CDs That Live in My Car

Geek Culture

Squirrel Nut Zippers candies, made by Necco.Squirrel Nut Zippers candies, made by Necco.

Squirrel Nut Zippers candies, made by Necco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t yet mastered hooking an iPod up to the AUX input in my car to listen to whatever I like from my music collection. For me, fiddling around on a touch screen tends to be a lot more dangerous than navigating my built-in CD player by feel. So unless I’m on a road trip and need audiobooks to keep my interest, my kids and I usually listen to CDs as we drive around. Over the years, it has turned out that there are certain CDs that seem to permanently live in my car. They are played in heavy rotation with the few others that waft in and out of my visor CD holders. Here are the ones that have stuck around over the past couple of years.

Kid Music


Space Songs. Image: Wikipedia

Ballads for the Age of Science series of albums – Tom Glazer and Dottie Evans, among others, sang amazingly awesome music in the late 1950s and early 1960s whose science (mostly) holds true today. The songs are fun and catchy, and something the kids and I can listen to with equal enjoyment. Our favorite albums are Space Songs and Weather Songs, but we also have Nature Songs, More Nature Songs, Energy and Motion Songs, and Experiment Songs. They Might Be Giants borrowed a couple of songs from the Space album. While I have been a They Might Be Giants fan for over 20 years, I much prefer the original versions of “Why Does the Sun Shine” and “What Is a Shooting Star?”


A Child's Introduction to Outer Space. Image: Golden Records

A Child’s Introduction to Outer Space
I have no idea how one would get a copy of this one. The copy I have is from my Awesome Friend Alan. But it is worth a listen if you can get your hands on it. This album isn’t just music. It also tells a story of going into space, and all the different ways that that is useful. Though it is from the early 1960s, the science is still pretty accurate, and it’s all from the interesting perspective of the beginnings of the space race and the enthusiasm it contained.

Free to BeFree to Be

Free to Be… You and Me. Image: Arista Records

Free to Be… You and Me
Many children of the 1970s will remember this fun and wholesome album. There was also a movie by the same name. Marlo Thomas leads a group of famous people including Mel Brooks, Michael Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, and more, who sing songs and tell stories that help kids learn to be okay with being themselves. This one stands the test of time, and my kids enjoy it as much as I did.

Under a Shady TreeUnder a Shady Tree

Under a Shady Tree. Image: Two Tomatoes

Laurie Berkner – Under a Shady Tree
“Rhubarb Pie (Hot Commodity)” and “Who’s That?” are my favorite songs from this kids’ album that won’t drive grownups crazy. Laurie Berkner has several other albums as well.

Grown-Up Music

Dr HorribleDr Horrible

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog soundtrack. Image: Mutant Enemy, INC.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog soundtrack
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was a masterpiece, and being able to listen to the songs from it in the car has made all of us happy. Though a few parts of the songs may not be terribly kid-friendly, that has all gone over my kids’ heads so far. This one has runs on a heavy rotation, since we’re all big fans.


Forerunner. Image: New Rounder

The Cottars – Made in Cape Breton & Forerunner
I discovered The Cottars when we caught a Christmas special done by another group, The Barra McNeils. A brother/sister duo sang two songs in the middle of it, and they enthralled me. The girl’s voice was so beautiful it almost made me cry. I looked them up by name, and discovered that as they got older, they formed a band with another brother/sister pair and became The Cottars. If you like traditional Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) music with a bit of a twist, check them out.

Natalie MacMasterNatalie MacMaster

Natalie MacMaster: A Compilation. Image: Rounder / UMGD

Natalie MacMaster – Natalie MacMaster: A Compilation
Also from Cape Breton, I discovered Natalie on my honeymoon, lo those many years ago (1997). Listening to Canadian radio as we drove around Prince Edward Island, in between reports about Princess Diana’s death, we heard “The Drunken Piper.” It was listed as being by Natalie MacMaster, though she played the fiddle on it and didn’t do the singing. We didn’t know that at the time, though, and picked up a Natalie MacMaster CD. Filled with traditional fiddle tunes, reels, jigs, etc., it’s a fantastic musical experience.

