You know what the world needs? I mean besides world peace and a ban on GMOs and the return of 960 KABL-AM and for Dick Cheney to spend the rest of his life in jail? The world needs more bike songs, dammit.
I mean it. Ask anyone—hardcore cyclists, record store geeks, trivia hounds, DJs—to name a song about bikes. There will be a slight pause. “‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen,” they’ll say, and the conversation will end there.
How can there be hundreds of kickass hit songs about cars but none about bikes?
“Bicycle Race” wasn’t even a monster hit for Queen; it peaked at number 24 in the States, and served more as an excuse to sing about big asses on girls than as a genuine ode to bikes. It references Jaws and Peter Pan and John Wayne, weirdly. As Queen songs go, it isn’t a standout. As bike songs go, it doesn’t deserve to be the most-cited answer to the ongoing riddle.
Yes, there’s Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France.” This is supposed to be a bike song, except nobody can understand any of the whispered lyrics buried in the mix. It’s a concept. It’s an electro-jingle. It’s not the “Born to Run” of bike songs.
And then, sure, there are a ton of other bike songs by bands lesser-known or so obscure that most people have never heard of them. Japanese garage-pop trio Shonen Knife has “Cycling Is Fun.” Early Jamaican dancehall singer Early B has “Wheely Wheely.” A friend of mine once found a 45 by some Australian singer from the ’70s singing a dippy tune called “Bicycle Morning.”
Oh, don’t give me “Bicycle Song” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s utterly unlistenable. “Bike” by Pink Floyd may be an interesting example of LSD’s effect on Syd Barrett, but no one hearing it is going to strap on their Shimanos and get pumped for a day of riding. “Broken Bicycles” by Tom Waits: depressing, sad, not a party. “Midnight Bicycle Mystery” by Deerhoof: just plain strange.
No offense to the above artists, many of whom I love, but let’s face it, all of these songs are useless in the quest for the ultimate bike anthem. That’s right: we need an anthem.
Dear Coldplay or U2—or, better yet, Arcade Fire, whose fans probably actually ride bikes—please write a catchy, sing-along, jump-up-and-down, hook-laden summertime jam about the awesomeness of riding bikes. I promise it’ll be embraced by cyclists worldwide faster than Alberto Contador can break away from Andy Schleck with a broken bike chain in the Tour de France.
Carrie Rodriguez, whose ‘Seven Angels on a Bicycle’ is very pretty, yes, but is also about a cyclist who gets hit by a car and dies, plays a free 6pm show on Thursday, May 10, at Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa.