After reading Sturgis' story about how some folks he knew stumbled into motorcycling, I was instantly irritated. He referenced Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf, and he did not do it disparagingly. Sturgis and I ride similarly, we do similar stuff, and we are both listeners and players of music, which was the primary cause of my dismay. How could my friend be so... so... gauche?
I asked Fearless Editor Lance if I could do a Top Ten list: Five each of the best and worst motorcycle songs of all time. Whenever Sean or I get some crazy idea, he usually tries to talk sense into us, then later he helps clean up the (written) mess into something palatable for you fine readers. This article proved to be no exception. I think Lance listens to a lot of salsa music when he’s be-bopping around on that Versys of his, so if you see any of that in here after he edits it, it’s probably him being sneaky.
There are no rules. These are just songs I think are wonderful or total garbage. You may feel differently. In fact, I expect the comments section below here to be split 50-50. Suggestions will be the first half, and the second half will be demands for retractions or threats to thump some sense into my skull. I do have a coupla guidelines I set for myself, however.
First, no Born To Be Wild. It’s hackneyed and tired. Consider that jersey to be hanging in the rafters, so to speak. Next guideline: The song has to be mostly about a bike. I have seen these lists before, and they often include songs that are only loosely related to motorcycles. I love Six Days on the Road by Dave Dudley or Low Rider by War, but they’re not strictly about motorcycles, so they’re out of the running. (I was so disappointed to find out a group of car freaks klepto’d my beloved Shovel’s birth moniker.)
Five worst motorcycle songs: The stinkers
These are the songs that make me cringe when I hear them on the juke at whatever roadhouse I happen to have stopped at. Dear readers, at this juncture it should be mentioned that Anthony loves hair metal. Consequently, the first song on this list may make this the last article I pen for RevZilla. Before I begin offending any of you, you should know that if you like any of these and their presence on this list ticks you off, you have my sincerest apologies. It will be intermingled with pity for you.
Kickstart My Heart — Mötley Crüe. What a crappy song. Custom-built bikes? Self-assessments of all the ass-kicking they did? They completely ripped off the intro from Bad Motor Scooter by Montrose. I also have personal misgivings about listening to a man who uses hair lubricant that is not SAE 60. Finally, I cannot seem to find a picture of the band where they are not on "magic button" machines. I guess Electric-Start My Heart sounded stupid.
Wanted Dead or Alive — Bon Jovi. In the interest of full disclosure, this is my solo karaoke song. "I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back/I play for keeps, 'cause I might not make it back." What? Let’s parse that out. I have no idea what in the hell a loaded guitar is. He plays for keeps? What does that even mean? Is he rocking so hard he kills people? What would he not make it back from? Why am I so confused when I listen to this, and why does this guy sound faintly ridiculous to me? Oh yes, I know. Because this song sucks terribly.
Roll Me Away — Bob Seger. I’m sad this is even on here. Bob tells a nice story, one I think most long-haul bikers can identify with: go where the wind takes you, don’t show your worry, and meet interesting people along the way. I think a man starts to pine for that feeling of detached uncertainty that always accompanies super-long moto rides. The problem is that this music is terrible. Try to whistle Roll Me Away right now. Oh, wait. You forget how it goes, don’t you? That’s because the melody is forgettable. There are only seven notes to choose from, and old Bob missed all the good ones.
Bat Out Of Hell — Meat Loaf. You knew this was going to be on here. "There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye." Words fail me. This must hold a record as the longest song about a low-side. The first thing Meat Loaf could have done to make this song not suck would have been to take the Sunday-school piano out of it. The second would have been to trim seven minutes out of the center of it. The third would have been to never record it all.
Harley-David(Son of a Bitch) — Bollock Brothers. Just watch it. Severely NSFW! Even the Shovel garbage wagon in the foreground can’t save this song. It’s... gosh, it’s powerful in its own lame-goldfish sort of way. I kind of like it, as I listen to it. Elvis smoking hash. Far out, man.
Five best motorcycle songs: The good ones
Panheads Forever — David Allan Coe. I have yet to hear this song and not long for one of my bikes. The man accurately describes the gamut of emotion that most motorcycles seem to inspire, from outright frustration to steadfast devotion. If there is a song that will make my beer go up in the air, this one is it.
Bad Motor Scooter — Montrose. "So get on your bad motor scooter and ride/Up over to my place and stay all night." This is why motorcycles were invented, I think. The badass guitar solo doesn’t hurt, either. This is the kind of record your parents never wanted to catch you listening to.
Iron Horse (Born To Lose) — Motörhead. The name of the band is a reference to crank, the OMC drug of choice. Consider also that Lemmy, their frontman, has partied harder than most rockers young enough to be his grandchildren, and we’ve got the basis for some severe face-melting. Seriously, don’t click that link unless you have a Nomex balaclava.
1952 Vincent Black Lightning — Richard Thompson. Let’s ignore for the moment that Mr. Thompson plays one mean guitar, and he can tell you a story that makes you feel like you’re right there with James and Molly. Just set that aside. Let’s concentrate on the fact that the Black Lightning was a 380-pound bike that made 70 horses. Then old Richard throws a redheaded girl and a shootout into it. How could this song not kill it? It’s like starting a recipe with cheddar, ranch dressing, and bacon. Plot spoiler: It’s going to be delicious.
Little Honda — The Beach Boys. I doubt there’s many folks who didn’t spend at least some of their motor career on a CBwhatever50. They’re totally honest about the damned bike — it’s small, and light, and fun, and fast. You don’t have to be running around with a loaded six-string to have a good time. (I still have no idea what that means.)
There you go, readers. At this point, let the floodgates open, release your hatred for my musical opinions, and tell me what I missed. I can take it. Prove me wrong. And please do not point loaded six-strings at anything you do not want melted.