Sunday, January 08, 2006

Born to be wild

Just like a lot of folks that grew up in the '60s and early '70s, my first interests in music leaned more toward the hard-edged metal rock of the times. Some of the first records I bought with the money from my paper route were by the Doors, Mountain, Jefferson Airplane, and Steppenwolf. I grew up in the greater D.C. area, so the turbulence of that time was not just images on the evening news. It was a period of questioning the status quo. The music was charged with social commentary. It expressed the bewilderment my adolescent mind was wrestling with.
Perhaps it wasn't such a far jump when I started listening to the music of earlier eras. My sister and I spent summers with our cousins down the road where our Uncle Bill would have folk records spinning on his big Magnavox High-Fidelity stereo cabinet. Dust bowl ballads of Woodie Guthrie, the Irish protest songs of the Dubliners, I started to notice some of the same sentiments that were in the records I played on my Montgomery Ward 'Airline' turntable at home.
Of course the connection was there long before I put the two together. Many of the rockers had been influenced by the earlier folk and blues musicians. For me, the fire had been lit. The history and evolution of musical styles would become an obsession I've still got some forty years later.

Steppenwolf - Renegade
John Kay's autobiographical song. Born on the Baltic Coast behind the Iron Curtain, John Kay and his mother escaped after the death of his father. During their race across the border, one of John's friends was shot by the border guards. He and his mother emigrated to Canada and eventually to the U.S.

Steppenwolf - Snow Blind Friend
Written by Hoyt Axton. Legend has it that John Kay was working as a dishwasher at a club where Hoyt was playing one night. After hearing Hoyt play his song "The Pusher", John Kay said "If I ever have a band, I'm going to do that song". Years later, Hoyt Axton, his wife and new baby were broke and afraid they'd lose their Montana ranch when they received the royalty check for the use of Steppenwolf's "The Pusher" in the movie Easy Rider.

John Kay - Many A Mile
From John Kay's solo lp "Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes".

John Kay - Walkin' Blues
Also from "Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes".

Forget the biker/doper image that comes to mind when you mention Steppenwolf. John Kay knows the blues. Go back and re-listen to your Steppenwolf albums. I know you still have them, and if you don't, go here and get some.


Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Are you ever full of surprizes. The band whose music underscored the beauty of the best American film ever made. I guess Steppenwolf were too subtle to get the royalty treatment reserved in this century for some of their fellow rockers from the hippy days.

Did you ever get to see them Ed? I recount what I can remember of the lone occasion I caught them on my page.

January 08, 2006 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose everyone knows the term "heavy metal" came from the "Born to be Wild" lyrics. Did anyone know, particularly Mr. BnH, that a Canadian named Dennis Edmonton (aka Mars Bonfire) wrote the song?

I liked Steppenwolf for their covers of Hoyt Axton, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, etc. songs and the influence of such greats as Muddy Waters on John Kay's own music and lyrics.

I agree, too, that Ed is verrrrry full of surprises, Yodeling, Dutch Cajuns and Steppenwolf. Throw in some David Bowie and I'll fall out of my bus seat.

January 09, 2006 1:15 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

As a youngster, I liked the rebelious sounds of Steppenwolf. As I mentioned in my post, it was then that I realised they were playing the blues. Their biker image aside, Steppenwolf was one of the best and perhaps most often over-looked blues-rock bands of the '60s and '70s.

January 09, 2006 9:04 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Yes, Mr. BNH, I have been fortunate to have caught them in concert twice. The first time was in 1971, I believe. I have to agree, of all the concerts I have attended, Steppenwolf stands out in my memory. I enjoyed your account of your first Steppenwolf encounter.

January 09, 2006 9:09 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Our Anonymous Friend - yes, that was precisely my point. John Kay was influenced by many American music styles, particularly the blues and honky-tonk. If you listen beyond "Magic Carpet Ride" you find great blues and even country music given a treatment suitable to the audience and the times.

January 09, 2006 9:20 AM  
Anonymous nap said...

Ed you are full of surprises and what a variety show on wheels you have here!

I remember The Wolfpack being somewhere in the Hampton Roads-Norfolk area of Virginia in early 1970 or was it DC? Anyway, I also remember my older brother trying to come up with ticket money and a ride to see the show. He and his band of friends were the mad-men of the concert circuit back then so I'll have to pick his brain (if there are any cells left) to see how that turned out.

I've taken out a loan for more tokens, drive on man!

January 09, 2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

John Kay and a reconstituted Steppenwolf are still a touring band, and as Mr. BNH pointed out, are well worth the time to see.

January 09, 2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

For a different take on Many a Mile, try the Patrick Sky version; he wrote the song in the 60''s and it is on his self-titled album.

January 10, 2006 11:50 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Wow, you're correct Kat. I have that Patrick Sky and had completeley forgotten about it. Thanks!

January 10, 2006 4:28 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home