Steppenwolf – Fillmore West (1968)

FrontCover1This performance captures Steppenwolf at a pivotal time, early in their career, as the band was experiencing their first tastes of commercial success from the single off their debut album: the blazing biker anthem “Born To Be Wild.” They had recorded but not yet released their second album (which contained the single “Magic Carpet Ride”), and were beginning to perform the more adventurous and experimental material to be included on that album, in addition to staples from their debut LP. This is an excellent performance that grabs you and doesn’t let go.

Steppenwolf headlined the Fillmore West on this night, with an early, pre-signed incarnation of Santana opening, followed by The Staple Singers. This performance captures Steppenwolf at a pivotal time, early in their career, as the band was experiencing their first tastes of commercial success from the single off their debut album: the blazing biker anthem “Born To Be Wild.” They had recorded but not yet released their second album (which contained the single “Magic Carpet Ride”), and were beginning to perform the more adventurous and experimental material to be included on that album, in addition to staples from their debut LP.

Following the introduction, the set begins with a highly expanded version of “Your Wall’s Too High,” a popular track from their first album. John Kay then proceeds to speak to the audience about the band’s experiences traveling through the United States; the monologue is evocative, and speaks volumes about the social and political climate of the times. Fans of the pre-Steppenwolf blues band the Sparrow, who were transplants from Toronto but became popular during the early Bay Area music scene, are catered to with the cover “Hoochie Coochie Man.” A strong supporter of his former bandmates, Kay clues the audience in to the other Sparrow members’ current situations following the tune. This open-minded attitude would foster many great collaborations a few years later, when many of the San Francisco bands were dissolving.

Steppenwolf01Next up is the classic “Born To Be Wild,” here expanded to over twice its original length, giving the group another chance to jam a bit before they slow things down with the introspective “Desperation.” They continue with another Sparrow-era song that closed the first Steppenwolf LP, “The Ostrich,” featuring lyrics with political commentary, a common thread that would continue in Steppenwolf’s future material. Next up is “Tighten Up Your Wig,” a song that is essentially Junior Wells’ “Messin’ With The Kid,” with new lyrics by Kay.

At this point the audience is treated to a four song sequence from the group’s yet to be released second album. This is quite interesting as it shows the group becoming more adventurous with their music, and like many bands in 1968, beginning to think of albums as a whole, rather than a collection of single songs. They close the set by going back to their blues roots with “Baby Please Don’t Go,” another song often played by the Sparrow and used as a vehicle for jamming. This leaves the audience demanding more and the band obliges with a cover of Hoyt Axton’s anti-hard drug song, “The Pusher,” to end the night.

In 1968 Steppenwolf had an undeniable flair for creating music that was heavier than the usual AM radio fare, yet transcended those limitations and became hugely popular in both AM and FM radio formats. They were highly original and were one of the pioneers of the “hard rock” that would eventually be known as “heavy metal” – a term, in fact, that was coined directly from the “heavy metal thunder” phrase in the lyrics to “Born To Be Wild.”

Indeed, a thunderous set from an accomplished, influential group. )by

Alternate Frontcover

Alternate frontcover

Jerry Edmonton (drums, background vocals)
John Kay (vocals, guitar, harmonica
Goldy McJohn (keyboards)
Michael Monarch (guitar)
Rushton Moreve (aka John Russell Morgan) (bass, background vocals)


01. Your Wall’s Too High (Kay) 12.22
02. Hoochie Coochie Man (Dixon) 5.42
05. Born To Be Wild (Bonfire) 7.09
06. Desperation (Kay) 6.03
07. The Ostrich (Kay) 8.51
08. Tighten Up Your Wig (Kay) 3.47
09. Disappointment Number (Unknown) (Kay) 4.02
10. Lost And Found By Trial And Error (Kay) 2.22
11. Hodge Podge, Strained Through A Leslie (Kay) 9.59
12. Resurrection (Kay) 3.21
13. Baby Please Don’t Go (Williams) 9.40
14. The Pusher (Axton) 5.47

MoreAlternate Frontcovers

More alternate frontcovers


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Steppenwolf – Same (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgSteppenwolf is the first studio album by American rock band Steppenwolf, released in January 1968 on ABC Dunhill Records.

