Music & Cars

There are two important things in my life. Music and Cars.  So far, I have only managed to make a career out of one of them.  Despite a music degree being good enough for James May to get onto Top Gear, it seems my renditions of Widor 6 on the organ have gone largely un-noticed by the motoring press.

Consequently, my challenge was to forge some sort of career in music which would allow me to exploit my love of the motor car.   So far this has worked reasonably well.  It turns out in the last 24 years I have purchased, driven, and mostly worn out 24 cars.  Whilst this may sound extravagant, to put this into context, the vast majority were purchased brand new and then sold a year or so later having covered anything between 50 and 70 thousand miles.   My excuse, or justification to myself for the annual trip to the car showroom, is that I probably drive all my cars further than most people. The only difference is I just don’t tend to keep them very long.  For now, this is making my latest best friend, Henry at BMW Bath, very pleased indeed.

Over the years, I have had all sorts of vehicles from two seater convertibles to estate cars and 4 wheel drive SUVs.  The only thing which links them all, is the requirement to be fully loaded with lots of toys and extremely fast.

A few years ago, researchers in London claimed that listening to classical music makes for unsafe driving— in fact, they went on to say that it caused more erratic driving than hip-hop, heavy metal or not listening to music at all.

Led by psychologist Dr. Simon Moore, researchers at London Metropolitan University analyzed experiments conducted by the U.K. insurance comparison website Confused.com. They judged drivers on such qualities as speed, acceleration and braking. Given footage of eight male and female drivers who drove 500 miles apiece with monitors, the team analyzed the drivers’ safety. They also identified individual songs that were even worse for driving safety than classical music; the Black Eyed Peas’ dancehall-flavored “Hey Mama,” for starters, was judged the single most dangerous song for driving.

Their picks for safest tunes? Moore says that the safest driving music mimics the human heartbeat at roughly 60 to 80 beats per minute. So mid-tempo snoozers like Norah Jones’ “Come Away with Me,” Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” with Bruno Marsand “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz fit the bill.  This led me to wonder exactly what kind of classical music was on the playlists given to the motorists participating in the study. It seems to me that hundreds of cheery Baroque sonatas or Classical-era symphonies would fill the bill perfectly.

Classical music, like its contemporary counterparts, comes in all speeds and therefore depending on the sort of journey you are undertaking, there are endless opportunities to match the music to your drive.

When it comes to driving around, I like to think I’m quite good at it – after all a few years ago I did attempt a career in the motor industry and spent a few months as a Driving Instructor.  This would have been great bar the fact, firstly it didn’t make any money and worse than that it meant driving around in a Fiat 500.  This turned out to be the smallest, slowest and most ridiculous car you can imagine.  In 10 months as a qualified ADI I got through 3 ‘noddy cars’. One ran out of miles on its lease, one was crashed into a wall, due to some badly placed snow and one was hit up its backside at a roundabout.   I decided at this point this was not the career in the motor industry I had in mind, and so went back to music.

However, I digress.  As I mentioned earlier I drive on average 50-70,000 miles in a year.  This means, therefore, that I cannot faff around and have to get on with it.  See earlier comment about cars needing to be fast.  That’s not to say I don’t stick to the speed limits – currently I only have 3 points, which were awarded to me for proving I could do ever so slightly more than 70mph on a deserted stretch of the A30 at 1am…

And when it comes to ‘getting on with it’, the piece of music which I tend to play is Eric Coates’ ‘Dambusters March’.  Possibly, this stems back to my original career choice which surprisingly didn’t involve music or cars.  My ambition was always to be a pilot – that, however, all went pear shaped at the age of 8 when I was given glasses and told I was shortsighted & colour blind.

Curiously, the piece we all know as the ‘Dam Busters March’ was not actually written for the film to which it is now almost inextricably linked.  One Wednesday afternoon in 1954 whilst drinking coffee in his garden, a March theme occurred to Coates, and he wrote it out and scored it with no particular end in view. Within days the producers of a forthcoming film, The Dam Busters, asked Coates’s publishers if he would be willing to provide a march for the film. The new piece was incorporated in the soundtrack and turned out to be probably his greatest success.

When it comes to the suitability of tempo for driving there is however a bit of an issue with The Dam Busters March. Historically, march tempos were dependent on the function of the occasion. The slow march (Fr. pas ordinaire; Ger. Parademarsch) was used for parades, reviews, and exercises, and its tempo varied from 60 to 80 beats per minute. The quick march (Fr. pas redoublé; Ger. Geschwindmarsch), used for maneuvering, was approximately twice as fast as the slow march with tempos ranging from 100 to 140 beats per minute, 116-120 beats per minute being considered the norm. The double-quick march (Fr. pas de charge; Ger. Sturmmarsch) was even faster, and was used for attack.

The Dam Busters March definitely falls into the latter categories, tempo wise, and I prefer recordings which are around 140bpm.  This may not necessarily lead to the most relaxed driving style, but definitely fits with my no faffing, get on with it approach. Consequently in 16 years of running a mobile recording company and driving all over the UK, I have never yet been late.


Jules Addison runs 3 choirs and a mobile recording company which is why he is always driving around and cannot abide faffing under any circumstances. 

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