Well, we’ve almost reached two weeks of High Fives and the juggernaut’s still rolling, although it was only a cinquecento when it started on this road trip. Joe Francis (Winter Mountain) has opted for the highways and the byways with his exploration of his favourite tour van music.

It’s more than just a car journey from A to B. Your vehicle is imbibed with a multiplicity of purposes, like the Tardis with a personality disorder. It becomes a diesel-powered bedroom on wheels, a dressing room, a hotel, a guesthouse, a calm port, a storage facility, a temple and a garbage bin. Its significance greater to a touring musician than any average road user may ever understand.

And so too are the songs you listen to on the road.

Free from distractions of everyday life, you’ve no option but to really listen. And because of this your choices matter. Selecting songs for a tour is not a casual thing. The tracks you listen to will help shape your experience and will take you back to there each time you hear them in the future. Here’s 5 songs that mean a lot to me…

peter-gabriel“Solsbury Hill” – Peter Gabriel 

You begin your tour full of optimism and hope, feeling vitalised by the promise of the dawning of a new musical era. Fewer songs capture the spirit and the sparkling, spiritual blue sky soul that surrounds this moment than PGs extraordinary 1977 classic ‘Solsbury Hill’. An exquisite riff that sounds like morning.

Best listened to when – The vans loaded? Gear, guys and girls all present and correct? Then start the engine and hit ‘play’.


bruce “Thunder Road” – Bruce Springsteen 

Too obvious? Yeah, totally. But for good reason. As a kid from a small village where nothing much seemed to be happening Springsteen’s 1975 track showed me there was real magic to be found in the mundane. It’s romantic and rocking and a poetically pure promise to aim for glory no matter the consequences. And ain’t that just like a musical life? ‘Have a little faith, there’s magic in the night…’

Best listened to when – The first few shows are under your belt and you’re loving it. The journey is well underway, the roads are clear…NOW!


ac-dc “Highway to Hell” – AC/DC 

Heavy, primitive, menacing, soulful and sexy. Sometimes basic is best. AC/DC’s behemoth will help you through the longest of journeys, through the worst of driving rain, damaged tyres and badly worn tarmac, when the van is straining under the weight of you and your gear. It’s devilish and dirty and after 3 weeks on the road you will be too.

Best listened to when – You’re two thirds of they way through the tour. The fatigue’s setting in and you need an injection of pure Taurine rock and roll to keep your stamina up and an anthemic sing along chorus to unify the weary musos.


joniAny track from “Blue” – Joni Mitchell

Transport yourself to a place of warmer climes, pretty people and free love. Check out any song from Joni’s beautiful folksy masterpiece and you’ll be smiling like a Californian under the summer stars within seconds.

Best listened to when – Traffic is at a standstill, the tour is nearly over, tensions a little high…



war-on-drugs“Lost in the Dream” – The War On Drugs 

Maybe the pace is going to get to you or the band need to get some shuteye to deal with the comedown before the next show and a little ethereal peace is in order? Stick on ‘Lost in the Dream’ by the War On Drugs and you’ll be floating through the early hours like a character from a stylish formulaic Netflix series about what it means to be young and on a comedown.

Best listened to when – It’s 3am on a post gig drive, through the French Alps, a silver cloak of moonlight laid over the mountains and lakes. The amber glow of a small village down in the valley below and way up ahead, a fire burns on a distant peak… 

Another one of the Riot Squad favourites who agreed to contribute to High Fives this year is Dean Owens. We love his albums and he’s a very engaging live performer as well. We’re all looking forward to Dean’s new album “Into the Sea” which will be released on Drumfire Records in the spring of 2015. Meanwhile, these are his top5 albums of 2014.

Sun Kil Moon“Benji” – Sun Kil Moon

I’m a huge fan of Mark Kozelek. He just has a way with words and very much travels down his own character filled road. Dark, funny, tragic and beautiful.




Ben Watt“Hendra” – Ben Watt

This is a lovely album. All the songs sit so well together and there’s some great understated playing from Bernard Butler.




The war on drugs“Lost In The Dream” – The War On Drugs

I guess this will be on a lot of people’s lists. It took me a couple of listens to get into, but then I just fell in love with it. Sometimes I hear Dylan in there, then I hear Mike Scott, Springsteen and even Queen. A good one to listen to in the car.



Tweedy“Sukierae” – Tweedy

I don’t like everything on this record, but there are some real wee gems from one of my favourite writers. Plus Jeff Tweedy has one of the best voices in Rock n Roll.




Ryan Adams“Ryan Adams” – Ryan Adams

I never thought Ryan Adams would make a top 5 list again with me, but I listened to this a lot while going through some tricky personal stuff earlier in the year. “Shadows” is such a beautiful song and summed up how I was feeling at the time. He’s a very underrated singer.


I have to say there have been no albums that have completely blown me away in 2014. Looking forward to some crackers in 2015 hopefully.