Whether you’re the sort who use the latest air-bud earphones to listen to music while you’re out on the open road, or prefer kicking it the old fashioned way by strapping a boombox to the back, there’s nothing better than having some high-energy rock songs pumping you up as rev up. Here are some of the best tracks out there that can either be perfect when you’re sitting on your bike, or just dreaming of getting onto the open road as soon as possible.
“Born to Be Wild” – Steppenwolf
Let’s just get this one out of the way now. It’s the classic biker song, immortalized in movies like ‘Easy Rider’. John Kay’s gruff singing yearns for the open road (and ‘heavy metal thunder’), but it’s the punching rhythm track that pushes the song forward. As much as the guitar riff gets all the rightful attention, don’t forget that swirling organ underneath it all.
“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” – The Rolling Stones
These guys were never exactly known for their jamming, even though their original rhythm section of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman effortlessly settled into a powerful first half and a groovy second one on this sprawling seven-minute track. That just gives Keith Richards to shine as the riff-monster he is as Mick Jagger yowls about getting together with his baby because he’s jonesin’ for another fix (sounds like a man who’s been reading too many Kensington escort reviews online).
Being desperate never sounded so good, but that’s really just the hard rock appetizer to the back end of the song, where second guitarist Mick Taylor begins to shine. The song morphs into more of a Latin, Santana-style beat, and after a great saxophone solo by Bobby Keys, Taylor takes over and brings it home by making his guitar practically cry. The Stones never bothered playing it live for over thirty years, so the studio version of the classic album ‘Sticky Fingers’ is all you need.
“Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top
Texas is one heck of a large state, and there are plenty of very straight roads that allow you to put the needle in the red. One of Texas’s greatest musical exports is certainly ZZ Top, best known for their hard rock swagger and long beards. The lyrics to ’Sharp Dressed Man’ might not deal with the sort of bloke that will hop right on top of a Harley, but it definitely sounds like a song that could come to life while on a bike.
“Runnin’ With the Devil” – Van Halen
If you could only listen to one band when one your diesel motorcycle, it might just have to be Van Halen. In the late seventies and early eighties, they did monster rock riffs and party music better than anyone. Critics noted that the sound was so big it didn’t really belong in an arena but on an aircraft carrier.
So it should come as no surprise that the first song off their first album is the perfect introduction to them, and a classic for your hog. ‘Runnin’ With the Devil’ is almost a spiritual successor to ‘Born to Be Wild’, with singer David Lee Roth crooning and screaming about life on the road while the guitars, drum and bass behind him thunder perfectly.
While we are only covering songs here, you’ll be forgiven if you just let the album keep running because it goes right into Eddie Van Halen’s immortal guitar solo, ‘Eruption’, which guitar fans are still unpacking to this very day.
“Get Back” – The Beatles
Sure, compared to other bands on this list it’s easy to write the Beatles off as just a really good pop band, but Paul McCartney’s love of hard rock cannot so easily be denied. He was already belting out the heavy stuff in the mid-sixties with ‘I’m Down’, and 1968’s ‘Helter Skelter was a real brain melter that helped inspire heavy metal, but ‘Get Back’ definitely has the best Fab Four groove for riding.
Even if the lyrics are a bit nonsensical, Paul’s bass and Ringo’s drum lock into a great sound, and Lennon and Harrison’s guitars can dance around it the whole time. It wouldn’t be a Beatles tune if you couldn’t, hum it in your sleep, either.
“LA Woman” – The Doors
It begins with the sound of a revving motorcycle engine and just takes off from there. The Doors were always an oddball psychedelic band, as Jim Morrison had the urge to balance out catchy number one hits with extended riffs full of poetry. On this song from their 1970 album of the same name, Morrison combines his talent for all eight minutes while the band backs him up perfectly. The energy to the music rises and falls like when you’re going up and down hills, but when he starts with the ‘mojo risin’, you’ll definitely be pushing past the speed limit.
‘Highway to Hell” – AC/DC
There are many, many AC/DC tracks to choose from, so this was a bit of throwing a dart blindfolded and still hitting a bullseye. “Highway to Hell” is the title track from the last album the band did with their original singer Bon Scott, who died of alcohol poisoning just before they started recording what would become ‘Back in Black’. While that might sound a bit dour, nothing about Scott’s singing on ‘Hell’ would suggest that, as he makes it sound like the Lake of Fire is home to the hottest party anywhere.
“Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes
Simply put, it’s proof that good rock music didn’t end in the previous century. If this track is good enough for hundreds of thousands of sports fans the world over, you can bet it will be right at home in your ears as you trek across the country on your diesel motorcycle.