The album was a successful debut for the band, featuring the songs “Born to Be Wild”, as well as “The Pusher”, both of which were used in the 1969 film Easy Rider. “Berry Rides Again” is a tribute to guitarist Chuck Berry. The spelling of track #4 on the vinyl is “Hootchie Kootchie Man”. The album credits say it was recorded at American Recording Company in Studio City, California; however, the actual name of the studio was American Recorders.

The background color of the original ABC LP cover was a silver “foil”, in contrast to later (MCA Records) LP issues and the modern CD sleeve in which it is replaced by off white. It is the only album by the band to have been released in both stereo and mono configurations. Although the latter is simply a ‘fold down’ of the stereo mix it is sought after as a collector’s item.

Early editions of the “silver foil background” version credit “Mars Bondfire” with writing “Born to be Wild” on both the LP label and the back of the LP cover.

The earliest 1968 versions of the album did not have the black box with the wording: “Contains The Hit “Born To Be Wild”. (by wikipedia)

Steppenwolf entered the studio for their recording debut with a lot of confidence — based on a heavy rehearsal schedule before they ever got signed — and it shows on this album, a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit who was obviously searching for a hook to hang their sound on. The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968, though John Kay’s songwriting needed some development before their in-house repertory would catch up with their sound and musicianship. On this album, the best material came from outside the ranks of the active bandmembers: “Born to Be Wild” by ex-member Mars Bonfire, which became not only a chart-topping high-energy anthem for the counterculture (a status solidified by its use in Dennis Hopper’s movie Easy Rider the following year), but coined the phrase heavy metal, thus giving a genre-specific name to the brand of music that the band played (and which was already manifesting itself in the work of bands like Vanilla Fudge and the just-emerging Led Zeppelin); the Don Covay soul cover “Sookie, Sookie,” which, as a single by the new group, actually got played on some soul stations until they found out that Steppenwolf was white; two superb homages to Chess Records, in the guise of “Berry Rides Again,” written (though “adapted” might be a better word) by Kay based on the work of Chuck Berry, and the Willie Dixon cover “Hoochie Coochie Man”; and Hoyt Axton’s “The Pusher,” an anti-drug song turned into a pounding six-minute tour de force by the band. The rest, apart from the surprisingly lyrical rock ballad “A Girl I Knew,” is by-the-numbers hard rock that lacked much except a framework for their playing; only “The Ostrich” ever comes fully to life among the other originals, but the songs would catch up with the musicianship the next time out. (by Bruce Eder)


Jerry Edmonton (drums, percussion, background vocals)
John Kay (guitar, harmonica, vocals)
Goldy McJohn (keyboards)
Michael Monarch (guitar, background vocals)
Rushton Moreve (bass, background vocals)


01. Sookie Sookie (Covay/Cropper) 3.12
02. Everybody’s Next One (Kay/Mekler) 2.53
03. Berry Rides Again (Kay) 2.45
04. Hoochie Coochie Man (Dixon) 5.07
05. Born To Be Wild (Bonfire) 3.28
06. Your Wall’s Too High (Kay) 5.40
07. Desperation (Kay) 5.45
08. The Pusher (Axton) 5.43
09. A Girl I Knew (Cavett/Kay) 2.39
10. Take What You Need (Kay/Mekler) 3-28
11. The Ostrich (Kay) 5.43



A must:

Steppenwolf – For Ladies Only (1971)

FrontCover1For Ladies Only is the sixth studio album by Steppenwolf, released in 1971. It is a political concept album mainly about feminism but with several more conventional songs about romance as well, both unusual themes for Steppenwolf. Some critics saw the album as sexist, citing the lyrics of the songs and a photo of a car shaped like a penis alongside the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the gatefold. The album saw the band hinting toward the progressive rock movement that was popular at the time with more complex arrangements and sophisticated keyboard playing, particularly on the title track. Like their previous album, it was accompanied by two minor hit singles which fell just short of the Top 40.[1]

