Category: steppenwolf

Albums Released In 1968

On this day in music history: May 27, 1968 – “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf is released. Written by Mars Bonfire, it is the third single and biggest hit for the Canadian-American rock band. Originally known as The Sparrows, the band is formed in 1967 lead singer and guitarist John Kay (born Joachim Fritz Krauledat). Initially based near Toronto, Canada, the band move to L.A. in search a record deal. A deal with Columbia Records results in one session, with that material being shelved. They are then signed to Dunhill Records by staff producer Gabriel Mekler, who re-dub them Steppenwolf, after the novel by German author Herman Hesse. By the Fall of 1967, the line up consists of Kay, Goldy McJohn (keyboards), Michael Monarch (guitar, backing vocals), Rushton Moreve (bass, backing vocals) and Jerry Edmonton (drums, backing vocals). Initially, the band begin recording at United Western Studios in Hollywood, but after receiving complaints that they’re too loud, they relocate to American Recording Company on Sunset Blvd. Once settled in the studio with Mekler and recording engineer Richard Podolor (Three Dog Night), Steppenwolf quickly get to work. A mix of originals and covers, they record their first album in only two days. Among those songs is one written by drummer Jerry Edmonton titled “Born To Be Wild”. Originally having a slower tempo, he pens it under the pseudonym “Mars Bonfire”, taking “Bonfire” from a highway billboard. Initially offering it to another band, Steppenwolf decide to record it, changing the arrangement. In October of 1967, Dunhill releases their first single “A Girl I Knew”, which does not chart. It is followed in February of 1968 by the band’s cover of Don Covay’s “Sookie Sookie” which also misses the Hot 100. With Steppenwolf’s self titled debut album also released by this time, Dunhill pulls a third single titled “Everybody’s Next One” with “Born To Be Wild” placed on the B-side. At first there is little interest from radio in “Everybody’s”, when DJ Reb Foster of radio station KRLA begins playing “Born To Be Wild” instead. Within weeks, “Wild” becomes the A-side by default. Entering the Hot 100 at #70 on July 13, 1968, it rockets to #2 six weeks later on August 24, 1968. The first rock song to coin the term “heavy metal”, “Born To Be Wild” becomes a biker and counterculture anthem. A status that is further immortalized when actor and director Dennis Hopper uses the song in the iconic film “Easy Rider” the following year. “Wild” is widely covered, with versions by Slade, Link Wray, Etta James, Blue Öyster Cult, and Status Quo to name a few. Steppenwolf’s original recording has been used in numerous other films and television shows, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002. “Born To Be Wild” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 30, 1968 – “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf is released. Written by John Kay and Rushton Moreve, the single is the follow up to the bands’ breakthrough smash “Born To Be Wild”. The original 45 version of the song features an alternate lead vocal by John Kay that differs significantly from the stereo LP mix which has a longer running time (4:25 as opposed to the 45 edit running 2:55), and is the version commonly heard today. The song is featured extensively in films and television programs over the years, and today is regarded as one of the quintessential songs of the 60’s. The original mono master tape containing the single version of “Ride” is destroyed in the early 70’s, when Dunhill Records’ parent label ABC dumps all of their mono masters into a landfill. This is carried out when then label president Jay Lasker believes they are of no use or value, following the rise in popularity of stereo recordings in the late 60’s. The original single mix appears on the first volume of radio DJ Dick Bartley’s “On The Radio” oldies CD compilation series in 1997. With the original master tape no longer in existence, it is mastered from a clean original 45 vinyl pressing. “Magic Carpet Ride” peaks at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 30, 1968, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.