Words from the Steppenwolf:

The devil is the spirit, and we are his unhappy children.

...women as well as men who lived half for art and half for pleasure... I had a glimpse into this kind of life, remarkable alike for its singular innocence and singular corruption.

I might have made the most intelligent and penetrating remarks about the ramifications and the cuases of my sufferings, my sickness of soul, my general bedevilment of neurosis. The mechanism was transparaent to me. But what I needed was not knowledge and understanding. What I longed for in my despair was life and resolution, action and reaction, impulse and impetus.

There is much to be said for contentment and painlessness, for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain nor pleasure is audible, but pass by whispering and on tip-toe. But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible hatred and nausea. In desperation I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm, insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room... For what I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.


Hermann Hesse

A Rock Cycle

Metal Forged in Fire

The founder of the heavy rock group, Steppenwolf, John Kay was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat (or Kravledat) in East Prussia, Germany, in 1944 to a a mother --who became a widow one month before: in the Wehrmacht's Russian campaign. He learned while not even a year old -- the will to survive, necessitate while they fled for their lives from the intense final homeland fighting. Their 'haven' would quickly become Communist East Germany. Around four years later, they risked it all again to seek freedom in West Germany.

VOA

We should all be thankful for John's opportunity now in Hanover to obtain the Rock and Roll influence from the US Armed Forces Radio. One did not have to understand the words to get the language of this music translated by one's soul. He began to love the individual liberty that was inherent in the American lifestyle.

America at Last (Canada is in North America)

With his new stepfather, he and his mother emigrated to Canada, and American culture spilled over the borders, especially in the airwaves. He loved the Rhythm and Blues, the Gospel, Country and Western, but especially the fast-talking DJ's on nighttime's AM broadcasts: playing the Rock, and teaching him English.

Fly to London with the Sparrows

John eventually hooked up with Canadian group Jack London and The Sparrow comprising of future Steppenwolf members, Dennis (aka Mars Bonfire) and Jerry Edmonton, Goldy McJohn and Saint Nicholas (from 'Hardtimes'). Jack London the crooner, who had made an album in 1960 with this group, was replaced by Kay. Several 45's they recorded at this time were compiled in 1969 and released on Columbia as The Sparrow. They toured mostly New York and California, and they made Mill Valley, CA their home.

Coming to Los Angeles (Don't Touch My Bags if You Please)

Though the Sparrow were a musically concise group while they gigged in San Francisco, they were somewhat experimental; and John Kay and Jerry Edmonton began to bemoan the drifting from the strong hitting lyrics and rhythms that was in their beloved rock roots. They were determined to be able to utilize free speech and vent whatever issues ruminated in their heads. It was in 1967 that Gabriel Mekler of ABC-Dunhill Records in Los Angeles, CA convinced John Kay and the others to establish a new identity for his company. To drummer Jerry Edmonton (brother Dennis/Mars was let go) and organist Goldie McJohn they added bassis Rushton Moreve, and better yet, the 17 year old child-genius guitarist, Michael Monarch. St. Nick had gone with a later member, Larry Byrom in T.I.M.E. The popularity of Hermann Hesse's novel,Steppenwolf became the inspiration for their new name.

Steppenwolf: the (Debut) Album

Their first outing unleashed the monster within without to the world with the theme song for every leather wearing Harley riding guy who ever would come down the Pike.

Born to Be Wild

(Star Spangled Banner on a V-Twin)

What a rush! "...Get Yourself Some Cheap Sunglasses..." and finish an album in four days. From the simultaneous cranking of rowdy rough guitar and orgasmic organ intro highlighted with the crank start of a snare slapshot -- vocals coming in like a documentary voice-over (Get your motor running) that swell (...head out to the highway, looking for adventure, to whatever comes our way....) then builds, (Yeah, babeh, gonna make it happen...) into the chorus that seems comprised of all of Hell's Angels (Born to be wild....)---to the break where the rotating speaker of the Leslie from the Hammond B3 (yehn-yehn-ynhnyehn..nnnnn) trips you out, man! You feel the wind in your face coming off the Mohave desert, your mouth is dry from the joint in your lips, you pull a wheelie so your chick digs her tattooed nails in your ribs...."...never want to die eeee!..." Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda's Easy Rider helped launch this rocket even further into orbit. It had a top five hit. (I must give some credit here to Riverrun for stylistic modeling.}

The Pusher

Here is their cover of folk music writer, Hoyt Axton's penned diatribe that is quite disturbing in its invoking the Almighty's curse on the distributor of not all drugs, but just the injectable, addictive kind. Maryjawanna {sic} does not kill one's spirit, evidently. But the music in this song in it's heavy bluesy treatment is unforgettable. It helps that Easy Rider soundtrack, too.

Desperation

This slow delightfully despondent tune is this writer's favorite. He saw it performed live (with all the others from this first album) in 1969 at Philadelphia's Spectrum arena. We drove from College Park, MD with some other friends to see: The Iron Butterfly (they were the hit group at this time), The Grateful Dead, Sly and The Family Stone, and Steppenwolf: the one to which this humble writer was looking forward. I was not disappointed, the group started their sets with this song, after facing all their equipment face up, and the confused (read: maybe stoned) bass player got it together.

