Red Barchetta

Background and Commentary

“Barchettas are body car types and in its original Italian means ‘little boat.’ Inspired by Richard S. Foster’s article A Nice Morning Drive, which Neil read in a Novemember 1973 Car and Track Magazine, the piece, which was recorded in one take, is a sci-fi excursion in the vein of their early works about an age where cars are outlawed, perhaps because they represent individuality, sexuality, freedom, and cause pollution and accidents. Mass transit is now in the form of the Turbine Freight, which the narrator takes to an abandoned farm that conceals a well-kept automobile from the past. So, the car is to the guitar in ‘2112.’ The adrenaline-filled car chase led by a rebel takes the form of a cinematic image. The Eyes (authorities) have a two-lane wide alloy air-car vehicle that cannot cross the narrow bridge and the driver leaves them stranded. Even the senses seem heightened as if the air was purer as a result of the Motor Law. At the end of the song we realize that the chase may have been imaginary, in the mind of the uncle or nephew reliving a rebellious experience in a fireside chat.”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

After the chase. Graham Whieldon

“The intention of ‘Red Barchetta’ was to create a song that was very vivid, so that you had a sense of action. It does become a movie. I think that song really worked with that in mind. It’s something that I think we’ve tried to carry on—become a little more visual with our music. . . . I like the way the parts knit together. I like the changes. I like the melody. I love the dynamics, the way it opens with the harmonics and creates a mood, then gets right into the driving, right up to the middle section where it’s really screaming along, where you really feel like you’re in the open car, and the music is very vibrant and moving. And then it ends as it began, with that quiet dynamic, and let’s you down lightly. So, it picks you up for the whole thing and drops you off at your next spot.” (In the Studio)—Alex in Merely Players

“‘Red Barchetta’ is another Randian protest against the rule of enforced mediocrity and cloying collective safety. But the piece is also another in which technology is a symbol for human nature, human craftsmanship, creativity, and daring. Really, the Barchetta sports car stands for the daring spirit of the nephew. It stands for the vitality as well as the superior standards of an earlier day, before human nature was degraded by the leaded weights of modernity and mediocrity.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

Neil in his book Roadshow, which recounts the R30 tour in 2004, says the band still enjoys playing the piece live. “I made a note [after the show in Oberhausen, Germany, near Dusseldorf], about a bridge in the song, where we pounded out a repeating 7/4 riff leading from the guitar solo back into the verse—a classic ‘tension-and-release’ moment: ‘Gave me goosebumps the other night, and always a great part, for us and the audience.'”

In a 2010 essay included in his 2011 book Far and Away, Neil says the song still captures the spirit of adventurous abandon in which it was written 30 years prior. But if he were to write the lyrics now to capture his experience as a proud owner of a classic Aston Martin DB5 (which he spent three years restoring), he would give the lyrics the following subtext:

“Wind in my hair [Windows always open, ’cause there’s no AC]

“Shifting and drifting [Slipping and sliding on those skinny bias-ply tires]

“Mechanical music [Vroom-vroom—ka-ching!]

“Adrenaline surge [The clutch pedal just went to the floor and stayed there]

“Well-weathered leather [Need to repair passenger seat-back]

“Hot metal and oil [Is that temperature gauge creeping up too high?]

“The scented country air [Windows always open, ’cause there’s no AC]

“Sunlight on chrome [Note to have the door handles redone]

“The blur of the landscape [With due regard to the California Highway Patrol—and at night, the failed speedometer light—requiring an occasional check with Maglite]

“Every nerve aware  [Is that temperature gauge creeping up too high?]”

Five “Red Barchetta” tribute versons.


My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
I fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air car
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I’ve got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside


By Jimmy Pena (

Excerpted from Fretplay.

Standard tuning. The key is D, I think.

| = not a standard bar line; just used to separate music
~ = vibrato or held note
h = hammer on
p = pull off
s = slide
b = bend string up to indicated pitch/fret
r = release bend to indicated string/fret
/ = slide up from infinity
\ = slide down into infinity
= natural harmonic (lightly touch the string at fret indicated)
[5] = artificial harmonic (use thumb to follow through the pick attack)


[Riff 1]

** Note: There are many variations on these themes throughout the song.
These are just the basic structures. Hold down the chord
and arpeggate freely.

[Riff 2]
Asus4 Asus4/F#

Asus4/G Dsus2

[Riff 3]

[Riff 4]
G A D G A Asus4

[Riff 5]

For complete tab, go to Fretplay.


“Red Barchetta” guitar cover

“Red Barchetta” bass cover

“Red Barchetta” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on February 5, 2011.

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