Song 263: The Edgar Winter Group, “Free Ride” (1972)

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It’s funny how being with a kid can make you realize just how much fun something is. This includes all kinds of things, from writing with chalk to stomping around a room. It also includes dancing while Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride” is played very loudly on the stereo.

Yes, that’s right, “the stereo.” Is it unnecessary in the age of iPod docks? Yes and no. It’s bulky and heavy, but it’s also what I need to listen to vinyl. And even songs that aren’t on record, like “Free Ride,” just don’t sound right coming out of tiny speakers. This song sounds best at peak volume, with those bass guitar thumps during the main riff causing something in the room to vibrate and the tambourine and cowbell jangling and clicking as hard as they can.

Like many people my age, I know “Free Ride” best from Dazed and Confused, that masterpiece about the weird, difficult gap between childhood and adulthood. Like that movie, and many other “classic rock” songs worth their salt, “Free Ride” seems rooted between frivolity and substance, a combination of technical prowess and smoking in the boys’ room. It’s deceptively simple—get in the car, because what else are you gonna do?—but it’s also impeccably arranged, from every jangly guitar to every “yeah yeah yeah.” It’s guitar rock at its finest.

Now go find a two-year-old.

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