ROCKIN’ YOUR RIDE
By Wahid Ooi Abdullah
Songs and videos copyright of individual artists
*NOTE: Please listen to music at a safe volume which does not impede on your ability to concentrate on the road and operating the motorcycle safely. Music is beautiful when used as a background when riding, just like in the movies. Better yet, install a Cardo Bluetooth communicator to enjoy your favourite songs as you ride. (Using headphones while riding has been banned in the United States since 1 July 2015.)
You’re out on the open road, warm breeze caressing your body and blows through your helmet. Paddy fields on both flanks, interspersed with rustic kampong houses. You take a deep breath, actually tasting the fresh air. Your heart starts to slow down, the worries in your head suddenly becomes as insignificant as a lonely planet in an infinite universe. The bike purrs beneath you and you start to hum your favorite tune. Or even sing out loud inside your helmet.
As breathtaking as the view could be during your ride, it’s always better, even romantic, when accompanied by a soundtrack. It’s like watching Forrest Gump’s Run Across America, accompanied by some great songs.
Come to think of it, Forrest said “I just felt like running,” we of course, “Just felt like riding.”
Here’s a list of our favorite classic rock songs for riding. We’ve left Despacito at the border, of course.
10. Take It Easy – The Eagles
Voiced by the late Glenn Frey, Take It Easy is an easy (pun unintended) song to get into. It talks about a man’s wish to chill out despite all the troubles hanging over him, kicking off the song with, “Rollin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load, I got seven women on my mind. Four who wanna own me, two who wanna stone me, one who says she’s a friend of mine.” If one woman is already challenging enough…
Cheerful rhythm, upbeat, the song tells us that we’re not the only ones who have mortgages to agonize about. Just like going for a ride.
9. Hot Rod Heart – John Fogerty
Pick almost any of the ex-CCR’s frontman John Fogerty’s (or CCR’s) songs and you couldn’t go wrong, but it doesn’t get anymore apparent in Hot Rod Heart. Fogerty sings, “Big ol’ Harley, and big ol’ moon, big ol’ gator, puttin’ on the zoom, I got a hot rod heart,” this is his homage to America’s fascination with everything automotive and the open road.
Listen to this song anytime you feel down or lack motivation to ride. You’ll be a long way into the countryside before you know it.
8. Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crüe
If you’re wondering about any 80’s rock band who celebrated excesses true to the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll mantra, look further than Motley Crüe. In fact, Motley Crüe ARE sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll! You could probably imagine any form of debauchery but there’s nothing these guys didn’t do.
Bassist Nikki Sixx had been declared dead for two minutes from a heroin overdose, but fortunately, paramedics saved him by injecting two doses of adrenaline, which kickstarted his heart. Consequently, Kickstart My Heart marks the newfound sobriety for Motley Crüe.
The frantic rhythm of the song signifies a life of thrill-seeking.
Be careful when listening to this while riding, for you may find your adrenaline surging, causing you to ride too fast. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
7. Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)
You could be forgiven if you thought it’s a Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) song, because Long Cool Woman was actually written in the style of CCR’s Green River.
The heavy reverb applied to the guitars and vocals conjures up the image of a black and white movie whose story is of an FBI agent who’s sent to investigate a woman and ends up falling in love with her instead, because “She had it all.”
Now we don’t know about you, but we could relate to seeing a beautiful bike and falling in love with at first sight: “With just one look I was a bad mess.”
The stop-start rhythm and distant sounds of the song makes it fun when rumbling down the highway.
6. Turbo Love – Judas Priest
Although not as well-known as Breaking The Law, we feel that Turbo Lover has the beat complete with chugging guitars that compliment riding to a tee.
Rob Halford, the band’s frontman wrote this song with motoring in mind and celebrates 1980s materialism. “From 1980 right through to the grunge movement, all the Porsches, all the turbo engines, everything was larger-than-life,” said Halford in an interview.
Part of the lyrics says, “Then we race together, we can ride forever, wrapped in horsepower, driving into fury,…”
5. Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
The gutsy blues slide-guitar riff and relentless bass line sound like they were born from the internals of a good ol’ American V-Twin. Just as well because lead vocalist and guitarist, Billy Gibbons has a whole collection of classic hot rods and Harleys.
The song talks about how ladies find rich, sharp-dressed men irresistible, but not only in a tux as in the music video. In an interview, bassist Dan Hill said, “Sharp-dressed depends on who you are. If you’re on a motorcycle, sharp leather is great.”
We suck in our cheeks, squint our eyes and roar away on our Big Twin with boot heels in the airflow, every time we hear Sharp Dressed Man. ‘Nuff said.
4. Slow Ride – Foghat
Slow Ride couldn’t be read any other way other than being about lovemaking, and that makes it a rare rock tune to successfully pull off that feat.
Well, riding is somewhat like lovemaking, especially when it’s only you, your bike rumbling between your legs and nothing but the open road. The powerful guitar riff and baseline drives the song to the beat of the engine, that’s for sure.
3. That Smell – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Not as upbeat as the rest in the list but if this song doesn’t drive home the message of drinks and drugs don’t mix with riding, then that oak tree will (pun intended).
Right off the bat, Van Zant attacked, “Whiskey bottles, brand new car, oak tree you’re in my way.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd were about to start a tour when guitarist Gary Rossington bought a Ford Torino(!) which he promptly crashed into a tree after getting drunk. That foolishness rightfully got Ronnie Van Zant and lead guitarist Ed King pissed because they had to postpone their tour. Rossington was fined $5,000.
The dangers of addiction to alcohol and drugs were prevalent throughout the song. Besides the aforementioned whiskey, the band spoke against ludes, blow, coke, needles. The chorus says, “Oooh that smell, the smell of death surrounds you.”
So remember, don’t drink and do drugs and ride. Like ever.
2. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Some called this song racist, some says it’s otherwise, but let’s face it, that tune is just downright fun and will surely brighten our moods. Bossman gets you down? Sing “Boo! Boo! Boo!” on top of your lungs. Or argued with someone who has an ego the size Lake Superior? Sing “Does your conscience bother you?”
Whatever it may be, that opening riff is enough to get our feet dancing. That’s why it’s been featured in countless movies.
1. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
Yes, it’s the favorite song among horror movie makers and nightmare for the church, but the story behind Highway to Hell says otherwise.
Because behind that AC/DC’s signature three-chord romping riff and one-way ride imagery, there’s an underlying message about road safety. Yes, you read that right.
The late Bon Scott described this song about the pub where he and his friends went drinking in, “My friends are gonna be there too.” Outside that very pub was a straight road with, “No stop signs, no speed limits” where many of the patrons blast up after getting smashed, ending in tragedy.
People’s hero and lead guitarist, Angus Young, on the other hand, alluded Highway to Hell to the band’s punishing touring schedule around the United States.
But for whatever conviction you may hold, there’s no escaping the infectious riffs and solo, and Bon Scott’s playful vocals. It may even have you pumping your fist up in the air while riding.
Hell can wait.