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Songs about getting in that smelly van again

Hardcore and punk bands touch upon many subjects in their songs. Being stabbed in the back, unity and beer are examples of these . Bands tend to sing about stuff they experience themselves or subjects they care about. One of these subjects often touched upon is being on tour, away from family, not having a regular job but chosing to life a different lifestyle.

One of the first bands of whom I heard such a song was Shelter. On their ‘When 20 Summers Pass’ record released in 2000 there’s the song In The Van Again. This song pretty much sums up the up- and downsides of touring in a way that everyone will understand. Just how simple and effective are the lines I’ve traded in the University for this back seat and poverty. But this whole time I felt so free and learned more in the end. It wasn’t untill I started writing this article that I found out the band even made a videoclip for this song.

We’re playing hard as we can and a whole lotta time stuck in the van. Reading the graffiti on every bathroom wall in truck stop fast food hell. Dead Ramones by Modern Life Is War is another of those coming of age, stuck in the van, my parents don’t get it – song. I think part of the inspiration of this song came about when the band did a long tour in the same period that some of the Ramones passed away. Here’s what singer Jeff Eaton had to say about it in an interview: ‘I choose the Ramones because we were on a tour and I am kind of a magazine junky. I always read Rolling Stone and MOJO and Thrasher. I have all kinds of magazines; I try to read as much as possible. There was a point where three of the Ramones died in a couple months and so every time I’d get a magazine, there was a tribute to one of them. It was a sad thing to me because they are one of my favorite bands. I was just like, ‘they are dying and they were the original American punkers and we are this half-breed from Iowa. Small-time thing, but we’re still out here playing punk rock, so I guess we’re dead Ramones now.’ People try a lot to read into that song and I always say it’s a silly song. The title is kind of goofy and some of the words are pretty goofy. I don’t take it that serious but I have a world of respect for the Ramones and those guys that died and the guys that are still living from that band. It’s a tribute to them. I always think it’s making fun of us. I read somewhere and someone was like “they should be fucking shot for writing that song” and I kind of agree. It’s sacrilege but I did it anyway.’

In the same interview Eaton also reflects on touring: ‘I’m definitely not anonymous but the cool thing is that people always talk to us about going on tour and say, “Oh you guys went to Paris! Did you see the Eiffel Tower?” No, I just saw a shitty neighborhood and I saw the inside of a club and then I saw a corner store. To me, that’s kind of cool because anyone else goes on a vacation to France, they see the fucking Eiffel Tower and stayed in a motel with other American tourists and that’s all they see. A lot of times we get to see how people live here. We’re staying in Brooklyn tonight with our friends and that’s how people live in New York City. The type of place we’re staying is the type of place where Puerto Rican immigrants stay. That’s really cool to me. I like to think about that a lot. Watch people in the places where we go and not necessarily as much at shows but just like at a corner store or hanging outside a building.’

And here is footage from MLIW playing Dead Ramones live at Reflections Fest in 2006:

Verse’s We Were Here (39th and Gilman) from the ‘From Anger And Rage’ record is another ode to touring and about outsiders not getting just how much of a commitment it can be. So I gotta let all of you know. That every moment we shared 
And every helping hand  Meant so much more  Than any outsider could ever understand  Eleven kids in a van Made me understand  Sacrifice and commitment to a movement  Based on reaching out your hand. I couldn’t find a decent link for this song unfortunately.

Have Heart’s Patrick Flynn seemed to have a love/hate relationship with touring as well. That is judging by the lyrics of Pave ParadiseHow many miles until I get out of this rectangular box of hell? Because these four same faces in these overcrowded spaces have me praying for the places that will leave me one minute to myself (along with) the foreheads glued to window-panes the sore-backs from kitchen-wood floors And all the sitting, sitting, sitting in a van — and yet I still want more?

The band did a whole world tour before they eventually disbanded in October 2009. In this interview singer Flynn talks about the band being completely burned out because of touring. ‘We had already been planning this whole summer thing for a while and then we decided we kind of don’t want to do the touring, it’s kind of just lost its charm to us. It’s hard, it takes a lot of things away from us. So, I think it was around March or April when we decided that touring wasn’t really for us any more.’

Kids could definately related to the lyrics as seen on this footage from the final Have Heart show in 2009:

The van also plays a part in the lyrics of Some Came Running, one of the songs on Bane’s ‘Give Blood’ album of 2001: i’ll keep getting in the van. Worry about money for the rest of my life just so that you can have this to talk about our time is to spend time with you and if you don’t want it well that’s fine too walk right out that door

Dutch hardcore band Said and Done went on a trip to France and Spain if I’m right and wrote the song Into The Distance about it. This song isn’t about depression and tour being hell, but about the good side of touring. This is what the band says about the song: ‘Being packed together in a van, exploring the world. Those are the best times we have as a band for sure. No feeling of time, no pressure. Just driving into the distance, into the unknown. If you ever went on the road with a couple of friends you know what we’re talking about. That feeling of total freedom. This one goes out to everyone that we did meet on the road.’

I’m sure there are way more songs about life on the road, good or bad. Please add the ones you know.

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  1. Just Killing Time said on 2013-02-08

    It seems there is no medicine, just that clichéd open road.
    We’ve been sitting here too long, let’s go!


  2. DavidTH said on 2013-02-08

    Ah poor guys. Get to travel around the world playing music, what a bummer. Life must be tough for these guys…..

