I was wondering how many songs there were about bicycles versus those about cars, which has lead to an interesting virtual excursion today. Songs about cars far outnumber those about bikes for obvious reasons. Cars have long represented status, freedom and power in our society and are also the best way to pick up chicks—the fundamental reason why musicians write songs in the first place.
A brief selection of car-related songs (just off the top of my head):
The Beatles: “Baby You Can Drive My Car; Jimi Hendrix: “Crosstown Traffic”; Prince: “Little Red Corvette” and Mack Rice: “Mustang Sally”
Two more that immediately come to mind are from Jamiroquai lead singer, Jay Kay, a self-proclaimed car fanatic who likes to appear on the BBC’s Top Gear. The songs are: “Black Devil Car” and “Cosmic Girl.” While the lyrics to “Cosmic Girl” make no mention of cars, the song’s video did feature a purple Lamborghini. Now, that’s one leading lady who’s not gonna bitch about the wind messing up her hair…
Here’s a picture of Jay:
But back to bikes. There are a few rare moments when bikes have managed a level of coolness to rival cars, in my opinion. The first that comes to mind is the romantic scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Paul Newman steers Katherine Ross on his handlebars to the tune “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” No woman in her right mind could have refused a young Paul Newman, even if he’d arrived on a rocking chair.
Another bicycle classic is Queen’s “Bicycle Ride” because of its music video showcasing a dozen naked ladies racing 10-speeds on an outdoor racetrack. Yes, that’s right, naked bicycle riding. I wonder if shooting such a video was considered risqué in the decadent 70s. Probably not. Most likely, the video was the product of a last minute, late-night brainstorming session that included copious amounts of illegal substances, including marijuana for breakfast.
You gotta love the concept:
There’s also “The Bike Song” by producer Mark Ronson, who is being risqué by not wearing a helmet as he cycles around Paris with a subwoofer attached to his bike. Ronson, always hyper cool, probably wanted to avoid squashing his prattish-looking peroxide blond quiff with something so pedestrian as a helmet. But I’m still willing to give him points for this.
Here’s the Ronster on his bike:
Finally, Pink Floyd’s “Bike” from 1967 is really crap, but it’s the Floyd…
A few more: “Bicycle” by James Taylor’s brother, Livingston Taylor, a Brazilian ditty, Bicicleta and Cycling Trivialities by Jose Gonzalez show that bike songs have the capacity to go global.
All said, bicycles don’t make for catchy, sexy tunes yet. Compare “I’m gonna ride my bike until I get home,” from Ronson to Prince’s “Move over baby, give me the keys, I’m gonna tame your little red love machine.” No contest. I would like to encourage musicians to create a cycling anthem that kicks ass and doesn’t sound like it’s ready to be piped into a nursing home.
As a bike lover, I am in a quandary. While I would prefer it if everyone adopted a bike, go-kart or whatever it took to lessen our environmental impact (because for millennia, humans got on perfectly fine without cars), cars do have a large cool factor over bikes, particularly in music. So c’mon, musicians, put your thinking caps (or helmets) on…