Remembering its release 50 years ago, Steppenwolf recorded Magic Carpet Ride on the album: The Second in 1968. Its guitar riff set the tone for hard rock and heavy metal bands that followed in 1969 and the Seventies. The single reached No. 3 on Billboard’s pop chart.
Singer Jay Kay leads the classic rock band on their 1973 live performance of Magic Carpet Ride. On their golden anniversary, Steppenwolf retired from touring in October 2018, after their Baxter Springs, KS concert.
Watch John Kay and Steppenwolf play all their hits live in their last L.A. concert in 2017: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWptyRPuZHuE3c2hP3HugE_AOXLU_F4s1
Newspost article by Ryan Marshall September 15, 2018: Sitting in a small area just off the stage after the band finished their sound check Saturday evening, Kay said the timing was right, 50 years after the release of the band’s first album in 1968.
“Sometimes it’s good to know when to step aside,” he said.
Anticipating the first question, he said he never expected it to last for 50 years when they started out, while dealing with the hassles of record labels, managers, and lawyers, was well as a contract that called for two records a year.
“For chrissakes man, we were trying to get through the first two months,” he said.
Steppenwolf came out of the Los Angeles rock scene of the mid- to late 1960s, and played clubs such as the Whiskey-A-Go-Go alongside bands that included The Byrds, The Doors, and countless others.
Hollywood and rock ‘n’ roll drew many young people to California. Both L.A. and the San Francisco area were full of people who were heading in new and exciting musical directions.
“We were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” Kay said.
Hollywood helped push Steppenwolf to another level of fame when their songs “The Pusher” and “Born to Be Wild” were included on the soundtrack to the counterculture hit “Easy Rider.”
Kay said stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, who helped write the movie, came to him and asked if they could use the music in the movie.
So the band went to a private screening in Hollywood, and told their record label, “We want to be in on this,” he said.
The film’s international success introduced them to a whole new audience than they had been exposed to, and helped make “Born to Be Wild” into a generational anthem.
Kay credits the band’s core group of fans with helping them stay around for so long, but said they attracted a mixed crowd in the beginning that included 16-year-old girls who had seen them on Ed Sullivan as well as “guys who smoked a lot of pot.”
Steppenwolf’s first two albums were huge successes and widely influential, said Bob Berberich, who owns Vinyl Acres vintage record store in downtown Frederick.
“They were kind of uniquely their own band,” he said. “There was nobody that sounded exactly like them.”
Their appeal was earned by the fact that the band was full of great musicians who created a sound that was different from other bands on the radio.
“The hippies loved them, but the greasers loved them too,” Berberich said.
Douglas Miller, of Gettysburg, said he’s been a friend and fan of the band since the early 1970s, and estimates that he’s seen them perform 25 to 30 times over the years.
While Kay is the only original member, he’s been able to successfully rebrand the group after a legal battle with several former members who were touring under the name of “New Steppenwolf” in the 1970s, Miller said.
“The consistency is John’s voice,” he said.
Bruce Rackliff, 35, of Washington, D.C. said he’s been a fan of the band since he picked up one of their CDs in college and liked it.
He said he’s always wanted to see the band live, and found out about the Frederick show from emails that he gets as a lifetime member of the band’s fan club.
Meanwhile, Stephen Phillips and some friends listened as the band finished its sound check.
Phillips was in town visiting some friends who knew the band, but Saturday was his first time seeing the band live.
“This brings you back to the days when music was fun,” he said.