BANDS SINGING IN CARS – A ’90s RETROSPECTIVE

by Warren Buchholz

A while back I began noticing that several music videos shot in the mid ’90s to early 2000s had a distinguished style to them. Seeing past the over-contrast of colours and band members standing in awkward places while people walked around them and even the lead singer walking everywhere to symbolise Gen-X movement and progress, there was a variety of music videos that showed band mates sitting in kooky old automobiles.

This piqued my interest, so I began digging over the course of a few weeks, watching god-knows how many videos, looking for pieces to add to my collection. The videos below feature a plethora of bands singing their tunes in the back of classic cars, brightly painted convertibles moving in all different directions, and all of the songs finding a journey to  greatness.

All songs will be rated twice. One based on the song itself, the other based on the video and its creativity. Finally, I do love all these songs (maybe I could do without Everclear’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, but I’ll give it a pass), and I love building niche collections of weird things you wouldn’t think you could collect, like Rives collecting songs that feature 4 am in it. Speaking of which…


“4 AM” by Our Lady Peace – Clumsy – 1997

Every once in a while, this song will appear on a playlist, and I cannot help but think that it would be perfect for the end of a dramedy episode on Showtime, like Californication. Clumsy is up there in being on the best albums of the ’90s, and this song is the perfect mix of melancholy and angst. The music video features the radio edit of the song, and it’s stylistic choice of half car, half gritty urban street juxtaposes the lyrics the best they can. The black “funeral-like” car, the shedding of the clothing, the constant movement all provides the building blocks to a coming of age story.

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“The Way” by Fastball – All the Pain Money Can Buy – 1998

Not sure why Fastball didn’t take off like they had been expecting. All the Pain Money Can Buy was a great album, and “The Way” highlighted that. The video continues the stylistic trend of the late ’90s: desaturated urban environments, high saturated colours, 1950s aesthetics, round shapes, suburban life. As urban dystopia took over and folks were becoming bored with their careers, the need to escape these confines grew. “The Way” epitomizes this message by contrasting gritty dullness to the vibrant escape with swing dancing. The best part of this video is Miles Zuniga trying to play guitar in a fast-moving vehicle.

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“How Bizarre” by OMC – How Bizarre – 1996

This is a cool song with a catchy beat. We get another video where the band-mates are cruising along in a red convertible (’68 Chevy Impala). Three tales intertwine driving and dancing as Pauly Fuemana recounts the events. I always enjoy hearing this song when it comes on, especially during the summer season. The lyrics get easily stuck in my head, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I also just read that Pauly died a few years back. Rest in Peace.

You want to know the rest? Buy the rights.

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“Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – 2001 – 1999

This video has a great showcase of older cars. “Still D.R.E.” comes off of Dr. Dre’s second solo album, and it also features the talents of Snoop Dogg. All in all, this album proved that Dr. Dre still had what it took to be a frontrunner in the industry, which proved that the hip-hop/rap genre was going to be just fine. The music video to this is amazing. Look at those lowrider cars. Definitely a call back to one of Dr. Dre’s first solo album, The Chronic.

“I’m ahead of my game
Still puffing my leafs
Still fuck with the beats, still not loving police
Still rock my khakis with a cuff and a crease”

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“1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie – 1995

This song once came on about 1AM when I was driving over a bridge. I lowered all the windows, pumped up the volume to max, and I put my foot down and let the night carry me away along with this song. This is a great song about the nostalgia and the carefree childhoods with good friends and great stories. It’s a very simplistic video, but it cuts through to reality and watching “past kids” do what they do fits the song perfectly. as the video easily captures that nostalgic feeling with help from a ’72 Charger.

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“Ironic” by Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill – 1995

Jagged Little Pill is one of the C.D.s I always play in the car when I go on long road trips. Almost all the songs are memorable, and “Ironic” is no different. This video plays to its biggest strength: it’s highly singable in the best place possible, the car. I, too, have sung along with some friends when this song came on the radio, and I don’t regret a moment of it. The only problem I find with the video is that it doesn’t feel like the theme of the song, and perhaps it’s the low-budgetness of the video, but it feels off.

