Living on a continent this grand, Australians have a love affair with driving and the open road.
The video clip to the first rock song released in an Aboriginal language, ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’, by the Warumpi Band, features the smiling band members and a load of laughing children on the back of a ute driving through the desert.
The song ‘Wide Open Road’ by The Triffids is on the playlist of many an Australian road trip.
Even the Wiggles have a big red car.
But what about trains? Can’t think of a single song about the Ghan or the Indian Pacific?
With no Australian train songs springing to mind, we can look to Iggy Pop’s triumphant, ‘The Passenger’, which will be belted out at many a festive function this season:
“I am a passenger
And I ride and I ride…”
The lyrics are said to have been written on the Berlin S-Bahn, with a salute to a poem by Jim Morrison. Iggy Pop’s 1977 release features David Bowie on backing vocals. The album itself is understood as a collaboration between Pop and Bowie. Ricky Gardiner wrote the music to the song, and plays the lead guitar.
“I am a passenger
I stay under glass
I look through my window so bright
I see the stars come out tonight…”
The part most of us know well, and will thump out at parties, is the chorus: “Singin’ la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…”
Sometimes our very biology and mortality can seem a journey where we don’t choose the track or the stops. But Iggy Pop implores us to get on board, be the passenger, ride tonight.
The song is anthemic, the lyrics are haunting. There is a universal longing that reaches all of us at some point to get on board and go, and the driving beat of this song, like the rhythm of a train, drives us towards recognising how we long to leave, long to arrive.
Singing with others can connect people powerfully and emotionally. Singing this song can bind people together, even as they sing about hitching a ride and heading on out.
The call to cleave from the present, to change, is heard by youths in Wittenoom, the middle aged in Adelaide, the elderly in Launceston.
Listen out for this track on the first episode of Berlin Station, and sing along, on SBS On Demand.