Music and motorcycles go together like – well, it’s not fair to look for a comparison, because music goes with everything. Still, there are countless songs written about motorcycles and riding. Some are good, others are less good, but that’s a choice for each of us to make on our own.
So, let’s take a look at some motorcycle songs, in no particular order.
“Born to be Wild” – Steppenwolf
Used as the intro theme to the movie “Easy Rider”, “Born to be Wild” has become the quintessential biker song. More than 50 years after its release, “Born to be Wild” still sets the scene for many biker gatherings.
“Living After Midnight” – Judas Priest
Judas Priest borrowed heavily from the biker image, sporting leather, spikes, and chains as part of their stage look. It might be argued that “Hell Bent for Leather” is more of a biker song than “Living After Midnight”, but it’s my list and I do what I want! I give the nod to “Living After Midnight”.
“Living After Midnight“
“Hell Bent for Leather“
“Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi manages to invoke images of an old western theme in the first few seconds of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and add motorcycle imagery shortly thereafter, seamlessly combining cowboys and bikers in this rock anthem.
“Ride the Wind” – Poison
Poison somehow manages to create a song that sounds both happy and sad. It invokes images of riding to faraway places, both alone and with a group of friends. Sounds like it’s being told in hindsight by someone fondly, yet longingly, recalling past adventures from their youth.
“Leader of the Pack” – The Shangri-Las
In the mid-60s, motorcycles were still a sign of rebellious youth and “bad boys”. The Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss sings about meeting Jimmy (or Johnny, depending on the version you hear) at the candy store. Jimmy is the leader of a motorcycle club and is not looked upon favorably by her parents. Sounds a bit iffy, considering no biker would be hanging out in a candy store! Regardless, the song was a big hit, and was covered by several others, including The Carpenters and Twisted Sister.
“The Motorcycle Song” – Arlo Guthrie
Following in the footsteps of his father, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie carved out a career in music starting in 1965. Though better known for “Alice’s Restaurant” and “City of New Orleans”, Guthrie wrote and performed The Motorcycle Song – a whimsical tale about playing guitar while riding a motorcycle down a mountain road.
“Cool Rider” – Grease 2
Compared to its much more successful predecessor, Grease 2 was a flop. Mostly forgotten, Grease 2 focuses on motorcycles and the antics of the students of Rydell High. If taken on its own, it’s a fun tale written in the same campy style as the original Grease, only more comic book-like. In the song “Cool Rider”, a young Michelle Pfeiffer struts about like a more spastic Joe Cocker, expressing her desire to date a motorcycle enthusiast, leading the story’s protagonist to get a bike and learn to ride. The song is upbeat, with a surprisingly heavy guitar sound.
“Motorcycle Cowboy” – Merle Haggard
While today’s country music is more reminiscent of classic rock, Merle Haggard breaks out with more traditional sounding country music in “Motorcycle Cowboy”.
“Bad Motor Scooter” – Montrose
Montrose, fronted by Sammy Hagar, had two wildly popular songs in the ’70s, “Rock Candy” and “Bad Motor Scooter”. Best known for the guitar intro that sounds like a motorcycle shifting through its gears, “Bad Motor Scooter” is a direct influence for Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart”, where Mick Mars pulls off his best Ronnie Montrose impersonation.
“Girls Girls Girls” – Motley Crue
Honorable mention “Kickstart my Heart”
Right off the bat, “Girls Girls Girls” sets the motorcycle stage with the sound of a bike being fired up right at the start of the song. It’s really more about strippers than motorcycles, but it is still a motorcycle song. “Kickstart my Heart” gets an honorable mention for its title and Mick Mars heavily borrowing from Ronnie Montrose for the guitar intro.