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“How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind – 1997

This one’s a cool and crisp tune that is highly relatable. My break up playlist does feature this song, and I have played it a few times during my last big breakup. The constant waiting around feels familiar, wondering when the time will come when you can fully move on. This begins to happen during the second part of the video, as they move from the street to inside the building.

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“My Favourite Game” by The Cardigans – Gran Turismo – 1998

I covered an earlier Cardigans album, First Band on the Moon, but I haven’t had a chance to check out their next, Gran Turismo. In fact, I believe this has been the first time I’ve come across this song, but it is catchy! The video features a great desert scene with a cool black Cadillac as is roars down the road to the finish line. Bonus points go toward the car stunts and to the end of the video with the big head-on collision, which featured several alternate endings.

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“Walkin’ on the Sun” by Smash Mouth – Fush Yu Mang – 1997

I didn’t think any of Smash Mouth was going to make the list, but I am glad it has! The band in the car doesn’t show up until around the 2:15 minute mark, which shows a drag race in some cool hot rods. This vid makes me think of The Big Lebowski by its use of colour and the overuse of bowling shirts. But there’s a cool space-age feel to the entire video, including appearing and disappearing women by use of remote control. This is another cool summer song, and it’s, frankly, my favourite from Smash Mouth.

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“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies – Stunt – 1998

This is such a kooky video to an awesome and upbeat kooky song. We’re thrown back in time with some major TV show/car references coming half-way through the video as the band speeds past in the cars from Starsky and Hutch (Ford Torino) and Dukes of Hazzard (Dodge Charger). Another great moment comes near the end of the video where we’re treated to an Evel Knievel reference, which sets up a great montage of jumping a big bus.

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“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory – 1995

This music video is so British, I do not know what to do with myself. It feels very Beatles, right down to the red tinted glasses Noel Gallagher is wearing. The first act of the video takes place in a classic London taxi heading for an estate. What’s the Story rocked the slow reimmersion of Brit rock in the American alternative scene. The simplification and elegance of the video helped enunciate the best parts of “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Also, nothing beats drumming in the middle of a swimming pool.

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“When You’re On Top” by The Wallflowers – Red Letter Days – 2002

Not going to lie, this song will always have a place in my heart, and it is one I play when I’m having a good day. The video on the other hand? This is very literal, showing actual clips of things as the vocals call for it, mixing in puzzle piece transitions. The entire thing moves away from the earth tones set forth in previous videos. But I guess new century, new Wallflowers. The desaturated backgrounds set with a highly red saturated bed and yellow circle in the middle of the LA River was a cool idea. Cooler idea: a one-shot of Jakob Dylan skydiving while singing the lyrics to this song. Additional note: Even though it contains no beat up trucks or cars with one headlight, the song is still amazing, and you should check that one out.

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More Songs to Check Out:

“Gravity Grave” by The Verve – A Storm in Heaven – 1993
“Steal My Sunshine” by Len
You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush – 1999
“Fly” by Sugar Ray – Floored – 1997
“Unwell” by Matchbox TwentyMore Than You Think You Are – 2002
“Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” by The OffspringAmericana – 1998
“What Do I Have to Do?” by Stabbing WestwardWither Blister Burn & Peel – 1996
“Addicted to Bass” by PuretoneStuck in a Groove – 2002
“Sabotage” by Beastie BoysIll Communication – 1994
“Show Me How to Live” by AudioslaveAudioslave – 2002
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Everclear – Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile – 2000
“Auditorium/Motor Away” by Guided by Voices – Alien Lanes – 1995

Biggest disappointment I’ve found thus far: “Big Yellow Taxi” by Counting Crows does not feature the band sitting in the back of a big yellow taxi while covering Joni Mitchell’s classicMissed opportunity. The other takeaway from this entire project is that these songs and these videos took a sharp left turn into realism from what we saw in the ’80s, and with the decline of MTV showing music videos and the internet not yet supporting full video streaming, it made sense to tone down the creativity of these videos for monetary purposes. But a lot of these videos are still a ton of fun to watch, especially to see which ones have aged the best and the worst.

Have I missed any music videos? What’s your favourite video from off of the list? Leave them in the comments below.

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