Friday, July 20, 2018

Steppenwolf – "Born to Be Wild" (1968)

Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

When I was a young attorney at the Federal Trade Commission many years ago, my friends and I got together and played co-ed softball every Thursday night in the summer.

I’m as competitive as the next guy, but these games were strictly for fun.  We tried to divide the people who showed up so the teams were even.  You could play any position you wanted to play.  (I’m left-handed, but I insisted on playing an inning at shortstop each week.)

On occasion, someone who didn’t get what the game was all about would ask what the score was.  “IT’S TIED!” I would respond.

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We drank beer during the game, and when it got to dark to play, we would go to a local neighborhood bar and continue drinking beer.

I had no sense back in those days, and I didn’t know when to stop drinking.  The jukebox at the bar we went to had “Born to Be Wild” on it, and I would punch it upon around midnight, when I was about 99% out of mind.

I loved to accompany the record by drumming on the table, my thighs, or whatever was handy.  I especially loved pounding along with the drum fill that leads into the last verse.  (You can hear that just over two minutes into the song – at the end of the long instrumental break.)

On occasion, I would get a tad rambunctious while helping out Steppenwolf’s drummer, and the proprietor of the bar would ask me politely to SHUT THE F*CK UP OR LEAVE THE BAR.

I miss those softball games. :-(

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“Born to Be Wild” was written by Dennis Eugene McCrohan, who went by the name Dennis Edmonton . . . until he decided to go by the name – are you ready for this? – Mars Bonfire.

Dennis was a Canadian who was a founding member of a band called the Sparrows.  His brother Jerry  joined the band when the original drummer left, followed by singer/songwriter John Kay.   

The Sparrows eventually became Steppenwolf.  Dennis/Mars was never a member of Steppenwolf, but his “Born to Be Wild” – the song that introduced the phrase “heavy metal” to the rock ’n’ roll vernacular – was the band’s first and biggest hit single.  It made it all the way to #2 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart in August 1968, and stayed in that position for three consecutive weeks.

What was the record that kept “Born to Be Wild\” out of the #1 spot?  The Rascals’ “People Got to Be Free” was #1 for five straight weeks – including the three weeks that “Born to Be Wild” was #2.

“People Got to Be Free” is a very good song, but “Born to Be Wild” IS A STICK OF DYNAMITE!  In fact, “Born to Be Wild” is THE stick of dynamite when it comes to rock singles.

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Mars Bonfire wrote several other songs for Steppenwolf, and put out a couple of albums as a solo artist.  But “Born to Be Wild” overshadows everything he ever did musically.

In 2015, he was awarded the “Cultural Impact Award” by the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (“SOCAN”) for writing “Born to Be Wild.”  You best believe SOCAN got that right.

Mars Bonfire
More recently, Mars Bonfire became a prolific hiker and hike leader.  From Men's Journal:

Mars Bonfire launched his music career writing and performing the Steppenwolf hit, "Born to be Wild."  And since his retirement from the music business in 1995, he's actually been spending his time in the wild, devoting himself to hiking the Sierra Club's list of nearly 300 peaks surrounding Los Angeles.  This past November, Bonfire finished checking off every peak on the list — for the 25th time.  The list has varied year to year, but averaged 272 peaks during Bonfire's effort, meaning he hit 6,800 peaks. 

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 Click here to listen to “Born to Be Wild,” a worthy member of the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME. 

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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