The album was Steppenwolf’s last of new material released prior to the band’s initial breakup in February 1972. (by wikipedia)

Steppenwolf1971The title track of For Ladies Only is a classic slice of Steppenwolf’s brand of hard rock: gritty chord guitar from Blues Image refugee Kent Henry (Steppenwolf went through as many or more guitarist changes as the Guess Who), elegant piano from Goldy McJohn, even jazz flavors on a nine-minute-plus track as blatantly sexist as the album gatefold. The graphic photo of a huge penis car alongside the Hollywood walk of fame tucked inside the cardboard is completely juvenile, while the back of the LP features the boys all reading books, from The Sensuous Woman to Snow White & the Seven Dwarves — interesting imagery that doesn’t complement the music as much as the artists might have thought it did at the time. The Jerry Edmonton/Goldy McJohn composition “I’m Asking” has a heavy “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” riff that’s all sludged out and a weak non-John Kay vocal — like, why bother? Kay’s snarling voice was as much a part of the sound as the heavy keys, and without it the otherwise fine performance and production are just totally eradicated; it’s a song that would’ve worked better as an instrumental. Ditto for Jerry Edmonton’s “Jaded Strumpet,” which is also in desperate need of Kay’s authoritative tone, which is refreshingly surreal on the singer’s co-write with George Biondo that is “Sparkle Eyes.”

Various single sleeves of “Ride With Me”

In retrospect, For Ladies Only remains a neat artifact of a band who might’ve been called on to create too much too soon. Three Mars Bonfire compositions brighten up the proceedings, including “Tenderness” and the excellent “Ride With Me,” perhaps the most memorable tune of the ten, all culled from that ever-flowing fountain that was Mars Bonfire’s Faster Than the Speed of Life LP. Interesting that on the vinyl four songs grace side one, while side two has six titles, from two to four and a half minutes in length. The songwriting is shared pretty equally, the bandmembers co-writing in different combinations. Bonfire’s brother, Jerry Edmonton; singer John Kay; and keyboardist Goldy McJohn all write or contribute to three titles each with two for the newer members, bassist George Biondo and guitarist Kent Henry.

A very democratic brew, which is interesting but for the most part doesn’t have the punch of the title track or the nugget from the Mars Bonfire solo disc, “Ride With Me.” The original Sparrow guitarist’s presence casts a good shadow and remains as essential to this crew as the lead singer and keyboard player. Why they didn’t keep Bonfire on from day one of their journey is the mystery. This 1971 Dunhill release produced by Richard Podolor for Steppenwolf Productions, Inc. makes that point loud and clear, though the Kent Henry/Goldy McJohn instrumental “Black Pit” does tend to sound like Blues Image-meets-Steppenwolf, and proves the point made earlier. If John Kay wasn’t in the mood to sing, the material works better with no voice at all. His absence from three of the ten tracks is perhaps an indication that he had his sights set on a solo career. Kent Henry and George Biondo moved on with the singer for his 1972 outing Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes. (by Joe Viglione)

George Biondo (vocals, bass)
Jerry Edmonton (drums)
Kent Henry (guitar)
John Kay (vocals, guitar)
Goldy McJohn (keyboards)

01. For Ladies Only (Edmonton/Henry/Kay/McJohn) 9.13
02. I’m Asking (Edmonton/McJohn) 4.25
03. Shackles And Chains (Kay) 4.57
04. Tenderness (Mars Bonfire) 4.51
05. The Night Time’s For You (Bonfire/Cavett) 2.56
06. Jaded Strumpet (Edmonton) 4.40
07. Sparkle Eyes (Biondo/Kay) 4.29
08. Black Pit (Henry/McJohn) 3.46
09. Ride With Me (Bonfire) 3.15
10. In Hopes Of A Garden (Biondo) 2.01



John Kay & Steppenwolf – Live In London (1981)

FrontCover1From 1977 until 1980, a variety of Steppenwolf bands were put out on the road by concert promoter Steve Green. Another promoter, David Pesnell, reportedly acted as manager for an incarnation featuring former members Nick St. Nicholas, Goldy McJohn and Kent Henry, and new lead singer, Tom Pagan. Plans for a new album circulated. A new studio album, produced by Phil Spector, with Larry Green on lead vocals, was attempted in 1978, but abandoned due to Pesnell and Spector’s hateful relationship. The relationship ended with a well-documented fist fight between the two at the Whisky a Go Go in which Pesnell sent Spector to the hospital, where he stayed for three nights. Assault charges were dropped against Pesnell after the Los Angeles Police Department determined Spector had instigated the fight.

