Saturday, February 2, 2008

A few 'graphs from Steve Wilson's "Down the Road"

Thanks to my friend Corey, source of the best motorcycle lore found between covers, I'm reading Down the Road, Genuine Mileage on Classic Motorcycles, by Steve Wilson. The book is graced with terrific drawings from Wilson's friend Nicholas Ward.

You can (and should) order it from Aerostich Rider Warehouse:

Down the Road features column-length and longer pieces about the old-time UK motorcycle industry, about some of the characters who kept it alive and a few who helped smother it. Down the Road is about Wilson's lifelong love for old British motorbikes, for good or ill.

Here, used without permission but with gratitude to Steve Wilson for writing it, are a few paragraphs about the old Brando biker movie The Wild One:

The film's real strength, though, lies in the unforgettable moments created by Brando - the homework (he did) with real bikers paying off with utterly natural rhythmic dialogue, as when he explains the fatal accident with "I did a big brodie, and I went out, and that's all." Or when he enters the the empty Bleeker's Cafe for the first time, his stolen trophy dangling head down by a thong from his wrist, walking slowly down the row of vacant swivel chairs at the counter, casually spinning them, the impatient and the dreamy in perfect balance.

The only possible response to materialistic Amerika as represented by the town seemed to be embodied in Brando's enigmatic, magnetic sense of style, both his awesomely cool take-no-shit front, and the confusion and vulnerability he also managed to convey beneath it. Mere style may have been shown by now to be a partial and inadequate response to a complicated world, but it spoke to us at the time, and as Johnny might have said, (in answer to the question: What are you rebelling against? - MH) "What else have you got?"

And the ending, with Johnny redeeming himself by wordlessly returning the stolen statue to Mary Murphy with a dazzling half-smile, though Brando hated it (the ending - MH) as Hollywood phoney, does touch something in us that can still hope for redemption to come from women's kindness - as well as letting him roar off down the road on the (Triumph - MH) T'bird to freedom... Now surely that's a window on the biker soul?

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