Steppenwolf – The Second: #999 of best 1,000 albums ever!

steppenwolf - the second

Why is Steppenwolf’s The Second on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

The biggest reason is the song “Magic Carpet Ride” – more on that below – but overall Steppenwolf is a band where I just dig their sound overall, a blend of late ‘60s psychedelia and hard rock which, melded together, gets you the term Acid Rock.

Please note that there are many “acid rock bands” that I’m not into, but with Steppenwolf it mostly works, and The Second represents them at their best (even though “Born to Be Wild,” which was likely their biggest hit, was on their self-titled debut album).  

What does Steppenwolf’s The Second mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

“Magic Carpet Ride” has long been one of my favorite songs.

It immediately pulls me back to the late spring of my freshman year of college at Binghamton University. The city of Binghamton is located in New York, roughly halfway between New York City and Buffalo and a short ride north of the Pennsylvania border. It has long, cold, snowy winters that can last well into April.

Much of my freshman year was long and cold in its own way, trying to adjust to being away at school, make friends, and acclimate to college life. But by May, I had mostly figured it out. The weather had turned warmer (finally!), I had assembled a great group of friends – including my future best man at my wedding, Adam – and, what’s more, I had incredibly managed to attract a girlfriend (double through quadruple finally!).

Our dorms, Dickinson Community, held some kind of a spring parade, and my hall, Johnson Hall, participated by building a float. My memory is a little hazy on the details beyond that, but I do recall that we used “Magic Carpet Ride” as our float’s theme song during the parade. I recall pushing the float along, which sat on a set of dollies I believe (it was a low budget parade, okay?), and I remember that it was a spectacularly gorgeous day, and I recall being happier than I had been in a very long time.

Music has that enormous, almost primal power to pull you back to specific moments and situations in your life, and this one for me remains strong and visceral.

Also: it’s a really good song! What sets Steppenwolf apart from other bands of their ilk and the era in my view is because of how they – and specifically John Goadsby – used the Hammond electric organ. I’m a sucker for its carnivalesque sound, and “Magic Carpet Ride” leverages it in the best possible way.

My one small gripe about the song is that there’s a lengthy instrumental section in the middle that features an okay-ish psychedelic guitar solo, and then finally kicks back into the chorus, and then almost immediately it ends! Rock out with that chorus for a few more minutes at the end, fellas, that’s the best part of your best song you’re kicking off stage there!

This album also sounds like

The Hammond organ makes for an easy tie-in to The Doors, though I’d argue The Doors really carve out their own sound for a bunch of reasons. Steppenwolf’s closest cousin probably is Iron Butterfly. And since the old metal-y insect didn’t make my list of best albums ever (sorry guys!), here’s a nice 17-minute plus version of “In A Gadda Da Vida” for you.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Steppenwolf’s The Second

The second-best song is “Faster Than The Speed of Life.” It’s got a sweet driving groove while dripping with acid rock. While digging around YouTube I stumbled into this clip, which replaces the iconic use of “Born to Be Wild” in Easy Rider with “Faster Than The Speed of Life.”

I am entirely okay with this and think it kind of works. Plus: the Internet can actually be really fun sometimes!

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Steppenwolf’s The Second

The word acid and thinking about “Magic Carpet Ride” and Binghamton University reminds me of another college experience.

Spoiler: this has nothing to do with drugs!

I joined the rugby team my senior year, which was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Our charismatic, oddball, demanding, passionate, and wonderful Coach Bosnick (R.I.P.) coined the term “acid rugby” as the style of play that our team would use an advantage.

I think playing acid-style rugby basically meant that you played with out-of-your-mind intensity and toughness at all times. Which we certainly attempted to do and, at times, succeeded in doing.

Some stats & info about Steppenwolf — The Second

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock, Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Psychedelic, Garage Rock, Acid Rock, Blues Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating4.5 of 5 stars
  • Who is in Steppenwolf? George Biondo, Goldy McJohn, Jerry Edmonton, John Kay, Mars Bonfire, Nick St. Nicholas, Danny Johnson, Gary Link, Michael Wilk, Ron Hurst, Rushton Moreve, Bobby Cochrane, Michael Monarch
  • When was The Second released? 1968
  • My ranking of the best 1,000 albums ever, the one you’re reading right now – #999 out of 1,000

Steppenwolf’s The Second on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.