Simon & GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. Image: Sony

Simon & Garfunkel – Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits
Certain songs by Simon & Garfunkel are some of my most favorite songs, ever. And along with several other good ones, my favorites are collected on this CD. My son, especially, really enjoys this CD, and he’s always quick to repeatedly tell me which parts of certain songs he likes the best. My favorites include: “The Boxer,” which always brings tears to my eyes; “Mrs. Robinson,” which I loved as a kid even before I saw The Graduate; “The Sound of Silence,” which always moves me, plus we sang it in Chorus in elementary school, thanks to my awesome hippie music teacher; and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard. I miss the studio version of “Homeward Bound,” but it’s a good compilation of their hits.

Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend. Image: Xl Recordings

Vampire Weekend (self-titled) – Being out of touch with Kids Today, I have no idea how popular this CD and band even are. I once heard that it was a cliche choice for playing in the college dorms for a while, but hey. I like it. And it was introduced to me by my aforementioned Awesome Friend Alan, and he’s even older than I am. So.. I just like the music. A lot. And so do my kids. The first five songs are my favorites, though we usually listen to the first six or seven. The whole CD is decent, but they did seem to stack the good stuff at the beginning.


Flood. Image: Elektra / Wea

They Might Be Giants – Flood
I shouldn’t even have to elaborate here, knowing my audience, but I will. Flood came out in 1990, which one can never forget because it’s marked in the CD’s first track. This was almost exactly when I learned about them and became a fan. This CD is well loved by most TMBG fans, and is a great place to start for people new to their strange and geeky music. And again, my kids love it as much as I do.


ABBA: Gold. Image: Polydor / Umgd

ABBA – Gold
I didn’t grow up listening to ABBA, despite being born in the early 1970s. I’m pretty sure my mom isn’t a fan. But I learned more about them from a friend as a young adult, and have enjoyed listening to them occasionally ever since.

REM ReckoningREM Reckoning

REM: Reckoning. Image: A&M

REM – Reckoning and Lifes Rich Pageant
I got into REM in high school, soon after the Document album came out. I’ve listened to them on heavy rotation ever since, though slightly more often during times of personal crisis. These two CDs have some of my favorite REM songs, but since there are a few on other albums that I love even more, I probably just ought to make an REM best of CD for myself. Which leads me to…

The Beatles – My own personal “Best of” CDs
The Beatles were so prolific that there is no way that all of their CDs would fit in my visors. But since I’ve loved them since I was about 9, several years ago I put together two best of CDs with my favorite songs in chronological order.

SNZ PerennialSNZ Perennial

Squirrel Nut Zippers: Perennial Favorites. Image: Fontana Mammoth

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot, The Inevitable, & Perennial Favorites
It isn’t often that you can pinpoint exactly where you are and who you are with when you first learn about a band or record. My introduction to Led Zeppelin (and “Stairway to Heaven”) is one of those few moments. (Thanks, Timothy!) But so is my learning of Squirrel Nut Zippers (named after a candy of the same name). I had just started my first real grown-up job a few weeks earlier, complete with business cards an an actual annual salary, and was at a party thrown by one of my coworkers. Playing on the CD player was Squirrel Nut Zippers: Hot. My husband and I were instantly taken by it, and quickly procured ourselves a copy of the CD. Think modern swing combined with Billie Holiday. If you like either, you’ll love SNZ.

I like plenty of other music, but for some reason, these are the CDs that tend to live in my car and have earned regular play in our rotation. Consequently, my kids know all the words and tunes. Other CDs come in and out of my car, and occasionally we listen to the radio. But the reception here is very bad, due to it being a small mountainous town. So CDs are usually the order of the day.

Some of these are kid music, some are geeky, some classic. I find it interesting to discover which music I can listen to over and over, and which CDs I can hear once a decade and be done with for a while. But which music is which isn’t always predictable!

What music do you have in your car? Or have you entirely switched over to mp3 format?

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