Friday on My Mind: Motorcycles and Black Leather Jackets

photo by Jim Bennett

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind the weekly blog post where we look at videos centered around one common theme. This is a collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 News. This Saturday will mark the opening of the Worn to Be Wild exhibit at the EMP Museum. This exhibit pays tribute to the Black Leather Jacket and it’s place in pop culture and our history. In honor of this exhibit, this week we are looking at songs related to motorcycles and black leather jackets.

Beginning this weekend, dozens of leather jackets and artifacts will be on display at the Experience Music Project. The black motorcycle jacket became a pop culture icon and phenomena thanks in part to the movie The Wild One with Marlon Brando. He played a hoodlum, which then led people to associate the black leather jacket and motorcycle riding with being a hoodlum and delinquent. It led to schools trying to ban leather jackets from the dress code which then led kids and people to want the jackets even more. Funny how that works. Parents. Listen to this. Embrace leather jackets, beer, face piercing, and uh, mohawks or whatever looks stupid today.

John Travolta – Greased Lightning

The song is from the 1971 Broadway musical Grease. The stage play was adapted into a movie in 1978. The movie soundtrack became the second bestselling album for 1978. The number one selling album for that year was the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. In 1982 a Grease sequel was released with only a couple of the original cast members and Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead female role. It was one of the most horrible movies ever made. The movie clip features John tossing away his motorcycle jacket so he can dance in a rebelliously choreographed dance number.

Steppenwolf – Born to Be Wild

Released in 1968. The band name came from the title of a Herman Hesse novel. Their other big hits included “Magic Carpet Ride” and “The Pusher”. Every song they ever did obviously had to do with drugs, drugs or motorcycles. Both “The Pusher” and “Born to be Wild” were featured in the film and soundtrack for Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider and it became one of the first instances of a motion picture soundtrack out-selling the actual movie itself. That might have been caused by the fact that while the movie did indeed capture a time and a place in history, it was lacking in things like plot.

The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack

This girl group formed in 1963 while they were still in High School in Queens. Originally they went by the name The Bon Bons. All of their parents gave permission for the underage girls to sign a record deal with a label called Red Bird Records in in 1964. The girls came from a particularly rough neighborhood in Queens and gained a bad girl reputation. Their image was not as innocent or reserved as that of their contemporaries. It’s been said that they influenced punk bands that later emerged during the 70’s including Blondie and the New York Dolls, who snaked the Shangri-La’s lyric, “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L-U-V” for their song ”Looking for a Kiss”. You can find binders full of information on this and many other girl bands.

Honorable Mentions:

Love & Rockets – Motorcycle

This is video that features a motorcycle. Just one motorcycle. Just different shots of one motorcycle. I’m thinking they might look back on that and laugh.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Stop

Black Rebel Motorcycle are included here based on:

A. Their name
B. Well… I was going to say because they wear motorcycle jackets, because they do, but A. is really reason enough for this song and video to be here.

Moby Grape- Motorcycle Irene

From 1968. This movie clip appears to be of a girl in a bikini on a motorcycle being chased by Hell’s Angels. I didn’t finish watching this to see how it ended because in the real world it probably wouldn’t have ended well.

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