’That old white line is friend of mine,’ sang Neil Young in White Line, and it would have made a snappier title for this academic study of the road’s power to attract, and ultimately hook, generations of musicians.
Beginning with early blues artist Charley Patton, it explains how a mythology can quickly build up around itinerant musicians who never stay in one place too long.
For the likes of Dylan, Jim Morrison and – most successfully of all - The Stones, this notion of living outside the constraints of conventional society provided them with an outlaw allure that stays with them to this day.
As Scanlan points out, digital advances now mean that it is us who travel in our own ‘portable audio bubble’, thus diminishing the music by making it secondary to our ‘primary focus’ – ie, getting the bus to work. Still, a fascinating read for anyone who’s ever wanted to head out on the highway.