Another Steppenwolf band, launched in the summer of 1978, featured lead vocalist Bob Simpson, and original members Goldy McJohn and Rushton Moreve, with Kent Henry. This version recorded new tracks for a proposed album which was never released. A splinter Steppenwolf band (which featured no members from any Steppenwolf band fronted by John Kay) appeared around the same time with lead vocalist Don Coenen. That line-up included keyboardist Geoff Emery and guitarist Tony Flynn. Another album, The Night Of The Wolf, was said to have been recorded and produced by Pesnell in 1979 with lead vocalist Bob Simpson, featuring such songs as “Night of the Wolf” and “I Don’t Want To Lose You,” and “Randy’s Rodeo.”

Steppenwolf1981A concert tour in the U.S., Canada and Europe was promoted by Pesnell with the opening acts including Iron Butterfly. The St. Nicholas/McJohn grouping eventually disbanded due to exhaustion and heavy drug use by St. Nicholas, Goldy McJohn and drummer Frankie Banali. St. Nicholas formed yet another version of a band named Steppenwolf and went back out on the road. This grouping included lead singer Tommy Holland, lead guitarist Ruben DeFuentes, Emery, and future Keel/W.A.S.P./L.A. Guns drummer Steve Riley. The retooled band returned to the studio to revamp tracks for the new album, but it was never released. McJohn also eventually headed back out himself with another lineup that first featured Peter Graw on lead vocals, then another line-up that featured lead vocalist Nick Graham and sometimes included Kent Henry, who had just departed a touring Wolf band that featured Tim West on vocals. The Graham/McJohn/Henry version pitched an entire new Steppenwolf album to record labels, which was actually a project recorded by Graham’s High Intensity band adding McJohn and Henry to the existing tracks. The album was blocked from release. Frankie Banali later went on to join Quiet Riot.

After hearing of these multiple other Steppenwolf incarnations, John Kay became furious. An original agreement among the band members in the early 1970s stated that anyone leaving forfeited any rights on the group’s name, while the last original members standing when the group disbanded (Kay and Jerry Edmonton) would have exclusive claims on the name hereafter. At their lawyers’ advice, Kay and Edmonton agreed to license the name to the others. This licensing agreement stated that McJohn and St. Nicholas would have to give up their Steppenwolf royalties forever to go forward. They both agreed. Eventually, this agreement was terminated after promised fees were not paid to Kay and Edmonton. After the compact optical digital disc (CD) became the new form of presenting old music by 1987, McJohn and St. Nicholas lost large amounts in additional royalties from their time in the authentic Steppenwolf band. Kay took to the road in 1980 with a new line-up as John Kay and Steppenwolf

Kay had a couple of meetings with David Pesnell (after his release from rehabilitation for his drinking and drug problems), about management, concert promotions and producing a new album for the band. Pesnell wanted to produce an album featuring new songs on Side A, by the reformed band Three Dog Night and with Side B of the album featuring songs by Steppenwolf. The album’s working name was “Back to Back”, a play on each band having a side of the album and the fact the bands were back together again. Pesnell’s concept was simple: each band would record four new songs, with a fifth song on each side featuring a medley of the band’s past songs. This would give the Pesnell-produced album a double release of singles to support a concert tour featuring the two bands. Even though both bands liked the concept of the album and tour, the arguments included who would be Side A and Side B and which of the two would headline the upcoming concert tour.

