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Juke Box Meccanica: The First Biker Song

February 6, 2014

This Jimmy Dolan version of Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots from 1955 (and the footage from the classic ‘The Mini-Skirt Mob’ (1968) that plays with it in the video) has become my recent favorite Juke Box Meccanica hit…So, i thought i’d look into it’s past a little. – Corinna

Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots” is a popular teenage tragedy song that was a top-ten hit for The Cheers in the fall of 1955. It went to #6 on the Billboard Best Selling singles chart. Veteran performer Vaughn Monroe covered the record, going to #38 on the Billboard charts, and a top-ten co-listing on Cashbox.

Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the song tells the story of a motorcycle rider and his long-suffering girlfriend Mary Lou. In the song she pleads with him not to ride one night: “I’ve got a feeling if you ride tonight I’ll grieve,” she tells him, but he ignores her and “hit a screamin’ diesel that was California bound.” Featuring a catchy tune and the chorus of “He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots and a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back,” the song was the second big hit for the Cheers, after “Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin’).” It was also the first song to chart about motorcycles and the “new” motorcyclists, earning it the reputation as the first biker song. In 1956, French chanteuse Edith Piaf recorded a French translation of the song entitled “L’ Homme à la Moto,” which became one of her biggest selling singles.

This song was also recorded by Canadian group The Diamonds, who did it for the Coral Records label; the Diamonds achieved fame a couple years later with the Rock and Roll classic “Little Darlin’.” In 1994, Chris Spedding recorded a new version of the song. It has also been recorded by Joan Morris and William Bolcom and has become a staple of their concert repertoire. The song was also recorded by a band called Chainsaw Sprocket Knucklehead and Tank from Mullumbimby Australia. The song did very well for the band and received a lot of airplay and attention in other countries. – Wikipedia

In 1959, Dodie Stevens became famous with her parody of “Black Denim Trousers,” “Pink Shoe Laces.”

james-deanIt was also released the same week that James Dean bought it on highway 101. If you know the song that fool was the terror of highway 101 (thanks for that last James Dean tip, Kerry!)

THE CHEERS
“Black Denim Trousers”
(Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller)
He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots

And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up ‘cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101

Well, he never washed his face and he never combed his hair
He had axle grease embedded underneath his fingernails
On the muscle of his arm was a red tattoo
A picture of a heart saying “Mother, I love you”

He had a pretty girlfriend by the name of Mary Lou
But he treated her just like he treated all the rest
And everybody pitied her ’cause everybody knew
He loved that doggone motorcycle best

He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up ‘cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101

[Instrumental Interlude]

Mary Lou, poor girl, she pleaded and she begged him not to leave
She said “I’ve got a feeling if you ride tonight I’ll grieve”
But her tears were shed in vain and her every word was lost
In the rumble of his engine and the smoke from his exhaust

Then he took off like the Devil and there was fire in his eyes
He said “I’ll go a thousand miles before the sun can rise”
But he hit a screamin’ diesel that was California-bound
And when they cleared the wreckage, all they found

Was his black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
But they couldn’t find the ‘cycle that took off like a gun
And they never found the terror of Highway 101

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