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When Tunes Remind You of Specific Oregon Coast Spots

Published 10/23/23 at 8:23 p.m.
y Andre' GW Hagestedt

When Tunes Remind You of Specific Oregon Coast Spots

(Oregon Coast) – Road trip tunes: they're really about as important to a good drive as gasoline itself.

When it comes to the Oregon coast, it's my job to hang out there – to go to the beach. This means a lot of tunage per mile. For me, however, I don't like the typical pop song or, for that matter, music that most listen to. I need more from my sonic recreation. I'm a nerd boy, so I like to “rock out with my cerebral cortex out” (to borrow a phrase). Thus, I lean towards the esoteric, more demanding stuff (like Prog and experimental). (Above: Neahkahnie Overlooks at night, photo Andre' Hagestedt / Oregon Coast Beach Connection. Don't tell anyone, 'cause it's seriously embarrassing, but when no one else is up here late at night, I'll blast tunes and dance like no one is looking.)

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Songs and scenery both have a lot of atmosphere, and here's a collection of the two intertwined when it comes to some of my many, many sojourns out to the waves.

Astoria and Hwy 101 just s. of Tillamook): Manic Street Preachers’ entire album “Gold Against the Soul. That's because the album is burned into my brain from one particular trip through there decades ago. Something about the insane energy of that album just echoes the excitement of the rampant historic surprises of Astoria, and it was THE perfect soundtrack for that drive between the Three Capes Tour intersections and Tillamook. It's straight-up road trip tunes: all those power chords and punk-like vocals at frenetic speed just work well for that rush of trees and rustic scenery whizzing by. Also, without a doubt one of the greatest lyricist of all time was the Manics’ Richey James Edwards.

R.I.P., Richey.

Tillamook (especially the Fred Meyer’s parking lot): The “Relayer” album from Yes. Don’t know why, but it’s playing half the time I wind up in that parking lot. That or their other expansive masterpiece, Tales from the Topographic Oceans. All that complexity, innovative experimentation and sounds you've never heard before: you get lost in those myriad textures and concepts. I can't tell you how many times I've just sat in my car in that Freddy's parking lot, gazing blankly at the Tillamook rain on my windshield as Yes completely hypnotizes me.

Scenic Pullout Immediately South of Arch Cape Tunnel: Peter Murphy’s “Scarlet Thing in You.” The unwitting progenitor of the Goth movement (when he was in Bauhaus) gets remarkably upbeat and celebratory with this soaring, beautiful tune. It was the perfect soundtrack here one day, with that joyous bridge of “Everything’s all right….” It's a lush, gorgeous song – just like the Oregon coast.

Greater Nehalem Bay Area: Manic Street Preachers’ album “This Is My Truth, Show Me Your’s.” Dark, foreboding and yet quite poppy at times, I played it like mad while wandering Nehalem Bay a lot in the relatively dark winter of 2005. However, thickly-forested Highway 53 will always remind me of Jethro Tull – and vice versa. Their more rural and bucolic stuff, especially Songs from the Wood through the Stormwatch albums, well, they're all very impressionistic of Oregon's greenery.

Cannon Beach’s Tolovana parking lot: The Blue Nile’s “Hats”album. Gorgeous electronica mixed with soul – burned into my brain because it was what I was listening to as I took a nap in my car there once in early 2007.

Seaside: Red Footed Genius’ “Seaside” and The Knife’s “Heartbeats. Red Footed Genius was an ingenious band out of Portland with a kick-ass song about Seaside, which I latched onto in the late '90s about the time I got acquainted with Seaside. Swedish electronica band The Knife probably created one of the most beautiful songs of all time with “Heartbeats,” which I played over and over on one particular expedition around the north coast town. Also, the stunning bass solo by Tony Levin on the live version of Peter Gabriel’s “On the Air” song – very Seaside to me now.

Neahkahnie Overlooks, Manzanita: Bits of Peter Murphy and Florence and the Machine, as well as some The 69 Eyes. I like to rock out up here at night when no one is around. Don’t ask.

Oceanside: The Blue Nile song “Walk Across the Rooftops. Reminds me of the trip I made there with a really amazing girl long ago, and we played that Blue Nile album a lot.

Hwy 101 Between Rockaway Beach and Wheeler: David Bowie’s “Heroes.” A song that also contains King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and former Roxy Music architect Brian Eno.

Cape Lookout State Park: Sting’s “Nothing Like the Sun” album. Something about the atmosphere of that album works with the on-and-off rain and then sun a friend and I encountered there once. We had been listening to that album non-stop that day.

Towner screwin' around on camera behind me

Lincoln City: jazz band Oregon. They were named after the state but only two of them actually lived here. Glen Moore lived in Lincoln City for a while, but now lives in Portland. They are jazz gods, trust me. Oregon played Lincoln City in 2010 and I got to meet Ralph Towner a second time. Took a selfie with him and he clowned for the camera. The dude is a genius whose Bill Evans influences are a constant source of delight.

Lincoln City’s Roads End district: local musician Henry Cooper. I did a video about Lincoln City to his song dedicated that area, so now it’s inextricably entwined.

Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site: Louis Armstrong. The result of a crazy, impromptu scatting moment my brother Norman and I had one Fourth of July in the early '90s in that parking lot. Out of the blue, we started scatting the same line to an Armstrong tune on my stereo - in harmony. Amazing.

Rodea Point, near Depoe Bay: Manic Street Preachers’ “She Is Suffering” and anything by School of Seven Bells. It all just works with this crazed, atmospheric spot. Funny story: one time I was listening to that Manics' tune while watching the manic waves here at night, and then suddenly heard an alarming sound, like something was wrong with my car. Turned down the music and it was actually some whirring noise in the song mix they put in to enhance the rather avant-garde mood. That's what happens when you're a big fan of experimental music. How many times King Crimson made me think I had an automotive issue I can't count.

Between Newport Waldport: The Teddy Bears album “Soft Machine.” It simply fits that central Oregon coast drive, with its quirky mix of elecronica and punk rock.The one with Iggy Pop on it (OMG, right?) When the sun is out, there's a sense of strobe lights flashing as you drive past all those trees and the sunlight flickers through the spaces between leaves and branches.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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