Philadelphia, PA – Early 1970s
When I set down to write this piece it was going to be about my most beloved rock band, Aerosmith. But as I began I realized you just can’t jump right into Aerosmith. I realized for me it was an acquired taste that I grew to love. So I started to write about the band that inspired the type of music I would always love. Hard rock and eventually Heavy Metal. It’s a musical progression.
So now it’s about these guys. It’s like, you’ve got to love a Farrah Fawcett before you can truly love an Alessandra Ambrosio.
(Don’t worry. I’ll get to the Boys from Boston next.)
When I was a kid, the first time I heard hard rock was probably the song, Born to be Wild, by the band Steppenwolf. My father had an 8-track player in the glove compartment of his 1969 VW Minibus. (Which later became mine and I drove that beast to California) He had an 8-track cassette of the soundtrack to the film Easy Rider. The album would open with Steppenwolf’s song, The Pusher, and then you’d hear the roar of motorcycle engines, and then it would go into Born to be Wild. I remember bouncing up and down in the seat beside my Dad rocking out to the sheer fury of that song. No other song that I had ever heard in my life up to that point made me feel that way.
My father also had Iron Butterfly’s record, In A Gadda Da Vida. Iron Butterfly’s sound was heavy and more psychedelic, but this Steppenwolf song was on fire. I was maybe 9 years old at the time. Something about the energy and power of the song and its lyrics really moved me.
It was almost as if that was what my soul sounded like.
Screaming in silence to escape.
We were out as a family one night. Probably stopping at a store after eating at Burger Chef on Cottman Avenue in Northeast Philly. The store was called Korvette’s. I suppose you could compare it to maybe Kmart of their day. I remember they had an abundance of electrical appliances. Record players, radios, TVs, etc. They’re out of business now but very popular in the mid 20th century.
So we’re in the store and I see some records (Vinyl, LPs) in a rack. There was one that really caught my eye. It had a photo of a real wolf’s face that took up the whole cover. That LP was entitled, “Steppenwolf Live.” It was a double album! It had Born to be Wild on it and The Pusher, but it had a bunch of other songs I’d never heard. The best part was it only cost $3.99! My mom was a big believer in if you like that one song so much you should probably get the whole record to hear what more of their music sounds like.
I love you, Mom.
She bought me that record and I went home and listened the shit out of the album. I turned all of my close friends on to Steppenwolf’s music and still love all of their work to this day. They marked me deeply and forever. This band shaped the type of music that would speak to my soul and inspire me to make music.
Thank you, John Kay and the rest of you guys. You’ve brought me 50 years of joy!
That’s producer, Phil Spector! That crazy bastard!
If you have a chance, check out the film, Easy Rider. It doesn’t hold up all that well over time but is a solid work that sort of is a final signature to the sixties. Altamont, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, the Manson murder all signaled that the summer of love was long over.
While searching for the above video I came across a few cover versions of the song. Here’s one that caught my eye, but not so much my ear. About 30 seconds in I turned the audio off on this one and put the original back on! Enjoy!
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