“I like pleasure spiked with pain, and music is my aeroplane…” – Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Aeroplane”
I took a little time away from B&V to recharge the musical batteries. As it turns out I’ve also spent a little time in airports and airplanes recently as well… I am on record as admitting I chose the career of the itinerant sales guy. I have to admit, due to the pandemic, I hadn’t flown in quite a while. What a shitty experience flying is now. I’m old enough that I can remember when I was a real little kid, people used to dress up to fly. I remember the first time I flew, I was probably 3, my mom put me in a sporty red blazer and clip-on tie and shellacked my cowlick hair down with, well, mom spit. I don’t remember most of it, but I’ve seen the pictures. In those pics my grandparents, who only drove to the airport to pick us up, were also dressed to the nines. I can’t imagine seeing my Grandmother in yoga pants or my grandfather in a Budweiser t-shirt standing at the gate. We’re not even making the bare minimum effort folks. The last time I flew, I was sitting across from a guy who farted and pretended nothing happened. Thanks pal.
Ah, flying. It all seemed so glamorous when I was a kid. I remember it as being a lot easier. The Wright Brothers, who were the first to fly in 1903 probably never imagined having to take your shoes off to board the Wright Flyer outside of Kitty Hawk. I’ve spent my whole career hanging around airports waiting on a delayed flight or having made the mad dash to the airport and missed that elusive earlier flight. I can’t even begin to tally up all the time I’ve wasted sitting in the gate of some crowded, sweaty airport. I think the airlines only hire sadists these days. I had a flight cancelled recently and I’m certain the gate agent was a former prison camp commandant…There’s something inherently lonely about flying. I was always surrounded by people but had my head buried in my work laptop or a book and most always had my trusty headphones on to be transported out of that situation by rock n roll. What’s that old cliche about being “alone in a crowd?”
That’s the thing about flying somewhere. You are, by definition, leaving somewhere or some place. And flight allows us to travel great, great distances so you’re again, by definition, going a long, long way from home. While travel and traveling are exciting there is an underlying sorrow that always seemed to nag me. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy soaring above the clouds, looking down and trying to recognize landmarks, headed off to explore the world. I’ve been from San Francisco to New York to Barcelona and Rome. There is a freedom in being able to “fly away.” But that freedom also can breed isolation. Sometimes the person you’re flying away from deserves to be left behind. But, then again, now I do most of my fun travel with the Rock Chick and I find that immensely better than the old days.
I will admit, when anybody asked me – and strangely people seemed to ask me this a lot – what “Super Power” I would want if I could have one, I always said flying. Naturally most of my friends wanted to be invisible… something about sneaking into the girl’s shower and “observing?” I have always been surrounded by degenerates…thankfully. I always thought being able to fly – without a plane – was the Super Power to pick. I always said, “I want to fly like Superman,” as the Kinks famously sang. You could go anywhere and be there quickly. You didn’t have to check bags or sit in the middle seat. And who amongst us hasn’t admired the majestic flight of birds. I was standing by a pond once when a flock of ducks floated in and landed on the water in unison. I remember thinking, “Man, I wish I could do that…”
Of course, for me, the easiest way for me to get “airborne” is to slip those head phones on, much as Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers described above, and turn up the music. All of these thoughts about flying – whether in a plane or like superman or birds in flight – got me to thinking about all the great rock n roll songs about flying. I figured it all be “pedal to the metal,” hard driving rock songs. But like I was describing above, there seems to be an undercurrent of sorrow in some of these tracks. As with all of our playlists, we’re all over the board stylistically. It’s the theme that’s important. B&V playlists are best played on “shuffle.”
Without further adieu, here are our favorite songs about Flying. You can find our playlist on Spotify if you’re interested. As always, if there’s a favorite of yours we didn’t include, drop it in the comments. I like to think of B&V playlists as “our” playlists, not “my” playlist. I have left my thoughts on each track below…
- Pink Floyd, “Learning To Fly” – I know Pink Floyd purists don’t like the David Gilmour-led version of the band. I love this song. The way he describes flying, it doesn’t sound like he’s piloting a plane… Not every record is Dark Side of The Moon.
- The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” – Supposedly planes fly eight miles above the ground but I think the Byrds were likely thinking more about drugs here. Who can blame them, it was the 60s.
- The Beatles, “Back In The USSR” – McCartney seems very happy about getting back to the USSR. From The Beatles (aka The White Album).
- Eagles, “Earlybird” – From the Eagles debut LP. “He’s got no time for flying in the breeze…”
- The Box Tops, “The Letter” – From a young Alex Chilton who went on to form Big Star and record the legendary LP, #1 Record. “Gimme a ticket on an aeroplane, ain’t got time to take a fast train…”
- New York Dolls, “Jet Boy” – I just saw a great documentary about David Johansen, the lead singer of the Dolls. Great stuff!
- Lou Reed, “Fly Into The Sun” – From one of my favorite Lou LPs, New Sensations. Perhaps his happiest LP? I also love New York, of course.
