“Love is a spirit, all compact of fire”
wrote Shakespeare in Venus and Adonis.
Little did he know that someone in a glass locked room would use his words to preface an article about the love saga that is rock music and motorcycles.
Rock music and its fans have always been drawn towards the raw energy and the rebellious nature of the genre. The appeal was in sync with the ground reality of the day. The world wars had paved the way for a society riddled with rising unemployment, a shift in the societal patterns and an angst against the system. The youth found their heroes of the day in the music of the bands who did not shy away from raising these issues. Their music was branded as ‘rock music’ by the music industry while the society labelled it, ‘the devil’s music’.
Rock music and motor cycles
The new age superstars would rise to form a cult of their own. A cult that could be recognised instantly. Dressed in leather, long locks of hair, ears pierced and body laden with tattoos – these would be the basic identification required to distinguish a rock musician/fan from the mainstream.
Adding to the attire would be accessories made of metal. Earrings, metal studded gloves, steel bangles, long winding chains and a ‘steel horse’. These cowboys would ride into the sunset, drunk on lager or whiskey with a cigarette stuck in between their lips, atop these ‘steel horses’.
This was the era when the need for speed was been sedated by the mechanical engineers. The lot was building machines that were fast, loud and oozed machismo. The raw beauty of these beasts coupled with the brute energy of the music, made it a better love saga than Twilight.
Adrenaline when combined with raw power and metal is an orgy which catches the fantasy of the bikers and rock music fans. Invariably these two got amalgamated. The bonhomie it produced was so unique that people believed it would debauch the ‘society’.
Professing their need for speed
Just like the poets of the yore, these songwriters made their pens bleed, professing their love, albeit for motorcycles. These songs would narrate their desire to ride the motorcycle the way they would serenade their woman, taking the path unknown, fluttering away into a glorious sunset or just being a rebel without a cause.
“Get your motor running,
heading out on the highway,
looking for adventure,
in whatever comes our way.”
Steppenwolf in the song ‘Born to be wild’.
This song would go on to be an anthem for motorcycle riders. The rebellious attitude stuck with the youth. Rumour has it that the song revved up a new genre, heavy metal.
While Steppenwolf’s rebel song went on to figure in almost all top ten biker rock music songs lists, a rather mellow story of an outlaw too hit the overdrive.
“I am a cowboy,
on a steel horse I ride,
I am wanted dead or alive,”
crooned Bon Jovi.
The song was about an outlaw riding across towns. The band drew similarities between the life of wanted men and rock bands. Riding into unknown towns, taking their money, alluring the women and getting drunk till the sun rose.
Start me up!
If that was Bon Jovi’s imagination, what in the world would the Rolling Stones think of. Well, if you are a Stones’ fan you would have guessed the answer and the song.
“If you rough it up,
if you like it,
I can slide it up.
Slide it up, slide it up, slide it up
Don’t make a grown man cry.” s
sang Mick Jagger midway into ‘Start me up’, ending it with
“You make a dead man come.”
One of the greatest rock and roll band had the audience grooving to this innuendo laden song. The world should be obliged to Jagger for clearing up the confusion as to what he was singing about. A motorcycle or a woman. The last line of the song should be, well taken as an indicator for what he meant. All said and done, there is no confusion that the song is one the greatest to be made by the band.
Oooh it’s a killing machine
From Jagger’s lust to Deep Purple’s need for speed. Name one biker you know who does not swear by ‘Highway Star’. If you can, you have won yourself a motorcycle. How? Simple. Just kick the guy off his bike and ride away. He is not a true rider anyway.
When the song resonates in the earphones beneath the helmet, many a rider has gone full throttle and pushed their bike into overdrive. As the song progresses it revs up the lust for speed.
“I love it
and I need it
I bleed it”
the words ring in the rider’s ears as he shifts the gear and throttles his ride.
AC/DC took a more morbid turn riding the ‘Highway to hell.’
While lyrics like
“Hey Satan, paid my dues
playing in a rocking band,”
made the society ostracise the song, it actually delved into the aftermaths of drunk driving. A local pub in Australia is where the song is said to have been born. A long stretch of road, overlooking the pub, bore signboards reading ‘No stop signs, speed limit.’ After a ‘few drinks’ the patrons would take the signboards, ehh seriously. Thus resulting in fatalities.
The most elaborate driving playlists have been rendered incomplete without this often misunderstood gem.
The rebels would throw a boomerang into the wind and forget about it. Their motorbikes would outrun the boomerangs of life was the preconceived notion. The lust for speed and the adrenaline cravings cost a lot of lives, young and ‘mature’. Azrael worked overtime.
Meatloaf sang it loud and clear in his song ‘Bat out of hell’. The song is said to be inspired directly from the deaths in the biker gangs.
“Then I’m down in the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun,
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike,
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell
And the last thing I see is my heart, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away
Like a bat out of hell.”