THE COLLAPSE OF General Motors triggered an urgent call to my desk. “Can you help me write a song about an Asian car brand?” The caller was an amateur musician friend whose songs are totally brilliant, except for the words and the music.
He realized there was a massive gap in the market when numerous TV news reports about the US car firm bankruptcy said Cadillac and Chevy cars are mentioned in literally hundreds of pop songs.
Remember the chorus of American Pie? “Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.” Or that Billy Joel song Moving Out which goes: “Traded in my Chevy for a Cadillac-ack-ack-ack-ack.”
My singer friend had a point. Why must all global pop culture be based on US cars? It was unfair.
I headed down to the street where the car showrooms are to do some research. I noticed that cars from GM had names associated with burning, like Pontiac Firebird and Trailblazer. That was kinda weird. GM also has the Avalanche, a car named after a type of disaster, and the Citation, seemingly named after a traffic offence. The American Motor Corp once launched a car called the Gremlin, a word which means “irritating problem”.
European cars were worse. They have codes for names, so cannot be mentioned in songs: “Oh what fun it is to ride in my BMW E9 2800CS.” See what I mean? A few European cars do have names. There’s a car in Italy called the Volugrafo Bimbo (Italian for “Car with stupid name, mainly for blondes”).
Asian cars have names which are just daft, to put it kindly. From China comes a brand of pick-up truck called the Rural Nanny. Geely, a major car maker in China, makes a car called the King Kong. This might make sense if was big and dangerous, but it’s as tiny and meek as a Japanese Prime Minister. Indian car names are sleep-inducing: there’s the Mahindra Classic and the Padmini. Those names won’t get anyone excited.
From Japan we get weird names like the Honda Life Dunk and the Daihatsu Naked. Isuzu makes vehicles called the Mysterious Utility and the Light Dump (don’t ask). Mazda makes a car called the Bongo. Toyota has the Deliboy. Nissan has the Prairie Joy. Mitsubishi makes a car called the Pistachio. Why would anyone name car after something small, green and wrinkled? Is ET the target market?
I could not see how an Asian car could fit into a song like American Pie. “Drove my Daihatsu Charade to the levy but the levy was dry.” It just didn’t have the right ring to it.
But there needs to be songs about eastern cars. The biggest market for motors is Asia, and the biggest selling global brand is Toyota. So I set to work. I found two problems. First, the top Asian cars, such as Toyota, are reliable, but ugly and boring. Second, not many words rhyme with Toyota. The best I could do is this:
My car is really dull, it’s a Toyota
I had to pay a premium (there’s an import quota)
I wash it every Sunday on a cleaning rota
I think I’ll buy a Chevy, move to Dakota.
Somehow I don’t think it’s gonna be a hit.