Steppenwolf

Born to Be Wild

Song Review by

The third single released from Steppenwolf's debut album (behind the pop "The Girl I Knew" and a raucous cover of Don Covay's R&B "Sookie Sookie," which the band performed in their first incarnation as Sparrow), the group hedged their bets on "Born to Be Wild," not identifying it as an A-side on the initial radio station 45 which paired it with "Everybody's Next One." Regardless, it didn't take long for program directors to get swept up in that nasty opening guitar riff and chugging organ that practically screamed to be blasted out of car radios while driving at radar-triggering speeds. Written as a slower ballad by Dennis Edmonton -- a former member of Sparrow and Steppenwolf drummer Jerry Edmonton's brother -- under the pseudonym Mars Bonfire, the rearranged song entered the charts at number 70 and in the course of seven weeks motored straight to number two in August of 1968, held from the top spot by the Rascals' "People Got to Be Free." Not quite the precursor to heavy metal music some claim even though it coined the term in the lyrics "I like smokin' lightening, heavy metal thunder," the song found even a wider biking audience when Dennis Hopper used it prominently (along with "The Pusher," another track from the group's debut) in his popular 1969 counterculture film Easy Rider. A roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock led by John Kay's growling vocals, it remains a timeless radio classic as well as a slice of '60s revolt that at once defines Steppenwolf's sound and provided them with their shot at AM immortality.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Steppenwolf 1968 MCA 3:28
Easy Rider [Music from the Soundtrack] 1969
Various Artists
MCA 3:37
Max Weinberg Presents: Let There Be Drums, Vol. 2 - The 60's 196?
Various Artists
Rhino 3:30
Gold: Their Great Hits 1971 Dunhill Compact Classics
16 Greatest Hits 1973 MCA 3:30
Magic Carpet Ride 1985 MCA 0:00
No Image 1986
Various Artists
Vestron
Classic Rock: 1968 1987
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:29
Flashback 1989
Original Soundtrack
WTG Records 3:30
No Image 1990
Various Artists
MCA
Born to Be Wild: A Retrospective 1991 MCA 4:05
Born to Be Wild 1992 Ariola Express
Ultimate Rock, Vol. 1 1993
Various Artists
Biker Rock 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:27
The Harley-Davidson: American Motorcycle Soundtrack 1994
Various Artists
Cabin Fever Music 3:29
Kerrang!: The Album 1994
Various Artists
3:25
Harley Davidson Road Songs 1994
Various Artists
The Right Stuff / Capitol 3:29
Jock Rock, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Tommy Boy 2:55
Vintage Collectibles, Vol.  2: 1963-1969 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:40
The 70's Come Alive Again 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:29
No Image 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 0:00
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Rhino
Party Time, Vol. 2: Ultimate Party Album 1996
Various Artists
SPG 3:35
Only Rock 'N Roll 1965-1969: #1 Radio Hits 1996
Various Artists
Rhino / JCI Associated Labels 3:29
Disc Jockey Hits, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Stardust Records 2:53
I Love Rock & Roll: Hits of the '60s, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Priority Records 3:30
Masters of Rock Vol. 1 1996
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 3:30
Greatest Sports Rock and Jams 1997
Various Artists
Cold Front Records / K-Tel Distribution 3:36
Arena Rock 1997
Various Artists
Flashback Records 3:29
Wild America 1997
Original Soundtrack
Edel America Records / Edeltone 3:39
Under My Wheels: 12 Road Trippin' Tracks 1997
Various Artists
Hip-O
Hard Rock Cafe: Classic Rock 1997
Various Artists
Rhino 3:31
The Very Best of Steppenwolf 1997 Music Club International Records 3:32
This Is...Son of Cult Fiction 1997
Various Artists
Virgin 3:28
Number Ones: Party Time 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 3:37
Masters of Rock 1998
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 3:30
Easyriders, Vol. 4 1998
Various Artists
Thump Records 3:28
Highway Rock: Rock This Town 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:35
Chronicles: 70's Rock Classics 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:28
Killer Classic Rock 1998
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 3:26
Born To Be Wild: The Hits And More 1998 BCD / Mpg 3:31
Hot on the Highway 1998
Various Artists
4:45
Space Bunnies Must Die! 1998
Game Soundtrack
Hip-O 3:29
Greatest Sports Rock and Jams [Box] 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:36
