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Steppenwolf is a Canadian-American rock group that was prominent in the late 1960s. The group was formed in 1963 in Los Angeles by vocalist John Kay, guitarist Michael Monarch, bassist Rushton Moreve, keyboardist Goldy McJohn and drummer Jerry Edmonton after the dissolution of Toronto group The Sparrows, formed by John Kay in the early 60s, of which only Moreve was not a member.
The band has sold more than 25 million records worldwide, releasing eight gold albums and twelve Billboard Hot 100 singles of which six were Top 40 hits, including three Top 10 successes: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride", and "Rock Me". Steppenwolf enjoyed worldwide success from 1968 to 1974, but clashing personalities led to the end of the core lineup. Today, frontman John Kay is the only original member left, having served as lead singer for 50 years since 1963.
Steppenwolf The name-change from Sparrow to Steppenwolf was suggested to John Kay by Gabriel Mekler, being inspired by Hermann Hesse's novel of the same name. Steppenwolf's first two singles were "A Girl I Knew" and "Sookie Sookie". The band finally rocketed to worldwide fame after their third single "Born to Be Wild" was released in 1968, as well as their version of Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher" and were prominently used in the 1969 cult film Easy Rider (both titles originally had been released on the band's debut album). In the movie, "The Pusher" accompanies a drug deal, and Peter Fonda stuffing dollar bills into his Stars & Stripes-clad fuel tank, after which "Born to Be Wild" is heard in the opening credits, with Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding their Harley choppers through the American West.
The song, which has been closely associated with motorcycles ever since, introduced to rock lyrics the signature term "heavy metal" (though not about a kind of music, but about a motorcycle: "I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racin' with the wind..."). Written by Dennis Edmonton, who had begun using the pen name Mars Bonfire, the song had already reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1968. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
|Steppenwolf - UK Single 1969|
There were several changes in the group's personnel after the first few years. Moreve was fired from the group in 1968 for missing gigs after he became afraid to return to Los Angeles, convinced that it was going to be leveled by an earthquake and fall into the sea. Rob Black filled in for Moreve until former fellow-Sparrow Nick St. Nicholas came aboard. Monarch quit after disagreements with Kay the next year year and was replaced by Larry Byrom, who'd been in TIME with St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas' tenure with the group proved to be brief and he was let go in 1970 after incurring Kay's wrath by showing up onstage in a bunny suit, and playing his bass loudly and out of tune. The above tales were related by Kay in his 1994 autobiography Magic Carpet Ride (co-written with Canadian author John Einarson). George Biondo was then recruited and guitarist Kent Henry replaced Byrom in 1971.
The band broke up in 1972 following the release of another political concept album, For Ladies Only, and Kay went on to an inconsistent solo career, scoring a minor solo hit in 1972 with "I'm Movin' On" from his album Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes.
Kay toured Europe as The John Kay Band in 1972 with Steppenwolf also on the bill, Kay fronting both groups.
Steppenwolf reformed in 1974 with its core lineup of Kay, Edmonton and McJohn, along with longtime bassist Biondo and newcomer Bobby Cochran, Eddie Cochran's nephew. The band signed with Mums Records in retaliation for what Kay perceived as a lack of support by Dunhill Records for his solo album. Their first reunion album was Slow Flux which included their last Top 40 hit, "Straight Shootin' Woman". In February 1975 McJohn was dismissed for what Kay described as a decline in the quality of his performances as well as his epilepsy-induced erratic behavior. McJohn was replaced by Andy Chapin on Hour of the Wolf in 1975, though McJohn appeared in artwork for the single to Caroline (Are You Ready) and claims that his keyboard work can be heard on many of the album's tracks. After the album peaked at No. 155, the band attempted to break up, but the label, now having been absorbed by Epic Records, insisted Steppenwolf record one more album to satisfy their contractual obligations. The ensuing album, Skullduggery (1976), featuring Wayne Cook on keyboards, was released without a tour to support it and Steppenwolf disbanded a second time.
John Kay is a German-Canadian-American rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist known as the frontman of Steppenwolf. He was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat, 12 April 1944, in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany (now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia).
|Steppenwolf - US Single 1968|
He joined a blues rock and folk music group known as The Sparrows in 1965, which had moderate success in Canada before moving to California in the USA, augmenting its line-up and changing its name to Steppenwolf in 1967. With music that pioneered hard rock and heavy metal, Kay's Steppenwolf had international success with songs such as "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride", "Monster", "The Pusher", and "Rock Me". This was multiplied by the use of "Born to Be Wild" and "The Pusher" in the 1969 movie Easy Rider.
Kay recorded both as a solo artist and with Steppenwolf during the late 1970s, and wrapped up Steppenwolf's 40th year of touring with what was to be a final gig in October 2007. However, Kay and Steppenwolf appeared July 24, 2010, at the three-day HullabaLOU music festival in Louisville, Kentucky.
In 2004, although never becoming a Canadian citizen, Kay was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in recognition of the beginnings of his musical career in Toronto. Kay was present at the induction ceremony in Toronto, and reiterated his strong affection for Canada.
Kay suffers from increased sensitivity to light, so he wears his trademark sunglasses. He also has congenital achromatopsia, complete colorblindness, a defect of the cone cells in the eyes which causes him to see in black and white, and results in legal blindness. Despite this condition, he is an avid videographer.
Steppenwolf - 'Live At The Fillmore'
San Francisco, California, USA
*August 27th, 1968 (*on or about)
* John Kay - Vocals, Guitar, Harp
* Michael Monarch - Guitar
* Goldy McJohn - Keyboards
* Rushton Moreve (aka John Russell Morgan) - Bass, Vocals
* Jerry Edmonton - Drums, Vocals
01. Your Wall's Too High 12:50
02. John Kay Remarks 02:01
03. Hoochie Coochie Man 05:51
04. John Kay Remarks 01:09
05. Born To Be Wild 08:03
06. Desperation 06:20
07. The Ostrich 09:13
08. Tighten Up Your Wig 04:19
09. Disappointment Number (Unknown) 04:14
10. Lost And Found By Trial And Error 02:43
11. Hodge Podge, Strained Through A Leslie 10:11
12. Resurrection 04:29
13. Baby Please Don't Go 10:30
14. The Pusher 06:09
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Part 2: Link
Part 1: Link
Part 2: Link