The reformed John Kay and Steppenwolf line-up featured John Kay, Michael Palmer (guitars, backing vocals), Steve Palmer (drums, backing vocals), Danny Ironstone (keyboards, backing vocals) and Kurtis Teel on bass. The Palmer brothers had played in a group called Tall Water and had also been involved with Kay in his solo career playing live gigs in the late 1970s. Teel was replaced by Chad Peery and Ironstone by Brett Tuggle by 1981, and the new grouping released Live in London overseas. (by wikipedia)

So, “Live in London” is the first album by John Kay & Steppenwolf, originally released in 1981 on Mercury/PolyGram in Australia only !

“Recorded at the Lyceum in London, England during our first tour of Europe in eight years. We were pleasantly surprised by the warmth of our reception. Our fans in the UK had not forgotten us despite our absence and we truly enjoyed playing both new and familiar music that night.” (John Kay)


John Kay (guitar, harmonica, vocals)
Michael Palmer (guitar, background vocals)
Steve Palmer (drums, percussion, vocals)
Chad Peery (bass, vocals)
Brett Tuggle (keyboards)


1. Sookie, Sookie (Covay/Cropper) 3.39
2. Give Me Some News I Can Use (Kay) 4.04
3. You (Kay) 3.43
4. Hot Night In A Cold Town (Littlefield/Cushing-Murray) 3.25
5. Ain’t Nothin’ Like It Used To Be (Kay) 3.55
6. Magic Carpet Ride (Kay/Moreve) 3.55
7. Five Finger Discount (Kay) 4.46
8. Hey Lawdy Mama (Jay/Byrom/Edmonton) 3.42
9. Business Is Business (Kay) 3.37
10. Born To Be Wild (Bonfire) 4.42
11. The Pusher (Axton) 5.59


Steppenwolf – At Your Birthday Party (1969)

FrontCover1 Rocking out a little more, Steppenwolf hit gold again with this release. The hit, “Rock Me” sat well alongside such other hits as “Jupiter Child” and “Don’t Cry.” Even so, it has a rather unsettling feel to it. It was almost as if all their success was beginning to turn sour. Okay, but a bit flawed. (by James Chrispell)

The recording sessions for “At Your Birthday Party” started to show the wear and tear of the road on all of us. In addition, some band members for the first time, tried their hand at songwriting and I had run out of tunes to contribute.

This album nevertheless includes some of my favorite Steppenwolf tracks such as “Happy Birthday”, “Jupiter’s Child” and “Rock Me”. Nick St. Nicholas (who had replaced our original bassist Rushton Moreve) had an idea for a song titled “It’s Never Too Late”, which triggered me to work out the rest of the song. That one is an all time favorite of mine. Gabriel Mekler (our Producer) had his hands full trying to be fair to all band members and stay neutral to allow us to work out the difficulties on our own.

The fact that the song “Rock Me” (which had been written for the soundtrack of the motion picture “Candy”) had already been a hit single before it was included in the “Birthday album” may have reduced the impact of the album because the initial sales of the LP were not what we had hoped for, although over the years, it became quite popular with many of our fans. (by John Kay)

Jerry Edmonton (drums, vocals)
John Kay (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
Goldy McJohn (keyboards)
Michael Monarch (guitar)
Nick St. Nicholas (bass)

01. Don’t Cry (Mekler) 3.04
02. Chicken Wolf (Kay/Monarch) 2.51
03. Lovely Meter (Mekler) 3.12
04. Round And Down (Monarch) 3.15
05. It’s Never Too Late (Kay/Nicholas) 4.05
06. Sleeping Dreaming (Nicholas) 1.11
07. Jupiter Child (Kay/Monarch) 3.24
08. She’ll Be Better (Mekler/Edmonton) 5.15
09. Cat Killer (Goadsby) 1.30
10. Rock Me (Kay) 3.39
11. God Fearing (Monarch) 3.50
12. Mango Juice (Goadsby/Edmonton/Monarch/Nicholas) 3.14
13. Happy Birthday (Mekler) 1.20
14. Rock Me (mono single version) (Kay) 3.41
15. Jupiter Child (mono single version) (Kay/Monarch) 3.15
16. It’s Never Too Late (mono single version] 3.10
17. Happy Birthday + It’s Never Too Late (mono single version) 2.23