Motorcycle Madness

Last Tuesday night, both Chuck and I dreamed we were riding motorcycles.  In my dream, I was making my way precariously along a ribbon of highway, heading north from the southern states, when my chopper stalled somewhere in central Pennsylvania.  I tried everything to get it to start, turning and twisting the knobs this way and that, but nothing worked.  Suddenly, I realized that all I had to do was jump on the kickstart gizmo.*  So, after standing up, and setting my foot squarely on the gizmo,* I gave it all I had.  And then I woke up. 

In Chuck's dream, he was much cooler than I was.  His bike also wasn't running, but he simply pushed the "start" button.   Some people are just born mechanics.

I shouldn't be surprised that I dreamed of motorcycles -- they're in my blood.  Here's a 1930 photo of my Grandpa Luigi, on what I believe to be a 1916 Indian Powerplus (with sidecar):


I've seen this photo many times over the years, but I just noticed something amazing.  My uncle Joe (the baby in the sidecar, and future bebop saxophone player of some reknown) is holding his right hand exactly like he would someday hold his prized sax.  Rather than being "Born to Be Wild," I guess he was "Born to Be Bop."

And speaking of music, I think there ought to be a special Grammy award for the category "Motorcycle Music."  Motorcycle music has never really been taken seriously, although if one digs deep enough (as I did today), one will find several lists of "favorite motorycle songs" on the internet.  So I guess they're at least as popular as some of the tunes that made it to the Grammys this year.  

Instead of doing any number of more useful things today, I've put together the following very eclectic list of songs about motorcycles for your listening pleasure.  Some are popular, some obscure, and some downright weird:

Born to Be Wild -- Steppenwolf (of course)

Midnight Rider -- The Allman Brothers

Leader of the Pack -- The Shangri-las

Motorcycle Cowboy -- Merle Haggard

New Sensations -- Lou Reed (oddly enough, he mentions riding to Pennsylvania!)

Unknown Legend -- Neil Young

The Motorcycle Song -- Arlo Guthrie (I don't want a pickle, just want to ride on my motor-sickle)  

Born to Run -- Bruce Springsteen

1952 Vincent Black Lightning -- Richard Thompson

Roll Me Away -- Bob Seger

Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots -- The Cheers 

Eye of the Hurricane -- David Wilcox

Highway in the Wind -- Arlo Guthrie

Wanted Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi (worth watching the video for the 80s hairstyles alone)

Good or bad, all motorcycle music seems to be based on themes of freedom, the road, running away, or the appropriate clothing to wear while running away.  Most of the songs are written and performed by men, and there's usually a driving beat and lots of metal.  But some of the songs were actually a lot more gentle and sensitive than I expected.  Every one of them was full of emotion.  Biker music is not for the faint of heart.

I've only just begun to scratch the leather surface of motorcycle music.  Six hours on a Saturday is just not enough time to explore it all.  But I did enjoy listening to some familiar and unfamiliar music today, and it may have inspired a new song, one about my Grandpa Luigi.  I hope you'll listen to a few of these songs on youtube, and send me your favorites, too. 

After all this listening, I wish I owned a motorcycle.  It's a gorgeous day for a ride, and I'd love to feel the wind in my hair.  Guess I'll just have to let the music take me there.



Elaine Bruscia
February 18, 2013 @09:53 pm
Lori, I certainly hope you write a song about Grandpa. I will be anxiously waiting to listen to it. Many of the Motorcycle songs you posted I really like. Great writing Lori and I enjoyed reading it a lot.
February 18, 2013 @06:46 pm
Thanks to Carlos, Jim, and Khal. Hope you will take a ride to Tucson soon, but watch out for road runners!
Khal Spencer
February 18, 2013 @08:34 am
Did anyone ever write a song about Richard Farina's motorcycle fatal?
Khal Spencer
February 18, 2013 @07:17 am
Wow, Lori. So where did you find out about the year and model of grampa's motorcycle? They are a blessing and a curse. I just recently found a good friend from college who wrecked his bike in Rochester. Turns out he has been living in...ta-da..Tucson all these years. I got another bike after ten years in the Southwest thinking about it. Will ride it down your way once the weather warms up. Its not a Vincent, but will have to do. Pic here.
Jim Bowen
February 17, 2013 @11:52 am
Yes, please write Luigi's motorcycle song. I had a bike once, but I totaled it riding stupidly in a hurricane in New Orleans. Those things ought to come with warning labels.
February 16, 2013 @07:38 pm
Great writing!!! Of course, I favor the Shangra Las tragic epic, and please, please write that new song inspired by Luigi and Joe, who was Born to Be Bop - brilliant :)

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