends with these wonderful lines: “I take a look at the driver next to me / He’s just the same / He’s driving home for Christmas.” I know exactly what I’m going to do: At the end of my last workday before Christmas Eve, I’m going to play this song over and over again on my way home. And I’m going to look around me as I sit in the midst of the congestion and smile at all the people who have butterflies in their stomachs because they’re looking forward to the holidays just as much as I am (or maybe because they’ve already eaten too much gingerbread this Christmas season). Maybe I’ll see you there. But if I don’t: Season’s Greetings!

Sven Sattler

likes to write about songs that are older than himself. And he snaps at people who give him curious looks for his taste of music. You’re never too young for good music, he says.

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