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Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway | © Jacob Repko / Unsplash
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5 Songs Inspired by Los Angeles’ Pacific Coast Highway

Picture of Dominic Bertolami
Freelance writer
Updated: 19 April 2018
At a total of just over 655 miles (1,055 km), the Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) is the longest state route in California. This classic stretch of coastal driving spawns countless road trips, a number of memorable film features, and a whole catalog of music.

These Pacific Coast Highway-inspired songs are the perfect soundtrack to a sun-filled cruise along cascading bluffs and the limitless coastlines of L.A.

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Drive along California’s Pacific Coast Highway listening to some favorite tunes | © Nathan Dumlao / UnSplash

Burt Bacharach (1969)

An American songwriter and composer among many things, Burt Bacharach began his career in 1950. This Pacific Palisades local came out with this song in 1969. Entitled “Pacific Coast Highway,” the polished brass couples with a sophisticated piano and soaring flute. The picture is complete with a foggy layer of female backing vocals to round out the sound. This classic tune paints a vivid portrait of casual driving in a place where the sun always shines without a care in the world.

Sonic Youth (1987)

Formed in 1981 out of New York City, Sonic Youth hit a high during the grunge scene of the late 80s through early 90s. This abrasive take on California’s Highway 1 highlights the darker aspects and vulnerable nature of traveling in unknown territories. The crunchy wailing guitar droning behind angst-filled female vocals and a driving bass line produce a dramatic melancholy atmosphere perfect for a cloudy morning drive along this popular stretch of coastal roadway.

ZZ Top (1994)

Forming in 1969 and releasing its inaugural album in 1971, blues-inspired rock trio ZZ Top also incorporates new wave, punk rock and dance-rock by utilizing synthesizers. Released in 1994 by the self-described “little ol’ band from Texas,” the song “P.C.H.” is about a pleasure cruise on a motorcycle up and down this famous strip of the American highway. The 80s-inspired arrangement and descriptive lyrics paint a picture of a restless biker looking for a good time.

Kavinsky (2010)

Born July 31, 1975, Vincent Belorgey (a.k.a. Kavinsky) is a French house artist whose music is heavily inspired by his childhood exposure to the electropop film soundtracks of the 1980s. Released in 2010 on the concept album “Nightcall,” this retro take on the coastal stretch of California highway follows the audio of a hot car pursuit while waves of synthesizers battle with popping drums and helicopter sound effects. The orchestrated effects play on high emotions, high stakes, and a rebellious protagonist and underdog on the run from the law.

Hole (2010)

Hole is an American rock band which formed in 1989 out of Los Angeles. Produced by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, the band took pieces from both punk and the emerging grunge scenes of the West Coast. Lead singer, Courtney Love, was also the wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Recorded in 2009 and released in 2010, Hole’s song “Pacific Coast Highway” is a metaphor for a turbulent lifestyle. The song depicts a car ride which starts off innocently, but by the end becomes violent and potentially fatal. Revisited in 2014, Love played an acoustic version of the song in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

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The dramatic landscape of the Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect setting for an early-morning drive | © Cole Patrick / Unsplash