Sounds of the Circle

A fantasy mix tape to accompany your tour of of the suburbs

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If Henry Ford invented the car, Dwight D. Eisenhower invented the road trip. Perhaps a slightly exaggerated analogy, but each of these men contributed to the very-American idea of hopping into a car, hitting the open highway and cranking up the tunes (this also required the help of Motorola’s Galvin brothers, but that’s another story).

Eisenhower’s highway system brought with it the rise of the outlying suburbs, which in turn produced the idea of the connector loop, a link for the outer city regions and a method to circumvent a city‘s downtown congestion. It was a good idea in theory, until the realization that most suburban residents were commuting downtown employees and gridlock gripped the bucolic ’burbs.

All of the generic above combined with the almost endless construction cholesterol clogging local arteries have helped make the I-275 corridor an almost counterproductive route. But if you were to travel this ring around Cincinnati’s collar — and inevitably exit to a surface road to avoid some pile-up/widening project/overpass repair — you would bear witness to an interesting collection of humanity that has collected on the city’s fringe.

Such a trip deserves a soundtrack — perhaps a soundtrack that doesn’t actually exist. In honor of these strange places and their uniquely odd inhabitants, we’ve put together a perfect accompaniment to a surreal motor stroll around our own little connector hell, and we’ve replaced the original artists with more loop-appropriate new ones.

These could be the sounds emanating from one’s car speakers while following I-275 around in a massive circle.

Original Song: “I’m in Love with My Car” by Queen

Replaced with version by Slayer

No better driving song for the Metal quartet than this Queen anthem as a tribute to all the high rolling monster trucks and overcustomized ’70s throwbacks tooling around at various exits on the loop, burning gas like it was 47 cents a gallon and parked in front of trailer homes whose monthly rent is less than the car payment.

Original Song: “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News

Replaced with version by Type O Negative

Who better to take the spritely Huey Lewis hit and turn it into a dirge for the meth-fueled Oughties? This could go out to any number of hoods in the loop; nearly every community has rolling labs and empty apartments that can’t be rented because they’re uninhabitably toxic due to previous chemists.

Original Song: “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads

Replaced with version by Talking Heads

OK, this one doesn’t need to be imagined, but it’s the perfect opening track to a circular journey, a hopeful message about a trip that might just be futile.

Original Song: “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” by John Denver/Peter Paul & Mary

Replaced with version by Rubber Knife Gang/Cletus Romp

One of I-275’s greatest dichotomies is Cincinnati’s international airport, located well beyond the city’s boundaries in Northern Kentucky. Even the CVG designation seems tenuous — it’s closer to Erlanger. For this one, we need to address the airport’s rural status as well as its urban purpose, not to mention the duality of air travel; for some, an airport trip is a joyous event, for others a monotonous, desultory ass pain. A collaboration between RKG’s upbeat Bluegrass goodness and their Psychobilly counterparts in Cletus Romp would perfectly define all extremes.

Original Song: “Little Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp

Replaced with version by Kid Rock

One of the loop’s other anomalies is that it traverses three states, including John Mellencamp’s Hoosier homeland. I could hear the Kid spit this one out, and maybe toss in the chorus of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” for a shout out to the casino crowd, who may not have to drive the loop to feed their betting jones very much longer.

Original Song: “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders

Replaced with version by Lady Gaga

Forest Park declines and Cincinnati Mills (new name, same problems) remains a set for a George Romero movie, but at least we can dance at Metropolis while Rome burns. Wouldn’t it be great to hear Chrissie Hynde’s classic take on the fall of Akron done up in Gaga’s faux passionate ElectroPop style, backed by faux ghetto dancers in a faux mall-within-a-mall-within-a-mall stage set? Faux sure!

Original Song: “Eat the Rich” by Motrhead

Replaced with version by Motrhead

No one could present this brutal slab of Rock aggression any better than the dirty bastards that wrote it. Sure, it’s more thinly veiled sex joke than invitation to cannibalize the upper class, but the gated ones in Loveland and Indian Hill don’t know that. Imagine pumping this out on drive-by car stereos, Guantanamo style.

Original Song: “Wanksta” by 50 Cent

Replaced with version by Toby Keith

This is perfect retribution all around; the ubiquitous 50 Cent hit being forced into the mouthpiece of the execrable Toby Keith and satellite beamed into the iPod of every trashy wannabe from Colerain to Batavia. And Fiddy gets the royalties, all 20 bucks. It’s a win-win-win.

Original Song: “Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!” by Devo

Replaced with version by Marilyn Manson

Headed past the Creation Museum along the loop? Imagine giving them a taste of the Devo classic as reconstructed by the Dean of Creep. If they don’t buy evolution, they’re never going to swallow devolution. Especially if Manson’s holding the spoon.

Original Song: “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ’n Roll” by Donny and Marie

Replaced with version by Trent Reznor and Taylor Swift

One of the great contrasts of the suburbs is the city mouse/country mouse mingling of urban hillbillies who escaped the city’s stresses and the rural hillbillies who already lived in the area when the suburbs rose up to envelope them. And before you get your panties in a twist, ich bin ein hillbillier. My dad’s people are from Paducah and in my genetic make-up, it’s a footrace to see who breaks the ribbon first, the hill or the billy. Stand down, I’m one. The Hatfields and the McCoys proved it; some hillbillies aren’t meant to live together, and the further proof is scattered around the loop from Miamitown to Colerain and then back to Miamitown. Can’t we all just get along? Hell, no, y’all.

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