Motorcycle Mama by Sailcat (Elektra, 1972)

If I’m digging for LPs at a thrift store and I come across something that doesn’t look familiar, I always check who played on it or where it was recorded. If I were to stumble across a Sailcat LP and knew nothing about the band, I might pick it up, knowing it was recorded in Mussel Shoals, Alabama. Then I would notice that Pete Carr produced it, and I would put it back into the boxes before I became so sleepy that I passed out on the floor.

Pete Carr is the musical equivalent to sucking down a bottle of NyQuil and chasing it with a handful of ludes and horse tranquilizers. This is a guy who smoothed Bob Segar out so much, he didn’t realize that he was Xeroxing Bob’s Night Moves LP over & over. The most upbeat thing he did was the opening guitar lick on Barbra’s Streisand’s Woman In Love, and you would be snoring 15 seconds in if not for Babs nasal oversinging like a leaf blower in your ear. He teamed up with Lenny LeBlanc and made a 7′ Valium drip for your ears in 1978 called Falling. Pete Carr is actually a very talented guitar player, and his style is not to bore you. It’s just to lull you to asleep and presumably rob you or steal your girlfriend.

That seems to be his intention with Sailcat’s Motorcycle Mama. Instead of a revved-up hard rockin’ reboot of Steppenwolf, we get a bike tune so chill it would make a Hell’s Angel shit his pants hearing Helen Reddy by comparison. I dub it the Lazy Rider.

But it makes sense because by 1972, when this song hit the Top 15, the hippie lifestyle and motorcycle freedom idolized in Easy Rider had either been co-opted (read: exploited) by The Man or entirely abandoned for a suit & tie real job. This guy doesn’t want to tear up the open road, riding into random towns, start fights and bang truck stop waitresses. He wants to take an extended vacation with his old lady to see the sights, maybe even visit the World’s largest Mud Hut or 2nd biggest ball of yarn. Hell, he also wants to get a sidecar for their little baby. Is that even an option on choppers?

This guy isn’t about sticking it to anyone or being an individual. He wants matching jackets and respect from the various townsfolk. And he’s gonna let ‘the squares walk past‘? Dude, you are a square! Holy crap, I didn’t realize they had yuppies back in 1972, but this is pretty much their wet dream. This is the guy you pass on the highway on a Goldwing who’s wearing one of those drive-thru microphone headsets to let his crew know how far the next Cracker Barrel is.

This is all done in just over 2 minutes with no rock, no roll, no soul. Just some lawyer blowing aural weed smoke in your face to make you tired. The two minutes come up, and you’ve already forgotten about it, until the last line – if the chain don’t break. Wait, what? You got your old lady on the back with your kid in the sidecar, and you haven’t even got this bike inspected. Maybe he’s a punk after all…or a dumb ass yippie.

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  1. The Sugarcubes did a very cool version of Motorcycle Mama. It was on a 2-disc collection of then-current artists covering songs for Elektra’s 40th anniversary in the late ’80s.

  2. J.A. Bartlett

     /  September 9, 2012

    I have to say that I read this song in a completely different way: The protagonist isn’t somebody who dropped out of a corporate job, he’s a guy who never had one to begin with, a guy who went from high school to a gig at the bike shop, still holding on to the hippie dream of three or four years before. He’s the kind of rebel quite attractive to an 18-year-old girl eager to break out of her family’s bourgeois conformity. Hit the road, see the country, live by your wits, and carry the baby like a papoose when it arrives–it was more a phenomenon of the 60s than of the early 70s, but it still happened. It would be the late 70s before this kind of thing became a real anachronism.

  3. porky

     /  September 18, 2012

    if you collect Jack Davis album art like I do this gatefold LP is a real treat.

    Musically this strikes me as an updated “Daydream” and played perfectly into the rural-ization of baby boomers.


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