Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

Get your motor runningHead out on the highway

This song is iconic and known all over the world. I automatically think of motorcycles and bar bands. We played in a few bars that bikers were visitors…this song was a requirement if you wanted to continue breathing.

Born To Be Wild has been used in countless amounts of shows and movies…One request to use the song however was turned down in 2004. Paris Hilton wanted to use it as part of her reality show The Simple Life 2. Kay denied it, telling the Toronto Star, “There are certain things even a rock ‘n’ roller will not stoop to.”

After reading that…my respect for John Kay just took a giant leap!

The song was used in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, the counterculture classic. Another Steppenwolf song, “The Pusher,” was also used in the film.

When the movie was in production, this was simply a placeholder. Peter Fonda wanted Crosby, Stills, and Nash to do the soundtrack. It became clear that the song belonged in the movie, and it stayed. Being included in this movie cemented the song’s association with motorcycles… “Teach Your Children” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

This was written by Mars Bonfire, which is the stage name of Dennis Edmonton. He wasn’t a member of Steppenwolf, but his brother Jerry was the band’s drummer. Bonfire wrote a few other songs for Steppenwolf as well, including “Ride With Me” and “Tenderness.”

With the line “heavy metal thunder,” this became the first popular song to use the phrase “heavy metal,” which became a term for hard rock. William Burroughs is credited with coining the phrase, as he used it in his 1961 novel The Soft Machine, describing his character Uranian Willy as “the Heavy Metal Kid.”

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #30 in the UK, and #32 in New Zealand in 1968.

Mars Bonfire (Writer): “I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard one day and saw a poster in a window saying ‘Born to Ride’ with a picture of a motorcycle erupting out of the earth like a volcano with all this fire around it. Around this time I had just purchased my first car, a little secondhand Ford Falcon. So all this came together lyrically: the idea of the motorcycle coming out along with the freedom and joy I felt in having my first car and being able to drive myself around whenever I wanted. ‘Born To Be Wild’ didn’t stand out initially. Even the publishers at Leeds Music didn’t take it as the first or second song I gave them. They got it only because I signed as a staff writer. Luckily, it stood out for Steppenwolf. It’s like a fluke rather than an achievement, though.”

Born To Be Wild

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin’ with the wind
And the feelin’ that I’m under
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride

The dynamic of the intro really works in this song. The wall of distortion and feedback starts and then it snaps into the song. It is incredibly catchy and bouncy for being a harder song. This song was on Steppenwolf’s “Second” album and the song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 in 1968. I’ve always liked John Kays voice and he also has a great stage presence.

Steppenwolf had 13 songs in the Billboard 100 and 3 top ten hits. This was the second big hit for Steppenwolf. “Born To Be Wild” was released a few months earlier. They were on different albums, with “Born To Be Wild” on their first and this on their second, although this was released well before their second album came out.

From Songfacts

The group wrote this based on the bass line their bass player, Rushton Moreve, came up with. The only words he had written for it were, “I like my job, I like my baby.” Lead singer John Kay wrote the rest of the lyrics. He got inspired when he put the demo tape in a home stereo system he bought with the royalties from their first album. That’s where he came up with the line, “I like to dream, right between my sound machine.”

John Kay of Steppenwolf teamed up with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to do a 1988 rap-rock remake of this song. It was similar to the Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith mash-up of “Walk This Way,” which was released in 1986.

This song first appeared in a 1968 movie called Candy by the French director Christian Marquand. It starred Ewa Aulin, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr and Charles Aznavour. It’s an extremely strange movie, definitely of it’s time and kind of gives context to the song, intended or not. The movie was based on a popular counterculture novel.

In 2004, this was used in the “America Revolution” series of Chevy car commercials.

Magic Carpet Ride

I like to dream, yes, yes
Right between the sound machine
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
Goes far, flies near
To the stars away from here

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

Close your eyes now
Look inside now
Let the sound
Take you away

Last night I hold Aladdin’s lamp
So I wished that I could stay
Before the thing could answer me
Well, someone came and took the lamp away

I looked
Around
A lousy candle’s all I found

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

Close your eyes now
Look inside now
Let the sound
Take you away

Steppenwolf – Don’t Step On The Grass Sam

Hmmm, wonder what this song was about? When I was 18 I had a Steppenwolf complication tape that I would play driving around and this song will stick in your head. Love the riff and the build up.

John Kay the singer for Steppenwolf advocated for marijuana legalization during his band’s heyday in the late 1960s. The ‘Sam’ mentioned in the title refers to Uncle Sam. It was off of their second album…appropriately called “The Second” in 1968.

The song suddenly stops and then….after pounding on the door, a group of actors playing policemen storm in saying, “Alright you guys, you’re under arrest for possession of marijuana.”…then you hear flushing.

Don’t Step On The Grass, Sam

Starin’ at the boob tube, turnin’ on the big knob
Tryin’ to find some life in the waste land
Fin’ly found a program, gonna deal with Mary Jane
Ready for a trip into hate land
Obnoxious Joe comes on the screen
Along with his guest self-righteous Sam
And one more guy who doesn’t count
His hair and clothes are too far outWhile pushin’ back his glasses Sam is sayin’ casually
“I was elected by the masses”
And with that in mind he starts to unwind
A vicious attack on the finest of grasses

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
Well it will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight, alright)

Misinformation Sam and Joe
Are feeding to the nation
But the one who didn’t count counted them out
By exposing all their false quotations
Faced by a very awkward situation
This is all he’d say to save the day

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
It will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight alright)

You waste my coin Sam, all you can
To jail my fellow man
For smoking of the noble weed
You need much more than him
You’ve been telling lies so long
Some believe they’re true
So they close their eyes to things
You have no right to do
Just as soon as you are gone
Hope will start to climb
Please don’t stay around too long
You’re wasting precious time

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
It will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight alright)