Friday, July 13, 2018

50 years ago: Steppenwolf charted with “Born to Be Wild”

Born to Be Wild

Steppenwolf

Writer(s): Mars Bonfire (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 13, 1968


Peak: 2 US, 2 CB, 2 HR, 1 CL, 18 UK, 11 CN, 20 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 97.0 video, 282.48 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

An entire genre of music owes its name to this song RS500 – even though “Born to Be Wild” wasn’t heavy metal (it is too fast and complex) TC and the phrase wasn’t original to Steppenwolf. In his 1962 novel The Soft Machine, William Burroughs used the phrase “Heavy Metal Kid” to describe his character Uranian Willy, explaining to The Paris Review that it was “sort of the ultimate expression of addiction…that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as mineral.” SF

Dennis Edmonton, who was a former member of Sparrow and the brother of Steppenwolf drummer Jerry Edmonton wrote the song under the pseudonym Mars Bonfire. AMG Inspired by a motorcycle poster with the slogan “Born to Ride,” he crafted this classic with the phrase “heavy metal” describing the roar of a motorcycle. TB

The song achieved iconic status when Dennis Hopper used it for the film Easy Rider. RS500 Originally Peter Fonda asked Crosby, Stills & Nash to soundtrack the film, RS500 but “Born to Be Wild” perfectly captured the movie’s “spirit of rebelliousness and freedom.” TC

Driven by “John Kay’s growling vocals” AMG and that “chugging guitar and swirling organ” TC the song which started life as a ballad AMG not only has “one of the great, greasy riffs in rock” TC but has become “a slice of ‘60s revolt” AMG which come to be “associated with motorcycle clubs in particular and outlaw behavior in general.” TC Now it is a song “that practically screamed to be blasted out of car radios while driving at radar-triggering speeds.” AMG


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Steppenwolf AMG All Music Guide review by Hal Horowitz
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Pages 763-4.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/2004). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 104.

Last updated 4/30/2021.

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