The Truck Driver's Gear Change Hall Of Shame FAQ  |  Browse by artist  |  Browse by title  |  Browse by year  |  Other stuff  

 

Frequently asked questions

1. Who or what is a truck driver's gear change?
Many writers and arrangers feel that when their song is in risk of getting a bit tired, it can be given a fresh lease of life by shifting the whole song up a key, usually in between choruses, towards the beginning of a "repeat-till-fade" section. You may have heard this technique informally referred to as "modulation", but the correct ethnomusicological term for the phenomenon is the truck driver's gear change. This reflects the utterly predictable and laboured nature of the transition, evoking a tired and over-worked trucker ramming the gearstick into the new position with his – or, to be fair, her – fist.

Contrary to what many people seem to think, the truck driver's gear change is in no way inventive, interesting or acceptable: it is in fact an utterly appalling and unimaginative admission that you've run out of inspiration and the song should have ended one minute ago; but you're under pressure to make something which can be stretched out to the length of a single. The concept of the truck driver's gear change seems to transcend all musical styles, from Perry Como to The Misfits, although my investigations reveal that it's most prevalent in mainstream pop, and, let's face it, it's unlikely to feature in hip-hop. But who's to say.

This may perhaps all sound a little abstract. So for recommended initiation into the concept of the truck driver's gear change, I suggest you check out Crazy Crazy Nights by Kiss, which is a perfect example of the, ahem, oeuvre. Many experts agree that the single greatest gear change of all time is Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror, though you should be aware that it may make you physically sick. In a subtler vein, gear changes like Gabrielle's Sunshine are for the experienced listener only.

For a more theoretical look at the phenomenon, please check out the excellent article "A muso's introduction", which author Dominic Pedler has kindly contributed to the site.


2. Errr... if they're so bad, why have you made a whole web site about them?
This site functions as an educational resource with the aim of ensuring that in a better future world, our children, our children's children, and ideally also our children's children's children, avoid this musical crime. Equally, there is an element of name-and-shame involved, to help prevent those who may already have offended from doing so again in their career. Although frankly I think it's too late for Westlife.

And yes, if I'm honest, I own up to the fact that I derive secret masochistic enjoyment from truck driver's gear changes. (Well, not so secret any more.) As much as they disgust me, I can't help listening to them over and over again, wincing each time like I'm poking at a sore tooth. I want to find out just how appalling they can get, and also I'm intrigued as to who may have been the first musician in history to have come up with what once must have been an original idea.


3. How do I find my way round the site?
Well there's not much to it, really. The songs are listed alphabetically by artist (performer) and by title, and chronologically by year. From there, clicking on any song title will take you to a page which lists some key facts, namely the title, artist, year of release, person who wrote the song, and who submitted the gear change for inclusion on the site. If you click on the year it will take you to the chronological listing, so that you can appreciate the song in its broader cultural context. Or something like that.

You'll then get to read a few uninformative and mildly inaccurate comments written by myself, by way of preparation before the act of listening to the truck driver's gear change, in MP3 format. Rather than including whole songs, I have zeroed in on the offending sections in each case, so that you don't have to waste time. Some of the clips are up to 1 MB in size, so if you have a slower connection, I'm afraid you'll have to be prepared to wait a little while they download – but if you were really efficient, you could click on the MP3 link and then read the description while you're waiting for it to load. Sometimes there will also be a "Related stuff" section, containing a link or two to other sites, or merely some additional trite observations on my part.

I've also included a separate page of other stuff which contains more general information about the truck driver's gear change and reactions to this website.


4. I've come across a truly appalling gear change. How do I submit it to your site?
You are strongly urged to share your discovery with the rest of the world, or what tiny fraction of it may visit this site, so that I can make this repository as comprehensive as possible. Please send an e-mail to trucking_awful@gearchange.org giving as much detail as you know about the song, and mentioning any of its particularly entertaining aspects. If you happen to have an MP3 of the song to hand, e-mail that too, although please try to avoid sending any attachment bigger than 5 MB. If you've only got it in another format like RealAudio or Windows Media, send that anyway and I should be able to convert it to MP3.

Once I've got round to listening to it (note: don't hold your breath), I'll post it on the site and let you know when it's there. If you don't want me to list your real name, feel free to provide an alternative one, or if you want to remain anonymous then let me know.

If you e-mail me with questions or comments, I will do my best to get back to you; but I am often rather busy so please do not be offended if I don't get a chance to reply. Needless to say, messages containing interesting suggestions or thought-provoking discussions are more likely to receive replies than grammatically suspect upper-case diatribes about how great Barry Manilow is.

To make sure you're kept up to date about all the latest gear change submissions, please sign up for the mailing list and I'll send you occasional updates.


5. Don't you have anything better to do?
Yes.


6. Like what?
I've also written a couple of books, called Emus Can't Walk Backwards and Bears Can't Run Downhill. They're published under the thoroughly improbable pseudonym of Robert Anwood – full details at robertanwood.com.


7. Does that actually count as "better"?
Yes.