Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wheel Strains on the Wane?

Attempted to explain why bike songs seem on the wane in last 5 years. Obviously, many events and ideas influence creativity and culture. Across nation a bike song celebration of American podium appearances was cranking steadily until Armstrong’s rival Tyler, then teammate Hamilton, accused him of doping. Lance only admitted to it in 2013 after governing bodies had already stripped him of his championships. Everyone acts as if this allegation was a tragic revelation. Really? Humans weren’t built to spin nonstop at high cadence; only pharmaceutical technology enables such performance, no excuse not to produce new songs. For reasons as fuel hikes or shortages unrelated to racing, bike booms reoccur, and victors representing other countries gather own posse and receive musical acclaim, so an editor’s gaze must be global or list remains less than comprehensive and no resource from which to emerge cogitative.

Have always resisted anointing any bike song as best, favorite or popular. By what or whose criteria? How high a song rose on pop charts? How many times “bicycle” gets mentioned? Should Queen’s “Bicycle Race“ (Billboard #24 with 41 brazen shout outs) beat Melanie’s “Brand New Key” (Billboard #1, Cash Box #3 for entire 1972, with only 2 timid peeps about pedaling)? How, then, can they overlook Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”? From early ’70’s, all have since been frequently surpassed.

Most lists you’re likely to see seem superficial results of 10 minute online searches. Imagine, someone got paid for these shameless misrepresentations. Been at this for a decade and still unsure whether light at end of tunnel is yet in sight. Only by carefully building an index, repeatedly listening, and studying backstories can you compile such a reliable list of over 1,800 titles. Meant enduring virus infected websites and handpicking physical media from reseller stalls with concomitant grossness. Anything you feel you must do is worth doing well by applying intelligence, exerting effort, and revisiting frequently. This satisfies but seldom rewards.

Which recordings do you exclude? Bias clouds choices. Old farts deride anyone over 30 who shows interest in a pop or rock hit, since many are mired in teen angst and lust, though bike songs cover everything, even open doors to adult concerns, contemporary culture, and taboo topics. How can you let gutter language be grounds for dismissal? Bicyclists spend too much time in gutters to discriminate. Decisions depend upon extent to which you’ve been exposed, how observant you’ve been, the year you became musically aware, and what not. Rankings could be given by genre, but any genre you assign would be hotly contested. Some songs are great but not as well known as they should be. Just to mention an artist or title does raise recognition a little. Some are distinctly about joys or sorrows of bicycling, as you’d expect (The Bicycles’ ”B-B-Bicycle”), and may be lyrically interesting, musically advanced, surprisingly apt, well produced, or written in this century (Sue Denim’s “Bicycle”). Others merely mention bicycling with intention focused on something else altogether (Carrie Rodrigues’ “Seven Angels on a Bicycle”). Harder to find are those that never let on they are all about the bike by skipping identifiable terms (Pretty Balanced’s “Survivor”). Lyrics alone aren’t always helpful explaining why a selection merits attention, especially if you’re unaware “scorcher” once meant a bicyclist who rides too fast around town, or the blistering wheels such a menace wields.

Instrumental or orchestral works without lyrics may still have a solid connections to bicycling culture; film scores often include them (Luis Bacalov’s “In Bicicletta” from Il Postino, or Nico Muhly’s “Cycling Holiday” from The Reader). Some merely accompany bike scenes (entire soundtrack of bike messenger film Quicksilver, and U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” in Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds). Hundreds of techno tunes have beats or titles that represent bicycling, several by Kraftwerk alone. Bike action in on-line videos often gets paired with music that has little or nothing to do with cycling, for example, One Day, a commercial for a bike brand (Nichole Reynolds’ “The Only Ones”).

Could list ones that aren’t, but ought to be, bike songs, notable among many: Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”, Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle”, Fever Ray’s “Keep the Street Empty For Me”, Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine”, Grateful Dead’s “The Wheel”, Guns N' Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle”, Jem’s “Just a Ride”, Judas Priest’s “Freewheel Burning”, Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival”, Neil Young’s “White Line”, Pete Yorn’s “Life on a Chain”, Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road”, and Sting’s “Canary in a Coal Mine”. Could also generate lists in any of a dozen languages, especially Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

In the misguided belief they are performing a public service, organizations recommend totally unrelated songs to cyclists’ playlists, which only confuse issues further. Bids to be recognized must show some basis beyond “sounds good while pedaling”. Practically any music makes biking better, though while in traffic beware of wearing headphones, because frame creak and tire hiss are crucial safety cues.

List editors must draw a line, though you can bet diehard specimens slip past whatever barriers they set. It will always be fair game to recommend hymns that hold personal significance based upon wisdom of your experience. Not to downplay or imply anything, here are 40 outstanding examples, 2% of total, that will remain forever on Labann’s List. Nearly half don’t immediately suggest bicycling culture, none are ignorantly derivative or sports related, and whole lot, while indubitably geared to enthusiasts, is well worth anyone’s time.

Amy Correia, “The Bike”

Annalie (Wilson), “Lovesong for a Cyclist”

Anna Moo, “Ride on My Bike”

Be Your Own Pet, “You Are My Bicycle”

David LaMotte, “Bicycle Man”

David Rovics, “The Bicycle Song”

Eric Burton, “The Rusty Schwinn Song”

Frank Zappa, “Bicycle Concerto”

Gigolo Aunts, “Lemon Peeler”

Ginger Ninjas, “How Much“

Jewel (Kilcher) “Boy Needs a Bike”

Joal Kamps, “Bicycle Man”

John Linnell, “South Carolina”

Kristen Allen-Zito, “Pedaling My Bike”

Lars Din, “(this ain’t no) Bike Friendly Town”

Lightning Bolt, “Ride the Sky”

Lily Allen, “LDN”

Lisa Germano, “Riding My Bike”

Livingston Taylor, “Bicycle”

Marie-Lynn Hammond, “Two Wheel Tango”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Stones in the Road”

Matthew Price, “Freedom Machine”

Melody Gardot, “Some Lessons”

Minnie Birch, “The Bicycle Song”

múm, “Now there’s that fear again”

Nits, “Bike in Head”

Pink Floyd, “Bike”

Prayers for Atheists, “Bike Song”

R Crumb w/ Cheap Suit Serenaders, “Pedal Your Blues Away”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Bicycle Song”

She & Him, “Black Hole”

Sugarcubes, “Motorcrash”

System of a Down, “Innervision”

Tangerine Dream, “Three Bikes in the Sky”

The Shins, “Split Needles”

Tomorrow, “My White Bicycle”

Tom Waits, “Broken Bicycle”

Tracy Comer, “Yellow Bike”

Trey Anastasio, “Let Me Lie”

Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways, “Medway Wheelers”

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