“I’m in love with my car, got a feel for my automobile…” – QUEEN
Car culture and rock ‘n’ roll have grown and evolved in such parallel ways that they’ve become two sides of the same coin. Though the automobile obviously predates rock music by over half a century, car culture as we recognize it in America was really born in the post-WWII Baby Boom. The newfound prosperity, unprecedented leisure time and rise of the teenager as a consumer force inspired some of Detroit’s most iconic creations – and it also inspired a new art form called Rock ‘n’ Roll (it’s no coincidence that the first acknowledged rock ‘n’ roll song – Jackie Brenston’s 1951 hit “Rocket 88” – celebrates the virtues of the then-new Oldsmobile 88). In the years that followed, cars have proven among the most enduring of muses for rock songwriters.
There’s something about listening to music on a road trip that just makes it sound better. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a beat-up old hooptie with blown speakers or some exotic luxury machine with a state-of-the-art sound system; music always has a special kind of impact when you’re on the road. For most people, cars are their first taste of real freedom and everything sounds different with that freedom in your head. Maybe that’s why the myth of rock ‘n’ roll ties so closely with the rise of car culture.
At Hard Rock, we’ve celebrated this connection from the beginning. Our legendary memorabilia collection boasts incredible vehicles that truly celebrate the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll – many of which were owned by the stars themselves. In fact, many of our cafes, hotels and casinos feature a classic car as a sort of beacon – a piece of functional art that encapsulates what we’re all about. Here’s a great example: this is a killer 1967 Camaro that was driven by James Hetfield of Metallica in the band’s video for “I Disappear”. Upon completion of the video, the car was gifted to James who in turn donated it to the Hard Rock.
Here’s an elaborately-painted Trabant 601 that was part of the stage set for U2’s 1992 Zoo TV tour. This unique little East German car featured a smoke-spewing, two-stroke engine and a body made from a cotton/plastic resin. U2 took a bunch of these strange little vehicles on tour and now three of them are permanent parts of our collection. They have a… let’s call it unique… aroma due to the organic material used to construct them.
Here’s a little documentary about U2 and the Trabant:
This sequined Lincoln Continental limousine featured prominently in Madonna’s 2001 Grammy® Awards performance. It was driven onstage by rapper Lil’ Bow Wow (who was only 14 at the time) and Madonna emerged from the back performing her hit “Music”. Hard Rock acquired it in 2006.
Probably the most celebrated vehicle in the Hard Rock collection is also one of the most unusual – a British-built Bedford VAL Plaxton Panorama Elite tour bus. This instantly recognizable coach was used in the Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. Part of the Hard Rock collection since 1988, it’s a fan favorite everywhere it goes.
Though cars are quintessentially rock ‘n’ roll, motorcycles are the ultimate expression of rebelliousness and have been closely associated with rock stars from the beginning. Hard Rock owns many amazing bikes, but this one is particularly spectacular. It belonged to Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and was pictured on the cover of the band’s 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls. Nikki subsequently modified and repainted the bike, which he owned for a number of years.
Bob Dylan’s love affair with the iron horse is legendary. Even though he nearly killed himself in a 1966 crash, Dylan never stopped riding. This ’90 Harley Soft Tail was his.
This stunning Harley Davidson Softail was customized for Eddie Van Halen by Carlini Cycle Creations. Eddie only put 811 miles on the odometer before deciding four wheels suited him better than two.
This elaborately modified Vespa scooter was used in the Who’s brilliant 1979 film Quadrophenia.
Let’s wrap this up with some kickass car and motorcycle jams.
The very first rock ‘n’ roll car song is still one of the best:
Sorry Steppenwolf, but this right here is the best motorcycle song ever written:
You can’t have a vehicular jam session without Gary Numan:
Not only is Commander Cody’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” a perfect car song, it also features some truly smokin’ pickin’:
ZZ Top has a lot of great car songs, but “Manic Mechanic” may be the best of the bunch:
But for my money, the #1 all-time greatest car jam is LOW RIDER:
Drop the top, crank the radio and peel out brothers & sisters…