Don't let those thunderclouds fool you: That low rumbling you hear in the distance is the Lone Star Rally, the state's largest gathering of bikers, absolutely terrorizing the good people of Galveston. Until the last chopper rolls out on Sunday evening, the Island will be ground zero for bandanas and burned rubber as every motorcycle enthusiast within two-wheeler range descends to witness the eye-popping parade of hundreds of thousands of Harleys, Hondas and more.
Heavy bikes and rock and roll have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship since the genre's earliest days, with the loud, reckless nature of the machines proving a perfect fit for rock's restless rebellion. Some of history's greatest rock songs are inspired by roaring down the open road, and some of history's best rides were inspired by wailing on a Marshall stack. It's been a simpatico love affair since day one.
To prepare our most leather-clad readers for the insanity down south, Rocks Off has prepared the perfect playlist for bombing down I-45 while the wind whips your ass. Each song was chosen to reflect the daredevil, outlaw spirit inside every biker, from weekend warriors to the one-percenters. Juice up before the ride or blast these tunes on the way; we ain't your daddy. But when you kickstart that beast, just remember to take a little advice from .38 Special: Hold on loosely, but don't let go.
10. AC/DC, "Highway to Hell" If ever there was a singer to revel in the live-fast, die-young spirit that seems to inexorably draw people into zooming around on two wheels, it was noted motorcycle enthusiast Bon Scott. No stop signs or speed limits could ever slow down the AC/DC front man, no matter what kind of consequences might await at his final destination.
To great irony, Scott passed away from excessive partying about a year after this song was released in 1979, and by all accounts is now happily reaping the rewards of having paid his dues to Satan for years. Short though his life was, it's hard to condemn a man who took such obvious glee in his own one-way trip to rock and roll immortality.
9. Iggy Pop, "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" While we prefer Iggy Pop's version of this one, this classic single has been covered by everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Joan Jett since its release by Johnny O'Keefe on July 5, 1958 -- a date considered by many to be the birthdate of Australian rock and roll. The reason? It's an elegantly simple ode to rock rebellion that sounds better and better the louder you play it. Crank it up and get wild on the Strand.
8. Suicide, "Ghost Rider" Proto-punk duo Suicide translated '50s roadhouse rock into this spare, electronic masterpiece on their debut album back in 1977. Alan Vega's characteristically haunting vocals capture perfectly a sense of young, angsty unrest that can only be cured by firing up the hog and laying down rubber on a long roadtrip out of your own mind, toward that desperate edge where motorcycle heroes dwell.
Try Rollins Band's crushing, heavy-metal cover version for less ambiguous pleasures.
7. The Doors, "Riders on the Storm" Not every biker classic need rattle your brain out of your skull. Sixties shaman Jim Morrison rarely sounded more mysterious than on this dark and gentle portrait of dread on the open road. According to songwriter Robby Krieger, it was inspired by another biker classic: "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend," originally recorded by Burl Ives(!) and eventually covered by the likes of Elvis and Johnny Cash.
One of the Doors' best-loved classics, "Riders" is ideal for setting a mood of contemplative calm before setting out on a journey into the seductive anonymity of highway travel on high-powered death machine.
6. Motley Crue, "Girls, Girls, Girls" The Crue may have traded in their eyeliner and ripped spandex for motorcycle leathers on 1987's Girls, Girls, Girls album, but they proved sleazier than ever on its strip-club classic of a title track. The Strand may be a long ways away from the Sunset Strip, but the cyclists swarming Galveston this weekend will surely relate to this big, dumb exhortation to cruise around and check out all the flesh on display.
If this song isn't played at least once during a Jell-O wrestling match, the Rally will have to be considered a failure.
5. Meatloaf, "Bat Out of Hell" The ultimate escape: That's how millions of bikers view their passion. Meatloaf and songwriter Jim Steinman tapped into that mythos on the stunning cover to the singer's 1977 rock opera, Bat Out of Hell, which features a fallen angel blasting out of the grave on a V-Twin rocket.
The album's epic, nine-minute namesake single tells the story of a young dude tearing ass away from the responsibilities of adulthood "faster than any other boy has ever gone," only to miss that sudden curve ahead. Thanks to rollicking piano and perfect lead guitar work from producer Todd Rundgren, a fatal crash never sounded more cathartic.
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4. Judas Priest, "Heading Out to the Highway" Back in the '80s, most fans were oblivious to the fetishistic overtones of Judas Priest singer Rob Halford's ultra-macho leather daddy look, even though he was wearing enough cowhide to outfit an entire outlaw M.C. and riding a Harley onstage every night.
Although Priest's leather fixation certainly provided an outlet for Halford's personal kinks, he was also a true motorbike aficionado who well knew the lure of rumbling power between his legs. If you plan to have any fun in a lifestyle defined by risk, you've got to take a your chances before you fall.
3. Bob Seger, "Roll Me Away" Blue-collar icon Bob Seger is sometimes better associated with the steel muscle of his native Detroit than with the V-Twin thunder of Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson, but he turned in a doozy of a biker anthem on 1983's The Distance.
"Gotta keep rollin, gotta keep ridin'/Keep searchin' till I find what's right," rasps the singer in a classic seeker's tale, looking for answers in the abandon of speed and distance. Like more than a few iron horsemen, Seger may just be searching for a woman who can keep up.
2. The Allman Brothers Band, "Midnight Rider" One of Southern rock's greatest tributes to the outlaw lifestyle, "Midnight Rider" brilliantly captures a certain desperation to outrun life that any biker would understand. In a sad twist, bandleader Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident a little over a year after the song was released on 1970's Idlewild South. Catch the midnight wind in your ear just right, and you can still hear his indelible guitar playing all up and down the highways and back roads of the South.
1. Steppenwolf, "Born to Be Wild" Surprise! There can be no honest discussion of bike rock without the inclusion of "Born to be Wild." No rock and roll tune in history is more closely associated with motorcycles, dating back to its inclusion on the Easy Rider soundtrack in 1969. Driven by a pulsing, down-picked guitar riff, this exquisite bit of heavy metal thunder has been since used in a trillion or so soundtracks, becoming the universal shorthand for biker cool and the freedom of the open road.
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