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.