heavy metal

The Top 5 Touring Songs

Saxon Tour Bus Although naysayers sometimes jump to the conclusion that metal music focuses all of its lyrical content on the utmost evils, metal lyrics can document real-life experiences as much as any other genre. When you’re a musician, a great deal of those experiences come from being on the road for months at a time. Naturally, some metal bands have felt the need to express their own perspectives on touring and performing all over the world. In fact, you could probably find songs that cover the same subject in many other musical categories. Even if you’ve never toured as a musician or traveled for a few weeks on business or leisure, chances are some sort of commute is involved in some aspect of your life. It may take you a 35-minute drive to get to work, a 50-minute drive to enjoy the company of a close friend or relative, or a full two hours to see the bulk of your concerts. Therefore, I could not stop at a mere list of “road songs”—it’s necessary to have both a list of touring songs and a list of driving songs. You can expect an article on the latter shortly, but for now here’s several touring songs to get you through a shorter commute.

5. AC/DC - “Highway to Hell” from Highway to Hell (1979)

The fact that this song has been covered by Iced Earth, Maroon 5, Billy Joel, The Bellrays, Marilyn Manson, and Sam Kinison demonstrates that sometimes a great song can reach a wide variety of different audiences regardless of its genre. Is it because all of those musicians relate to life-on-the-road songs? Perhaps, but then again, this song has often been misinterpreted as a Satanic ritual anthem.

4. Megadeth - “The Killing Road” from Youthanasia (1994)

Many musicians have experienced burn-out from touring, it’s the kind of commitment that can alter your life plans. Those musicians who faced exhaustion from constant touring felt the need to settle down with a family and a normal life. Dave Mustaine notes that these numerous journeys can be financially and mentally stressful, and they are only for the people who would rather play music than do anything else in life.

3. Vendetta - “On the Road” from Go and Live…Stay and Die! (1987)

A great cult German thrash song that would have you convinced that Vendetta’s bus driver drove a lot faster than any other German band’s bus driver. Besides discussing fast driving, this one also cites the thrill of playing metal music onstage and the excitement from metal fans as the primary motivations for their dedication to the tedious practice of touring. This tune has my favorite solo in any song from this list.

2. Saxon - “Roadies’ Song” from Thunderbolt (2018)

Since this track appears on Saxon’s latest album, it was a huge inspiration behind the idea for this whole article. Biff Byford and Co. felt it was time to give credit and recognition to their road crew with this one. It’s basically a job description put to song, detailing all that is involved with setting up the stage for a great concert. It’s grueling work, and overnight international travel is required—but if that doesn’t discourage you, Biff Byford encourages you, “Step inside, be one of us!”

1. Motorhead - “(We Are) The Road Crew” from Ace of Spades (1980)

Hotels, groupies, packing, foreign lingo, passing borders, maps…Nearly every last element and emotion of touring is noted in this simple classic from Lemmy and Co. The legendary Lemmy Kilmeister notes the little things that no one else thought to write about, and claims he wrote this gem on a toilet in ten minutes. Lemmy points out that touring is a lot of the same routine over and over again in different cities (as the other bands have also mentioned), but also declares an appetite for the cycle. He boasts with conviction that, “I just love the life I lead.” It has what I consider to be the best drum work of any song on this list.

Honorable mention:
Metallica - Whiplash from Kill ‘Em All (1983)

Normally, I don’t like to do a list with honorable mentions. I believe you should just make your top 5, top 10, or top 20 and be done. However, I’m including “Whiplash” as an honorable mention this time because it’s only partially related to the touring lifestyle. The song is mostly about the thrill and intensity that both performers and audiences feel from a metal gig. It isn’t until the song’s fourth verse that vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield explains how the feeling of going back to the routine sets in after the show. That’s when you hear the talk of crashing at a hotel after the show, going off to the next city for another performance the next day, and an uncompromising commitment to this travel-heavy way of life. Spending the bulk of your day sitting in a tour bus for a couple of months is really more exhausting work for many musicians than putting on an energetic show night after night.

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Tags:  Top 5 Touring BandsMegadethVendettaSaxonMotorhead

    March 28, 2018

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