[I originally wrote much of this as a comment to a YouTube video put out by BigBadWolfMoto. His link is below. Go check him out and give him some love. After reading my own response, I thought, "I should put that on the blog". so...]
When the subject of listening to music on the bike came up, a buddy of mine scoffed, "Life doesn't have a soundtrack!". Being the peacemaker that I am, I decided it wasn't really time to boast about my favorite music to listen to when I'm riding. In the grand scheme of things, it's not important enough to argue over. I had no problem if he didn't want to listen to music. That was his prerogative. And I have mine.
I know there are a lot of people who don't do music on the bike. Some, like my buddy, consider it impure. Unclean! I'm not trying to change their minds, if I even could. Not my job, man. For some, it's too much of a distraction. I only get really distracted if I allow myself to start working out how to play stuff that I'm listening to. Then I'm completely gone. Can't do that. As a side note, I wonder if similar lines can be drawn to people at work who can or can't listen to music when they're trying to concentrate on something else. Or, for that matter, people who listen to music while they sleep. Some can. Some can't. Is it driven by the same mechanism? And then.. is there some other trait that coincides that one? I'm not saying that people who can't listen to music and concentrate are all potential serial killers. But are there other, less significant patterns to be seen? Perhaps the gov't should start a study and pay me to ride all over the country listening to music and I can report back to them on how I feel all the time. Just thinking outside the box here.
It's almost easier to pick what's not biker music.. or "riding music". One Direction. The Beibs. Hanson. Kesha. I'm going to say that, by popular vote, they don't qualify. I imagine that, statistically, someone is out there jamming down the road to the dulcet tones of Rhianna but.. I think riding society as a whole has leaned toward, "no".
Every time I hear Born To Be Wild, I just want to punch myself in the face. It's a great song but, when it comes to motorcycles, I don't think it gets any more cliche. Nearly every dress-up wannabe weekend badass on a big touring Harley has Born To Be Wild on his playlist. You can hear it blasting out of their speakers as they go past you on the sunny days. Most "biker" cover bands can belt it out without breaking a sweat. Walk into a Harley dealership and there's a good chance it'll play over the radio before you leave. I have to wonder how many bits of video there are out there in the world with BTBW playing over motorcycles. If they were food, we could all eat forever. It's not that I don't appreciate Mr. Kay and Crew. Magic Carpet Ride is a good time. (There's a Philip Stier Mix out there that's pretty great.) Renegade from Steppenwolf 7 starts playing and life gets all "ridey"-like.. and that's true of most of the album cuts. I'm not sure why Ride With Me isn't THE token Steppenwolf biker song. It's got "Ride With Me" right in the title! Steppenwolf is good music but can't we pass a law or something about BTBW?
Pretty much anything from the late 60s/early 70s comes on and I can't help but get nostalgic for a time I wasn't really part of (you know.. being a young kid and all). You know.. a little Ten Years After. Maybe even some Sly and The Family Stone. Let's not forget old Motown.I twist the throttle, lean back and ponder, "This must have been what it was like.. sorta". I wonder about the other guys who were on their chops and (sans bluetooth and iPhone) listened to the same thing playing in their head. Did they have the draft hanging over their heads as they slid down the highways? Were they were the ones who made it back? Where were their heads at? At least they didn't have to worry about texting drivers. The only reality show was the one they lived. And the freedom of the open road was more than a marketing campaign launched by corporate executives.
Johnny Cash is a little cliche but still a good time. There's a simplicity in Cash music that lends itself to being "biker music". It's not so much a matter of rebellion as a story of a working man being a working man with all the associated ups and downs, trials and triumphs that come along with it. Cash music is "real" in a way that seems to align with the biker heart... with, perhaps, a little rebellion thrown in here and there. Of course, you could add a little Hank Jr., David Allen Coe and maybe some Hank Sr. to the playlist.
Feeling a little more hyped up and looking for something a little more aggressive? Nothing like a little Rammstein or Kid Rock to put some adrenaline to it. Maybe some Dream Theater and, of course, AC/DC. (Just don't be fooled. You'll ride a lot differently listening to Rage Against The Machine than you will listening to James Taylor. Sometimes, you have to know your musical limits too and adjust accordingly. Always be safe. The goal is to ride tomorrow too. Aggressive riding and traffic rarely mix.)
Can life have a soundtrack? I was heading back to Charleston from North Carolina early one Sunday morning a few years ago and this back road had little to no traffic. In 30 miles, I might have seen 2 cars. The Summer sun was almost breaking the trees and there was still a little mist in the air... just enough to soften the light rays poking through the branches. I was in no particular hurry as I rode through the gentle curves that followed the roadway. Green tree branches reached toward the road as if to extend an arm and say, "Right this way, my friend". The temperature was absolutely perfect on what felt like a ride to Heaven. I only had one option and put on a little classical music and my soundtrack was complete as I rode along accompanied only by my bike and my angel.
Does life have a soundtrack? Perhaps. Sometimes you have to throw on a little Rick James. Maybe Rush's 2112. And.. sometimes.. you have to turn it all off and struggle with your own thoughts while the wind and your exhaust play the accompaniment. In those times when I'm wound up and I have to ride just to sooth the storm that can build inside of me, I've sometimes found that even riding my favorite roads can't twist that pressure valve open. In my experience, turning everything off and just letting my inner voice babble and/or rage over the sound of my motorcycle is the only way to clear me head and calm the beast. At those moments, that is the soundtrack.. with lots of speaking parts. (Sometimes, I have a hard time following the plot.)
Life's soundtrack comes in a lot of different forms. But when it's all said and done, I'm a firm believer in freedom. Listen to music. Don't listen to music. I don't care. It's not my job to sell you on one way or the other. Whatever works for you. I can tell you what I like and why I like it. If we disagree, I'm okay with that too. It's your soundtrack. I'll still ride with you... even if you're listening to BTBW.
Since you're not riding right now (hopefully).. go check out BigBadWolfMoto's YouTube channel and show him some love. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6LebWcbiGHnW5zoKBZmuVQ.
Tell him I sent you.