Steppenwolf: The Second

They added John Russel Morgan to help them on an album that would be one of most that would be financial successes.

Magic Carpet Ride

Another number five or better on the charts, with its psychedelic {sic} journey.

Monster

Many consider this blatant anti-war themed album to be their best. With songs like fighting against The Monster, Draft Register, and Power Play the Vietnam protest mentality was evident.

Live and Seventh Heaven

Michael Monarch and John Morgan were not on this album Steppenwolf Live, having been replaced by Genesis' Larry Byrom (then Kent Henry) and St. Nicholas, respectively. This year they released Steppenwolf 7 an album called by some to be the zenith of the groups' lifework. A musical autobiography of Kay's exodus across the 'Iron Curtain' is accompanied by Jerry's unparalleled drumming on "Renegade;" and Progressive Rock bands had a template provided by the "Foggy Mental Breakdown." A consistent element in all of the phases of the history is, of course, John Kay and his powerful presence.

$teppenwolf $ucce$$

It is reported that they grossed fifty million dollars in those heady years of 68 through 72 before their first, worn out from the road, Valentine's day disbandment -- a day Mayor Yorty proclaimed in LA as "Steppenwolf Day." This period Kay explored new venues in solo releases: Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes, and My Sportin' Life.

You Say Goodbye, We Say Hello

Edmonton's Manbeast ensemble in Canada failing, they had a European farewell tour in 1974 which prompted the reunion of Jerry Edmonton, Goldy McJohn, and George Biondo joined with new axe-man, Bobby Cochran. Here they put out Slow Flux (which included a top twenty, "Straight Shootin' Woman"), Hour of the Wolf and Skullduggery on Epic's Mums label. By 1976 they needed another split. 1978 Kay was solo again on acclaimed, All In Good Time.

To Tell the Truth, or Will the Real

Steppenwolf Please Stand Up

John Kay had to get together with his old drummer, now turned photographer, Jerry Edmonton to take on a challenge to their legacy from a "Steppenwolf" comprised of vacated members doing, let's say, not top of the line, clubs. After legal fighting for their good name back, John Kay and Steppenwolf re-merged in 1980, starting from scratch, and re-emerged in 1982, plunging themselves into a grueling all-encompassing schedule to re-establish their 'rep'. Wolf Tracks released near this time contains some neat stuff; this music fan of theirs likes "Five Finger Discount." The old and new core of followers proves their constant appeal. Keyboardist Michael Wilk, drummer Ron Hurst, and guitarist Danny Johnson are available annually for their Wolf Fest happily attacked by the Wolfpack in Tennessee.

When The Walls Were Torn Down

What a celebration it was for John Kay on Steppenwolf's twenty-fifth anniversary, because it was his first nostalgic return to liberated East Germany in 1994 for concerts and reacquainting himself with long separated family and friends. A fittin' year to reminisce with his autobiography, Magic Carpet Ride.

Big Cottage Industry

They run their own 24 track digital "home" studio, (where he just did Heretics and Privateers) and run their virtual base on www.steppenwolf.com (and the source for this information).


Discography

Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf, ABC Dunhill (1968)
The Second, ABC Dunhill (1968)
At Your Birthday Party, ABC Dunhill (1969)
Early Steppenwolf , ABC Dunhill (1969)
Monster, ABC Dunhill (1969)
Steppenwolf Live, ABC Dunhill (1970)
Steppenwolf 7, ABC Dunhill (1970)
Steppenwolf Gold, ABC Dunhill (1971)
For Ladies Only , ABC Dunhill (1971)
Rest In Peace , ABC Dunhill (1972)
16 Greatest Hits , ABC Dunhill (1973)
Slow Flux, Mums/Epic (1974)
16 Great Performances, ABC Records (1975)
Hour Of The Wolf , Epic (1975)
Skullduggery, Epic (1976)
The ABC Collection , ABC Records (1976)
Reborn To Be Wild, Epic (1976)

John Kay and Steppenwolf

Live In London , Mercury/PolygramAustralia (1981)
Wolftracks , Nautilus Recording Wolf Records (1982)
Wolftracks, Attic RecordsWolf Records (1982)
Wolftracks , Allegiance (1983)
Paradox , Attic RecordsWolf Records )(1984)
Rock 'N' Roll Rebels , Qwil Records (1987)
Rise & Shine , IRS Records (1990)
Born To Be Wild A Retrospective, MCA Records (1991)
Live At 25 , ERA Records (1995)
Feed The Fire, Winter Harvest (1996)
Wolftracks, Nautilus/Attic (1998)
Paradox , Attic Records Wolf Records (1998)
Rise and Shine , IRS Records (1998)

John Kay and The Sparrow

John Kay & The Sparrow , Columbia Records (1967)
The Best Of John Kay & The Sparrow, Columbia/Legacy (1993)

John Kay

Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes , ABC Dunhill (1972)
My Sportin Life , ABC Dunhill (1973) All In Good Time , Mercury Records (1978)
Lone Steppenwolf , MCA Records (1988)
The Lost Heritage Tapes , Macola Records (1997)
Heretics And Privateers , Cannonball Records (2001)

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