- The Cult, “In The Clouds” – Great track only found on a greatest hits disc. If you’re in the clouds, I have to assume you’re flying.
- Jimi Hendrix, “Night Flying Bird” – Great posthumous tune from Jimi.
- The Black Keys, “Aeroplane Blues” – The Black Keys are so consistently kick ass. I loved their last LP, Dropout Boogie…
- Billy Joel, “Scandinavian Skies” – Billy Joel singing about a tour of Scandinavia where they flew from country to country? I had heard somewhere along the line that this song was about heroin?
- Slash (featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators), “Bent To Fly” – My friend Stormin’ turned me onto Slash’s solo work with Myles. A soaring power ballad from World On Fire.
- Frank Sinatra, “Come Fly With Me” – I had to include a couple of tracks from the Chairman of the Board.
- Johnny Cash, “I’ll Fly Away” – Johnny singing from his mama’s hymn book. I’m at best a pagan and I whispered a little prayer the first time I heard this one.
- Elton John, “High Flying Bird” – Beautiful sad track from one of my favorite Elton albums, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player.
- David Bowie, “Space Oddity” – You can’t fly much higher than outerspace.
- Chuck Berry, “Promised Land” – I wish I could time travel just so I could take this trip with Chuck. I should have found a cover of this track for my Chuck Berry Covers playlist…
- Howlin’ Wolf, “Mr. Airplane Man” – Howlin’ Wolf singing the blues, asking Mr. Airplane Man to help him find his baby who has taken off… Another mule is kickin’ in his stall.
- Sammy Hagar, “Eagles Fly” – Sammy giving us a somewhat patriotic vibe here.
- Peter, Paul and Mary, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” – This song, and this version of it, probably surprises some long time readers. My parents loved Peter, Paul and Mary. I grew up hearing this song. Not that my parents played much music.
- Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me To The Moon” – My favorite of the two Sinatra songs here.
- Marvin Gaye, “Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)” – A track from Marvin’s landmark album from 1971, What’s Going On?
- Foo Fighters, “Learn To Fly” – I’m not a huge Fighter of Foo fan but I dig this one. Perfect for this playlist.
- Ozzy Osbourne, “Flying High Again” – From Ozzy’s second LP with Randy Rhoads on lead guitar… this song turned me into an Ozzy fan for life.
- Talking Heads, “And She Was” – I had originally heard that this song was about a woman who died and the “she” who is floating in the air was her soul. Turns out it’s a story of a chick who took acid and had an out of body, Sharky’s Machine experience.
- Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like An Eagle” – A 70s classic.
- Elton John, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)” – The first time I heard this track, from Honky Chateau, I was in the Smithsonian… Weird story.
- Buffalo Springfield, “Expecting To Fly” – Great Neil Young, trippy track from the Springfield.
- Paul McCartney, “Feet In The Clouds” – Again, maybe not exactly a flying song, but he’s in the clouds… how’d he get there?
- Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Travelin’ Band” – First line says it all, “Seven thirty seven comin’ out of the sky, Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride…” I just included this in my playlist about the Music/Show Biz.
- Faces, “Flying” – I think this was the Faces first single? We do love the Faces here at B&V.
- REO Speedwagon, “Time For Me To Fly” – Another track about being time to go. So many times I stayed too long at the “party.”
- Iron Maiden, “Flight Of Icarus” – Only a metal band would take a story from Greek Mythology and turn it into a great rock n roll song.
- Mudcrutch, “Dreams of Flying” – I loved Mudcrutch. It was the perfect side project for Petty, Mike Campbell and Ben Tench. This is from the second album, creatively titled 2.
- Buffalo Springfield, “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” – Great, great song written by Neil Young and sung by Richie Furay. I’d like to hear a version of this song sung by Neil… I’m sure it’s out there.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Little Wing” – One of my all time Hendrix favorites. “Fly on, little wing…”
- John Mellencamp, “My Aeroplane” – Great deep track from Mellencmap.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “My Zephyr” – “Fly away on my zephyr…” Does anybody know what Anthony is talking about?
- Paul McCartney & Wings, “Jet” – One of my favorite rockers from McCartney.
- David Bowie, “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship” – Bowie was always singing about space.
- Linda Ronstadt, “Birds” – Neil Young isn’t on Spotify, but Linda Ronstadt does a fine cover here. I loved her third album.
- David Crosby, “Sky Trails” – Brilliant title track from a brilliant album. Sung beautifully by David and Becca Stevens. So sad to have lost Croz this year.
- Stephen Stills, “Jet Set (Sigh)” – I loved Manassas.
- Queen, “Spread Your Wings” – “Spread your wings and fly away…” From my first Queen LP purchase, News Of The World.
- INXS, “Johnson’s Aeroplane” – Obscure early INXS but I dig it.
- R.E.M., “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Anitmatter” – R.E.M.’s last few lps were awesome. This fun track is from Collapse Into Now.
