Song #48: “Sausalito Summernight”—Diesel (1981)
Ahhh yes, the One-Hit Wonder. A band you’ve never heard of (and never will again) suddenly blasts out of your radio with a song made of pure earworm and instantly etches itself on a time and place. Such was “Sausalito Summernight,” which ironically peaked in the top 40 in the midst of a particularly cold winter my senior year in high school as I hauled around in a 1964 Ford Custom 500 I’d inherited from my grandfather. “The Tank” had a shitty transistor radio with speakers that blew out if you played it too loud — which was always the case when this tune came on — but I didn’t care. I had a car. I had a solid American car with a V8 engine that would go on to survive at least three crashes in a year, including the infamous drag race with Darrell Smith across the school parking lot. (A friend who was following us swears he saw the bottom of my car as I caromed off the low retaining wall that folded the right front wheel up into the engine block.) A tow job, a few replacement steering rods, and it was back in business. They don’t make them like that anymore.
They don’t make sweet, goofy songs like this any more either. Leave it to the Dutch to capture a perfectly American experience, the out-of-control road trip, with wailing rock ‘n’ roll guitar. While Diesel’s sole American hit had an infectious hook, clearly it was the lyrics that got to me, as it perfectly (and prophetically it turned out) captured my epic bad luck with cars.