Top Ten Motorcycle Songs

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John Doe – “Beer, Gas, Ride Forever”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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We can probably agree on the title “Beer, Gas, Ride Forever.” John Doe, one of the founders of the famed LA punk band X, starred in the film Roadside Prophets for which this song plays over the opening credits.

The quizzical movie follows Doe aboard his ‘57 Harley-Davidson Panhead on a quest to bury a friend’s remains in the legendary city of El Dorado. Along the way Doe takes on a sidekick, Beastie Boys frontman, Adam Horowitz, riding a clapped out, old Triumph. Humorous cameo appearances include Arlo Guthrie (see #4), Timothy Leary, David Carradine, John Cusack and Flea.

The song speaks the ubiquitous understanding among motorcyclists of escaping hardship aboard two wheels: “Never had kids, lost my wife/All I got left is this damn motorcycle.” The blue collar tune is classic Americana music and lyrics, and when you boil motorcycling down to the essentials – Beer, Gas, Ride Forever – what more do you need?

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  • octodad

    Richard Thompson is best. lou reed is good but not equal to 52 Vincent…

    • Evans Brasfield

      I knew when writing this list that there would be tons of ways that people would disagree with my choices. RT’s song is one of the greats, anyway.

      • octodad

        you are right, always room for accommodation. it is the RT song that touches me. a perfect vocal and the line about red hair and black leather gets me every time.

      • Kevin

        Did you pen this with the intent to stir controversy, or what?

        • Evans Brasfield

          I penned this in hopes that it would inspire discussion that would lead me to discovering new motorcycle songs. Music, like the motorcycle we choose to ride, is such a personal choice that there is absolutely no way to accommodate everyone in a mere ten songs.

    • Arlo Sween

      “‘I see angels on Ariels,
      In leather and chrome,
      Swoopin’ down from Heaven
      To carry me home.’
      And he gave her one last kiss and died.
      And he gave her his Vincent…
      to ride.”
      Verkelmmt to the max.

      If angels on Ariels (Square Fours, no doubt), are coming to get me; I won’t mind going. Any time, ladies.

      • octodad

        you got it daddy. great quote. ever hear James Harman, “Night Ridin’ Daddy”, or how about your cousin A. Guthrie, “Motorcycle Song”? an aside, did you see “Why We Ride”? worth checking out….

  • webheadwilks

    Neil Young’s Motorcycle Mama. Check out Popa Chubby playin’ it. Yunz missed it.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Motorcycle Mama was on the list until the very last cut. It was a hard decision.

      • johnnybegud

        How about Michael Parks’ ” Long Lonesome Highway”???

        • Kevin

          Hope Brasfield offers a response to this as his piece on how motorcycling “saved his life” brought back memories of Then Came Bronson.

          • Evans Brasfield

            Great song. The reason it’s not included is embarrassingly simple. I forgot about this song. Growing up an a non-motorcycling family, I didn’t get to watch “Then Came Bronson.”

          • Kevin

            I gave a little thought to it and decided you would have been a tad too young (like about 3 to 5 yrs. old) for the program.

  • fastfreddie

    Thank god you left out the mess of a cliche song I dreaded seeing here.You all know what song I’m talking about.

    How about Julian Cope’s ‘East easy rider’?

    • Evans Brasfield

      I totally forgot about “East Easy Rider!” I haven’t listened to that album in years, and now, I know what I’ll be listening to while working today.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      • Evans Brasfield

        Holy crap! According to iTunes, the last time I listened to Peggy Suicide (and hence, “East Easy Rider”) was 10/4/06 at 11:37 PM. Cueing it up now…

        • fastfreddie

          I’m not a huge fan of Julian Cope-abit out there some of his songs are,but when he gets it right,he gets it right.

    • clasqm

      There’s a conspiracy of silence about that cliche song.

      • Evans Brasfield

        I was pretty overt in my reason for excluding the song, no?

        • clasqm

          There’s a worse one. OK, I’ll be the one to break the circle. It starts with “Leader”.

          • Evans Brasfield

            FWIW, that song was never even considered for the article. It didn’t even make the initial, long list.

  • jihelle

    Non, non, non !!! Where were you guys when Serge Gainsbourg was revisiting “Easy Rider” using Brigitte Bardot as his tool of trade ? “Je ne crains personne en Harley Davidson” (I fear no one riding a Harley Davidson” is the BEST motorcycle song ever . Period (and being French doesn’t make me partial)
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xoqwn_harley-brigitte-bardot_news

    • Kevin

      No, it is NOT!

