“Driving With The Brakes On” by Del Amitri (1995)

“Driving With The Brakes On” is a heavy song that tackles a heavy subject with the sensitivity one would expect from a songwriter as talented as Del Amitri’s Justin Currie. The song’s narrator is a passenger in a car being driven by his girlfriend. He has accompanied her to have an abortion (Currie confirmed the song’s subject years ago). The scene is tense, the song (at least to start) is sparse; just an acoustic guitar, a drum machine, and Currie’s whiskey-soaked croak. They strain to make conversation in the song’s first two verses. The song’s narrator isn’t sure the right thing was done, but knows that he didn’t really have a decision in the process. The line “she’s got the wheel/and I’ve got to deal from now on” has a double meaning in this case. By song’s end, though, the full band has joined in, there are swelling organs and a chorus of voices that sounds like it was lifted from 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, and the narrator has professed something like love (“nothing’s gonna make me/break from her side.”

What could be a 90 minute film script is summarized eloquently by Justin Currie in four minutes and thirty-five seconds. Masterful, emotional work.

I wonder if it’s strange that I’m maybe 20% into this thing and we’ve already covered two songs about abortion (from the same general time period, too). For what it’s worth, I appreciate the fact that in “Driving With The Brakes On”, Currie’s lyrics make it clear that the decision about whether to carry a baby is a woman’s choice and hers alone.

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