    That’s the feeling i get with most of these songs.

    • Pim said on 2013-02-08

      That’s totally NOT the message I was trying to get across with our song 😉 Cool to see it included here Rold!

      Man, that first trip to Spain (We just drove to Spain and back, no shows on the way or back) was awesome. I never really travelled, and to hop into a van and go to Spain, with our shitty band, that was so cool. Back then it was a first time for all of us.

      Not really hardcore, but it should be in this list. “(We are) The roadcrew” by Motörhead:

  3. Vogel said on 2013-02-08

    Beetje touren, mooiste ooit man.

    Ridin’ down the highway,
    Goin’ to a show,
    Stop in all the byways,
    Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll!


  4. Gijs Wilbrink said on 2013-02-08

    Kudos for an awesome article. My faves:

    “strange towns make the best of my sickness when the cure’s so far away
    it seems so sad, but time’s not flying tonight
    wish that i could catch a shooting star home right now
    but we’re moving too fast can’t slow down”

    “It’s time to get up and stress out
    We’re heading for another town
    We’re never gonna make sound check
    And I can’t even take a shit
    No shower, shaving or coffee
    I can’t fuckin brush my teeth, c’mon
    We’re already late, man, let’s go
    Hurry up and wait”

    And non-hardcore/punk:

    “And it ain’t my crowd and it ain’t my night but I’d be lying if I said I can’t relate
    I’m just the opening act and the van is packed and I’m hauling ass to another state
    And I’m driving north as the sun was rising over a Technicolor horizon
    I reached out to touch you but you’re not there, a thousand miles away from here
    I turned up the radio; heard some preacher talking salvation
    My tank is half full and I reached over and changed the station
    I’m just the opening act”

    “We’ve got to drive all night and do a show in Chicago
    Or Detroit, I don’t know
    We do so many shows in a row
    And these towns all look the same
    We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
    And wander ’round backstage
    Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
    And we remember why we came”

    Time for a spotify playlist!

  5. bootsman said on 2013-02-08


    All night drive from Cafalonia, the sun at our backs
    There’s change in the cracks from my pocket in the cushion in then benches of the van
    Hey Ian, who’s this band
    You keep playing on the iPod, I nod in out of sleep to the rhythm of the beat
    Awaken to laughter and war stories, turn down the radio

    I wanna talk about adventure and where we been
    New York and SF with DTM
    Triple Rock, getting lost, google maps
    Home? Remind me why I’m coming back

    Swing Ding in Tuscan, I sing along, I don’t speak Spanish but I know the song
    I need a Red Bull and the Arrivals on
    Hey Eric is generic okay? Like the Pine Hill Haints say we’re living on a dollar a day
    Talking about Alex’s in LBC. Rob got a new name its not PC

    How long will it take? We’re on the way
    We spent half the night at Flying J
    Navajo blankets and novelty hats
    Nobody notices nobody pumped gas

    We got, we got, we gotta get back
    We want, we want a victory lap
    Too long, too long, too long in these clothes
    Spagett please go check if the trailers closed

    I sleep, I sleep, I sleep in the back
    Tj, Tj, where my money at?
    I lose my meds, Fadi lose his phone
    Can’t stop to piss ’cause we’re almost home

    Where my cat is
    1 3 and 5
    The end of all trips
    T to the E to the X A S

    Please don’t let me let myself forget
    That we had it good in that moment
    That we’re G.F.F.G.

  6. Just Killing Time said on 2013-02-08


    These are the days of our lives
    For now we sit down and wait eagerly for tonight
    Time ticks slow and cuts deep
    All the miles and memories
    This is all yours, yours to keep

    I’ve seen this place before
    I’ve seen your face before
    And when you scream along
    Everything is just fine
    You fill the stage with voices
    And make us feel alive
    This is all yours. Thank you.

  7. Just Killing Time said on 2013-02-08

    How could I forget this one!


    We spend eight hours on the road
    Just to put up a shitty show
    Few appreciate it
    We play our set and go…
    To where ever it is
    That we’re gonna stay tonight

    And now that the tension is gone
    We laugh at our mistakes
    Let go of the breaks
    Have a few bears and relax
    We laugh at our mistakes
    Let go of the breaks
    Have a few bears with our friends

    We bring some friends
    And our gear in the van
    That’s why were always too late
    Lucifer doesn’t go too fast
    And we’re not always feeling so great
    5 cups of coffee, 1 or 2 beers
    Then I’m in shape for an intense shit-break
    Before I can go up on stage

    Coffee drinking, always stinking
    Still brings out the best in me
    The smelly farts, the crapy jokes
    The stomache aches, headaches, the laughs
    and the… *huuuuuuuuuurl*

    • Nab said on 2013-02-09

      “have a few bears and relax”? Holy shit Satanic Surfers doesn’t fuck around!

  8. Just Killing Time said on 2013-02-08

    And of course this one:


    I’m throwing darts at a map,
    Trying to remember where I left my heart last.
    So when the van’s packed up and the tank is filled with gas,
    We can make our way from the east coast to the west.

    And you could call…
    Or I’ll see you all next summer or next fall,
    And we can talk about the year we spent apart
    Since the last time every city stole my heart.

    • xroldx said on 2013-02-08

      Such a great song Rik. I remember wanting to inlude it in my article, but somehow didn’t.

  9. Niels said on 2013-02-08

    Rhythm amongst the chaos from Terror also makes a fleeting remark about touring.