  • clasqm
    • Evans Brasfield

      Love those strobe lights!

    • Mikenc1515

      Clasqm,
      Being an American teenager in love with Grand Prix racing in the early 80′s, I loved this movie because back then it was hard to see any Grand Prix coverage. Today when I can see every race on TV or on the internet, maybe I don’t love ‘Silver Dream Machine’ movie quite so much. ;) But thanks for this vid and the flashback.

  • clasqm

    Since songs get on the list based on the flimsiest association, here’s another one. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RdIAUTv8BOo

  • Mikenc1515

    I’m not much on Top Ten lists created by one person’s opinion, but this was still worth reading and listening too. Some good songs on here, some not so good and some I’ve never heard of. Thanks for broadening my horizons. I’m not trying to offend, but from your list, I would guess you are older gentlemen, but I admit I could be wrong…. on the gentlemen front. ;) I would classify this as an older rider’s Top 10. How about a younger generation list? I qualify for neither, but since you are wanting to open up discussion and perhaps broaden your own horizons…

    just an excerpt of Redline’s ‘King of the Mountian’
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GncT8b8HOVc

    couldn’t find a youtube vid but you can sample on amazon. Song is better than the sample portrays, in my opinion. The Sparklers ‘Motorcycle’
    http://www.amazon.com/Motorcycle/dp/B003A9J5IG

    The Isle by Phil Fuson
    http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2010/Nov/101124-the-isle-by-p.htm

    I can’t classify any of these as the best since they probably aren’t well known, but listen and enjoy… or hate.

    –Mike

    • Evans Brasfield

      Thanks for the links! I’ve watched/listened to all the songs posted in the comments and, after much thought, have begun to think that I would change one of my choices. Mostly, it’s just been good to hear more motorcycle music.

      In answer to your query, how old I am depends on what your odometer reads. When I was in my 20s, I thought that 51 was _really old_, but now that I’m 51, it turns out not to be that old after all. Now, the gentleman part? Well, that’s another story…

      • Mikenc1515

        Evan,
        Thanks for taking my joke and not be offended. Actually, I am only about 3 ticks behind you on the old odometer, but hopefully we both have plenty of gas in the tank. ;)

  • Reid

    Saxon, “Motorcycle Man.”

  • David Hartsock

    Joe Satriani – Ride http://youtu.be/1BOZ6Wm-vPU

  • MICK

    IT JUST SHOWS HOW FEW SONGS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT BIKES IF THAT PILE OF SHITE IS THE BEST THAT YOU CAN FIND, UNBELIEVABLE !

    • Evans Brasfield

      Come on, Mick. Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

  • HTBob

    Really???? You couldn’t find anywhere in this list to include “Roll Me Away” by Bob Seger????

  • Tom Conley

    No matter how many times I hear Richard Thompson sing this song, I always get shivers up my spine and I wanna jump on my bike. Too bad it’s -8 right now!

  • Chuck Holdsworth

    What about David Wilcox’s “Eye of the Hurricane” Try not to cry. http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/106568/

  • Guest

    Top 10 and now Bob Seger.. what’s up with that..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vbStUJ6UyI

  • Hogtied

    Top 10 motorcycle songs and no Bob Seger … Sorry.. I don’t agree …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vbStUJ6UyI

  • Thomas Kreutzer

    Great subject for an article. I’m just going to throw out Judas Priest’s Hell Bent For Leather and Sammy Hagar’s Bad Motorscooter

  • Andy Hawkes

    What about NeilYoungs Unknown Legend?

  • Greg Greet

    Good choice!

  • Keith T Robinson

    Shangri La’s – Leader of the Pack is hands down no. 1. http://youtu.be/qf5_2ibBuw8

    close second from 1955 – The Cheers- Black Denim Trousers

    http://youtu.be/OGNBBZDRqFo

  • hobie
  • John
  • PreachJohn

    I read thro’ the 45 Comments presently here and frankly was surprised that Orbison’s Ride Away wasn’t mentioned. If so, my apologies in advance…I missed it.
    Few ballads as beautifully capturing this quintessence of motorcycling, that for a lot of us only kicks in at some poignantly painful times in our lives.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNFzr8RX9hM