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Album: Fickle HeartReleased: 1978Charted:
The song is not really about the joys of driving, according to the official Sniff 'n' the Tears website. Rather, it is about the fragmented, conflicting emotions that occur after the end of a relationship. The line "The news is blue. I'll never remember my time with you" points out the difficulty of imagining never being with the significant other again.
An early version of this song was demoed back in 1973 by singer/guitarist Paul Roberts' then-band Ashes of Moon for a French label. However, that band broke up and, at the suggestion of drummer Luigi Salvoni, Roberts reformed it as Sniff 'n' the Tears with guitarists Laurence "Loz" Netto and Mick Dyche, and bassist Chris Birkin. They shopped the demo tape and signed with the London indie label Chiswick in 1977.
Released as a single, "Driver's Seat" was a relative failure in their home country, but more successful in the US where it reached #15 on the Hot 100 in August 1979. "It was a pretty massive hit everywhere apart from Britain," reflected Roberts to Mojo March 2011. "Britain is perverse in some respects, but it did get a lot of radio play. We were accused of ripping off Dire Straits. I never understood that, but I think it was more that we were different to the post-punk scene."
Any potential break at home was derailed by outside factors. "We did Top of the Pops as a last-minute replacement for the Gang of Four, they wouldn't go on for some political reason," recalled Roberts to Mojo. The following week the EMI pressing plant (where Chiswick's records were manufactured), went on strike and you couldn't buy 'Driver's Seat' for four or five weeks."
Sniff 'n' the Tears consistently found an audience outside Britain - in the USA and continental Europe - until they quit in 1983. They reformed in 1992 after Driver's Seat featured in a Dutch TV ad for Pioneer Stereos.
The BBC DJ Steve Wright has called this song his all-time favorite record.