From The Doors to Creedence Clearwater Revival to Motorhead, the greatest rockers have always been inspired by the open road. Just try and listen to Steppenwolf’s thunderous “Born to Be Wild” and not immediately want to rev up a motorcycle and cascade down the nearest highway to nowhere.
But rock ‘n’ roll songs about riding motorcycles have often missed a crucial ingredient: safety. “Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf screamed, but they also sang “I never wanna die” in the very same song, which is just as important a mantra to have.
From remembering the importance of conditions on the road to enjoying time with friends, Rolling Stone AU/NZ has collected five songs that offer practical safety advice for riders.
And before you ask: yes, they’re also great tunes too.
Crowded House – “Weather With You”
What was Crowded House’s obsession with the weather all about?
“Weather With You”. “Four Seasons in One Day”. Those pop rockers loved seasonal songwriting. On the former song, the highlight of their 1991 album Woodface, Crowded House cried, “Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you.”
For any rider, this lyric contains seriously sound advice: checking weather conditions that are optimal for driving are hugely important when you’re planning a day on the road.
Who wants to be on a bike in the pouring rain anyway?
Coldplay – “Yellow”
“Yeah, they were all yellow… And it was all yellow.”
Ok, Chris Martin was definitely singing about the stars and, more broadly, melancholy, but his mellow lyrics are also wise words for riders hitting the road at night.
When you’re winding down a quiet country road after midnight, when the sky is pitch black and the street lights are few in number, being prominently seen is paramount.
That all-black leather outfit you like so much? Leave that for another time. You’ve got to wear garish yellow. Get hi-vis. Sacrifice fashion. Safety is sexy.
AC/DC – “Highway to Hell”
You knew this one was coming.
Making a list of riding songs without hard rock’s finest is akin to sacrilege. One of their timeless classics, “Highway to Hell” may be a rollicking ride, full of battering guitars and howling vocals, but the Australian band actually wrote the song about their gruelling touring schedule during the late ‘70s.
It’s a subtle reminder, then, to know your limits on the road.
“Livin’ easy” and “Lovin’ free” are all fine and well, but when the highway’s edging closer to “Hell”, wherever that is for you, remember to take your foot off the pedal.
Relax. Don’t let the road defeat you.
Twisted Sister – “Ride to Live, Live to Ride”
As we’ve seen, so many songs have glorified the untamed freedom of being on your bike on the road, but M.I.A. was wrong: “Live fast, die young” would not be a prime example of “bad girls” doing “it well.”
Twisted Sister’s sane title puts it better. If motorcycle riding is what you live for, your primal passion, that’s excellent, but make sure you’re alive to do it. St Peter doesn’t allow Yamahas past the Pearly gates.
Willie Nelson – “On the Road Again”
A beautiful song to conclude the list. For all the fire and freedom of other motorcycle anthems, Nelson’s country classic arguably captures the spirit of the road best.
“I can’t wait to get on the road again / Goin’ places that I’ve never been,” he excitedly growls.
The joy of the road has never sounded sweeter or simpler, and Nelson’s song will have you planning the next leisurely ride with your friends in no time.