The central lyric, "Hey kids, rock n' roll," was borrowed from "Rock On
" by David Essex. The words may be the same, but the mood is completely different. This is a much more somber song.
Lead singer Michael Stipe explained in the November 12, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone
: "There were, before Punk, a few songs that resonated with me. One was David Essex's 'Rock On
.' 'Drive' is a homage to that. It was the first song I wrote on computer. Before, I had a typewriter. The reason is my handwriting changes dramatically day to day. I don't trust it. I will write one of the best lyrics ever and discard it because the handwriting looks like s--t. Or the handwriting looks good but it's a crap lyric, lo and behold, it's in the song. Too late."