- Elton John, “Take Me To The Pilot” – I think if you asked to be taken to the pilot these days, the plane would land and an international incident would ensue. A great, great Elton track.
- David Bowie, “Like A Rocket Man” – Late period, fabulous Bowie. Bowie and Elton seem obsessed with flying. “I’m speeding like a rocket man…”
- Bad Company, “Movin’ On” – Sometimes you just gotta pack up, head to the boarding gate, and get outta there. I had to do this in Jamaica once. Luckily the embassy didn’t get involved.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Aeroplane” – The true theme song of this playlist. Let the music help you soar, baby.
- Led Zeppelin, “Night Flight” – One of my all time favorite deep tracks from the mighty Zeppelin.
- Joni Mitchell, “Amelia” – Joni, like Neil is boycotting Spotify – rightly so – so I sub’d in David Crosby’s cover. But I had to list her name here as her version is definitive.
- Bad Company, “Seagull” – “Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why, And you fly all around ’til somebody, Shoots you down.” Heavy stuff.
- Elton John, “Daniel” – A lamentation about seeing his brother return to Spain on an airplane.
- Steve Miller Band, “Jet Airliner” – Another great 70s classic from Steve Miller Band. I’ve always loved this song.
- Lenny Kravitz, “Fly Away” – From Lenny’s great LP, 5.
- The Kinks, “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” – I think I included this track on my list of rock bands with a disco song? I was more of a Batman guy, but I did used to wish I could fly like Superman.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Police Helicopter” – This is the only song I’ve ever known about helicopters so I included it. Not many people like early RHCP’s, but I do.
- Pearl Jam, “Given To Fly” – I consider this one of their greatest tracks.
- The Beatles, “Flying” – A spacey instrumental that I felt had to be included. There are some wordless vocals toward the end, but I consider it an instrumental.
- The Rolling Stones, “Flight 505” – You know how I love the Stones and it took me this long to include one of their songs? “Well yes I’ll have a drink.” A sorry tale about a man who decides to leave home and seek adventures, but the plane lands… in the sea.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, “Just A Song Before I Go” – Sad track where the singer just wants to hear a song with his woman before he takes off for the “friendly skies.”
- The Beatles, “Blackbird” – “Take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life you were only waiting for this moment to be free…”
- Mudcrutch, “Bootleg Flyer” – Mudcrutch having fun imagining flying a plane full of smuggled hooch really low, just above the trees.
- ZZ Top, “Flyin’ High” – Soaring arena rock from ZZ Top. Always a winner…
- Rush, “Fly By Night” – Another of my absolute favorite tracks… Can’t believe it took me this long to get it on the list.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Free Bird” – If you have to have a good ending song, this is it. “Won’t you fly high free bird?” My wife hates this song.
There you go friends. A little playlist to help you as you soar above the clouds whether you’re in an airplane or in your backyard on the patio. Again, if you have a favorite I might have missed, drop it in the comments and I’ll add it on Spotify.
Cheers! And lets remember – Birds of prey know they’re cool (according to the Far Side anyway).
13 thoughts on “Playlist: Our Favorite Songs About… Flying”
How about Tora Tora by VH? Not to sure if it would make your list but I’m throwing it out there…and being a Canuck I will contribute Helix’s Ride The Rocket as well lol
I’m intrigued!! I love the album ‘Women And Children First…’ I’ll check out “Ride the Rocket”! Thank you!!
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Dave Edmunds does a great cover version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’
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Thank you! I will check it out!
Well, I must have had a serious brain cramp around Edmunds’ version of “Promised Land.” I pulled it up and it sounded familiar – and I thought, well, that’s because I know Chuck’s version. Then I looked at my Chuck Berry covers playlist and realized Dave’s version was on there so I had heard his version before. I need to get some rest!! Thanks for your suggestion!
Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is also a great song about flying. And to answer your question whether there is a version of Flying on the ground is wrong by Neil Young himself – there is one. On the album A Treasure from his Archives with The International Harvesters. And that version is even better than the one with The Buffalo Springfield sung by Ritchie Furay. And it indicates that the record company Bobo was completely wrong to say that Neil’s voice was too weak and thin to sing this song. Of course not available on Spotify.
Travelin’ Light by JJ Cale, also a great song. Santé.
Guy! I knew you’d know where I could find a version of Neil singing that song. I like the original but I have to think Neil doing that song would be exponentially better. I did include the Tom Petty song you mentioned! I’ll have to hunt for that Neil version of “Flying On The Ground,” I must hear it!!
And to be complete: four more versions of Flying on the Ground is wrong – 1. Live at the Riverboat 1969 on archives one 2. (Mono) also archives one. 3. Live at Carnegie Hall 1970. 4. Live at the Cellar Door. All four sung by Neil himself and all four acoustic versions.
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Oh, I forgot to mention ‘Treetop Flyer’ from Stephen Stills.
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Another great tune!! Thank you