The shear genius of Highway Star
This is my essay on why Highway Star is the greatest car song of all time and one of all time favourite song.
What makes me gush over this song is how the music of the song work to create this speeding in a highway atmosphere Whenever I listen to this song I get vivid imagery of street racing . Hell this is someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy driving and hate road hoons (I’m probably more in line with Thom Yorke’s feeling about cars). Yet this song manage to deceive me and make me think for a moment that driving car fast is fun. Oh yeah, also because this song kick arse.
So this is my fan fiction in creating a narrative (purely by the music) on what is going on in the song
So the song starts off with some chord strumming (mostly one strum per bar instead of the regular power chord that soon follow) by the guitar with a regular bass playing. This intro creates imagery in my head of the car being turn on and speeding off.
When the guitar starts playing some regular bar chords it sounds like the car is chuggling along at cruising (especially when the audible pick scratching noise give it a more mechanical sound to it) and then you hear Gillan screaming that signifies the car is speeding up and the adrenaline it feels.
Later in the song when you hear “it’s a killer machine, it’s got everything”, you hear a descending chromatic 4 notes. (F, E, D#, D), everytime I hear that four note sequence throughout the song I get imagery of the driver is changing gear (of course he is driving manual).
The chorus has Jon Lord playing chords in between Gillan singing. To me those chords symbolizes cars on the street beeping at the driver for driving like a maniac (as this is street racing he may even be driving in the wrong side of the road).
The chorus I hear this
(Beep) I love it (Beep) I need it (Beep) I bleed it (Beep) (Beep) (Beep) Yeah it’s a wild (Beep) machine, alright hold tight I’m a highway star.
Before the keyboard solo, you hear a buzzing noise (I think it’s a distortion from a guitar) that pan from the right of the speaker to the left. To me it sounds like another car that you are racing against is accelerating and catching up to you
Then Jon Lord plays a killer solo. To me this section signifies two cars are dualing with each other during the race. To me what added to this sensation that the two car are dualing is that Jon Lord plays this rapid keyboard section but with both of his hands and they are playing different notes harmonizing each other (but with the same rhythm). So with the left hand harmonizing the right hand it sounds like two cars are neck to neck battling it out with each other.
At the end of the solo you hear Lord’s solo go to a stop with a single chord finishing off the solo with a distorted sound whilst at the same time the rest of the song goes back to normal. So to me this signifies the protagonist cars spins out and goes to a stop whilst the opposing car drives on unharm (because you can hear the regular strumming pattern). The little interlude at the 2:50 minute mark signifies the protagonist getting the car back on and back to the race
So the song continues on and the protagonist catch up with the opponent and during the Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar solo. This signified the second car racing dual between the protagonist and his opponent and because I can hear some double tracking and hearing two lead guitars during that solo) again it does sounds like it’s two cars dueling each other.
At the end of the solo you hear Blackmore pulling the tremolo bar and that strange wobbling noise signifies the opposing racer spun out and is left behind as the protagonist drives on.
At the end, Gillan repeats “I’m A Highway Star” numerous time as this is him saying to himself that he is the star as he is reaching the finishing line. You hear Blackmore playing a ascending one string guitar line during that section and each time the guitar line ascend it signifies it’s getting closer and closer to the finishing line for winning the race. The final “Highway Star” with the drum doing a final fill, and Blackmore doing a final riff signifies the car crossing the finishing line and winning the street race.
So yes that’s the imagery I get from listening to this song. Man this song is just pure genius.