Guitar Rock: Power Classics 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Time / Life Music 3:32
Strip Jointz Rocks: Rock N' Roll for Sexy Dancers 1998
Various Artists
Robbins Entertainment 3:28
Highway Rockin' 1998
Various Artists
Universal Special Products / Rebound Records 3:31
Born to Be Wild: The Best of Steppenwolf 1999 Geffen 3:28
Greatest Hits of the 60s, Vol. 3 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:31
Jukebox Hits of 1968, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
DJ Specialist 3:29
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 3:28
Invasion of the Rock Zombies 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 3:30
20th Century Masters : The Millennium Collection: Best of Steppenwolf 1999 Geffen 3:28
Steppenwolf/Steppenwolf the Second 1999 Beat Goes On 3:32
Superhits of Rock: 1965 - 1979 1999
Various Artists
L & D 3:31
All Time Greatest Hits 1999 MCA 3:30
Classic '60s [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:32
Greatest Hits of the 60's [Platinum] 2000
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:28
Party Time [SPG] 2000
Various Artists
SPG 3:35
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of the '60s 2000
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:29
Best of Rock, Vol. 2: The Ultimate Collection 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:29
The Best Pub Jukebox in the World...Ever! 2000
Various Artists
Virgin 3:27
The New York Yankees Collection 2001
Various Artists
Alphabet City 3:26
Recess: School's Out 2001 Walt Disney / Disney 3:27
Steppenwolf 2002 Polydor / Universal Music 3:31
Ez Ridin' 2002
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:29
Stuart Little 2 2002
Original Soundtrack
Sony Music Distribution 3:30
Trailer Tracks: 18 Classic Southern Rock Anthems! 2003
Various Artists
UTV 3:29
You Heard It at the Movies 2003
Various Artists
Golden Stars 3:28
Chartbusters USA, Vol. 3 2003
Various Artists
Ace 3:30
Sixties [UK Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:29
Collection 2003 Spectrum Music 3:29
Let's Go to San Francisco 2004
Various Artists
Goldies 3:28
Good Morning Vietnam: A Soundtrack for a Generation 2004
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:26
Classic Hits of the 60's 2004
Various Artists
San Fran 3:29
Legends: My Generation 2004
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:31
Classic Rock Gold 2005
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:30
V8 Supercars: A Full Tank of Rock 2005
Various Artists
Festival Records 3:28
20th Century Masters: Best of 60s Rock N Roll 2006
Various Artists
UMVD 3:32
True Rock 2006
Various Artists
Universal International 3:40
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:31
Rockopilatorio 2007
Various Artists
Def Jam / Digital / Island / Universal / Universal Music 3:29
Best of Steppenwolf: Green Series 2008 Universal International
SWR 1 Sommer Rock 2008
Various Artists
EMM 3:35
The World's Best Ever Beer Songs: 10th Anniversary 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:26
Hotel for Dogs 2009
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Razor & Tie
Dad Rocks! 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:29
Legends of Rock 2009 MCA / Universal Distribution / Universal 3:30
Tracks from the Track, Vol. 1 2010 Switch 17 Music Group 3:28
Gods of Guitar [Universal] 2011
Various Artists
Universal 3:29
Now That's What I Call Classic Rock Hits 2012
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 0:00
Paddington [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2014 Decca 3:29
Throwback Tunes: Classic Rock 2017
Various Artists
Hip-O / Universal 3:30
Classic Rock Radio
Various Artists
Universal 3:30
Dad's Jukebox: The Very Best Of The 60's, 70's & 80's
Various Artists
Universal 3:30
Driving Rock
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Universal Music TV 3:28
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 3:31
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
No Image
Original Soundtrack
Geffen 3:37
Party Rock: Magic Carpet Ride
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:30
Pure 60's
Various Artists
Universal 3:28
Pure Rock, Pt. 1
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:26
Road Trip Sing-Along Songs
Various Artists
Universal 3:30
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Rock Icons
Various Artists
Universal 3:31
Tailgate
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:30
The Best Rock Anthems ...Ever!
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:29
The Best of Classic Rock: Green Series
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 3:30