Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Part I

A three-part mini series of songs related to the three transportation modes

The other day, the 1987 American comedy picture Planes, Trains and Automobiles randomly came to my mind. It’s about a marketing executive (Steve Martin) and a sweet but annoying traveling sales guy (John Candy) ending up together as they are trying to get from New York home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Their plane’s diversion to Wichita due to bad weather in Chicago starts a three-day odyssey and one misadventure after the other, while the two, seemingly incompatible men use different modes of transportation to get to their destination.

What does this movie have to do with music? Nothing, except it gave me the idea to put together lists of songs that are related to – you guessed it – planes, trains and automobiles. To be fully transparent, in mid-2017, I published tw0 posts with songs for the road and songs for the train. As such, the theme isn’t really new but, hey, it’s been almost four years. Plus, I feel it’s okay to repeat fun ideas every now and then.

In order to avoid creating what would be a rather lengthy post, I decided to make it a mini series and break things up in three parts, with each featuring five tracks listed in chronological order. Here’s part I: Songs related to planes, an entirely new idea! 🙂

Jefferson Airplane/Blues From an Airplane

Blues From an Airplane is the opener of Jefferson Airplane’s debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off from August 1966. The psychedelic rock tune was co-written by Marty Balin and Skip Spence, Airplane’s lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and drummer, respectively. The tune also became the b-side of the band’s second single Come Up the Years, which was released ahead of the album in May 1966. Airplane’s actual was take-off, Surrealistic Pillow, was still six months away. The record only reached no. 128 on the Billboard 200, while the single failed to chart altogether.

The Beatles/Back in the U.S.S.R.

Why Back in the U.S.S.R., given the tune doesn’t have “plane” or a related word in the title? Since it’s my bloody list, and it cannot be without my favorite band of all time. Plus, there’s a sound of a jet engine in the beginning and at the very end of the tune, and the first verse prominently includes a rough flight. Written by Paul McCartney and credited to John Lennon and him as usual, is actually a parody to Back in the U.S.A. and California Girls by Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, respectively, poking fun at their patriotic sentiments about the U.S. The song, included on The White Album from November 1968, was recorded without Ringo Starr who temporarily had left the group after McCartney had criticized his drumming. Instead John, Paul and George Harrison created a composite drum track from numerous takes.

Steve Miller Band/Jet Airliner

Jet Airliner was one of the first tunes that came to my mind when thinking about plane songs. The other two were Jet by Paul McCartney and Wings and John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane. Since I decided to include Back in the U.S.S.R., I skipped Jet. While Leaving on a Jet Plane is a lovely tune, it would have been another pick from the ’60s. Written by Paul Penna in 1973, Jet Airliner was popularized by Steve Miller Band when they released it in April 1977 as the lead single of their 10th studio album Book of Dreams that appeared the following month. It yielded their fourth and last ’70s top 10 hit on the U.S. mainstream chart.

Indigo Girls/Airplane

After three rockers I thought it was time to include something that’s a bit lighter, so I’m glad I found this lovely acoustic, folk-oriented tune by Indigo Girls. Written by Emily Saliers, who together with Amy Ray makes up the duo, Airplane is from their fourth studio album Rites of Passage that appeared in May 1992. I really dig the vocals and the harmony singing on this song.

The Black Keys/Aeroplane Blues

There they are again, The Black Keys. The rock duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney entered my radar screen recently when I included a tune from their new album Crawling Kingsnake in a Best of What’s New feature. Aeroplane Blues is another edgy blues rock tune, which shall wrap up this first installment. Written by Auerbach and Carney, it appeared on their third studio album Rubber Factory released in September 2004.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

14 thoughts on “Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Part I”

    1. I also had “Aeroplane” in my mind 😉

      Both Pink Floyd and Tom Petty have great songs titled “Learning To Fly”.

      Nice post, I’m looking forward for the trains because this is my favourite way to travel.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks, Graham. There are definitely more plane-related songs out there. “Jet” was one of the first tunes I had considered, but since I decided to include “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” I left it out.

      Like

  1. I really like this theme Christian…the first one I thought of for some stupid reason was The Letter…”Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane” but I like your choices better.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That first line never goes away in my mind…instead of saying “airplane” he says aeroplane which works because I still think of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes I bet that was it…yea whatever Susanna Hoffs wants to do is fine with me… Everything about her I like…whats not to like? Her great voice, great looking, and as if we need anything else…she plays a Rickenbacker!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hoffs is great – a true music lover and a decent musician! She also seems to be a nice person. A few months ago, I randomly watched a clip of her introducing The Zombies into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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  2. I love the John Candy movie. I haven’t see it in a long time but I would like to see it again.
    I like your original ideas better, like Leaving on a Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary and McCartney’s Jet, even though it’s about his dog and not a jet. The Steve Miller song is right on though. I thought of This Flight Tonight, but the Nazareth version and not the Joni Mitchell. And also Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45) by Blondie. That’s probably my favorite plane song even though it’s about a plane crash.

    Liked by 1 person

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