5 best songs to listen to while driving California’s Pacific coast highway

USA Travel

California’s Pacific coast highway or Route 1 is considered one of the most beautiful and scenic roads in all of the United States.

From rocky cliffs to unforgettable views of the California coast, driving the road will take you from San Diego all the way to Washington State. While the northern parts of the route change with the environment, the coastal highway is almost entirely along the coast itself with views of the Pacific Ocean.

In California, there is no doubting the beauty but if you are going to hit his highway, there are five songs that just scream coastal California “Sunday drive”.

Ventura Highway – America

You won’t find a Ventura Highway in California, at least not one that hugs the coast. There is, however, a Ventura Freeway that runs from East to West connecting Pasadena to Santa Barbara cutting through Ventura County.

The song is a mellow acoustic joy from the opening riffs that make you want to rip the top of the car off so the wind can whip through your hair. Dewey Bunnell wrote the song and sang it on the bands album. The song was released in 1972. Bunnell related the song to a trip he took with his family as a kid. The term “Alligator Lizards in the air” was a reference to what he saw in the clouds.

American Girls – Tom Petty

The late and exceptionally great Tom Petty takes you on a wonderful ride with American Girl. The opening riffs blend rhythmically. The song, much like Petty himself, a California staple. The music is Petty at his best and if you close your eyes, you can still him sing the song with the small little facial ticks and eye movement.

The uptempo is perfect as you view the surfers on top of the swells waiting for their wave. Beachgoers below the cliffs and muscle cars weaving in the traffic. As the highway twists and turns, the electric guitar solo makes you feel the road’s own ebb and flow as the song comes to a crashing and satisfying end.

All I Want to Do – Sheryl Crow

Crow tells you to hit before the first bars start to get played and she lets you know right away that “this is L.A.” There is a great beat and the song tells a great story of everyday life on the strip. Her voice is a perfect blend of Californian spirit and pep.

Crow recorded the song during sessions that led to her album release in 1994. Crow was born in Missouri but eventually made her way to California and we should all be glad she did. While Crow may not be the typical blonde-haired Californian we often picture, she has gone the blonde route in the past.

Her music is great to listen to even if you are not on the highway but you can sure get the feeling of being in California all the way on the east coast.

Paradise City – Guns-n-Roses

Nothing says California like metal hair bands and Guns-n-Roses was one of the best. Paradise city is a mix of simple lyrics that are not overpowered by the strong voice of Axle Rose but instead, the song is more of continuous throbbing series of electric riffs that come hard and soft throughout the song, kind of like a rolling tide.

The song may be simple but it works well for the purpose of hitting the rocky coastlines and works even better around the coast nearer Los Angeles.

Watermelon Sugar – Harry Styles

You can’t beat a song that opens with the sound of ocean waves. The official music video that you can view here, takes place on the California coast in the sand on the beach. Everyone knows watermelon and summer go hand-in-hand so when you think of California and the eternal sunshine, you can’t help but think summer.

The song has infusions of jazz and also takes some notes from reggae as well but this is all pop. There is a flow to the song that starts slow, picks up some pace and then finishes nicely like a glass of wine.

Notable others:

California Gurls – Katy Perry with Snoop Dogg should be on this list. Snoop is a perfect voice-over for Perry’s pop hit and it is 100% all California from the opening notes to the quick ending finish.

Otis Redding – Sittin on the Dock of the Bay is an all-time classic. Redding brings his Memphis jazz roots and brazenly tells you he “left his home for the San Francisco Bay”.  The song reminds us to stop and take in the sites around us and if we are on the CPH, shouldn’t we being doing just that?

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