Blog post by Catriona Swanson
Welcome to our third blog post!
Continuing the theme of our first two posts, this one is about our third design: Cycling Record!
Many people don’t know this but, along with cycling infrastructure, music is a big part of our (mine and Will’s) lives and we used to run gig nights in Lancaster back in the early to mid-2000s. We went under the name Feedback as a nod to Will's dissertation (and later a journal article) on the aesthetics of feedback in music.
We mainly put on touring bands who needed to fill a slot on the way up to play at proper venues like King Tut’s. We put on an eclectic range of bands from the alt folk, indie and twee core spectrum. Bands we hosted included Scott Niblett (with Todd Trainer from Shellac on drums), Jeffrey Lewis, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, King Creosote, Volcano!, Great Lake Swimmers, Bearsuit and Misty’s Big Adventure (at least twice because they’re awesome and we love them).
So, when we launched In Tandem, it felt right that one of our first designs should merge our two loves: cycling and music.
Last week I was musing about what to write for this post as I realised I couldn’t really justify going into my one of my usual rants about cycling infrastructure. But then I realised that I didn’t actually know that many songs about cycling beyond Queen’s (admittedly awesome but not very #BeyondTheBicycle) Bicycle Race (I want to ride my bicycle) which, incredibly, was further improved by Wheels for Wellbeing with their inclusive take on it:
So, I did what I always do and put a call out to “cycling twitter” to get some recommendations and have spent a pretty fun week working my way through the masses of suggestions.
Here’s my top 10 less well known songs about cycling!
The Smiths are Will’s favourite band and we had a massive poster of them posing outside the Salford Lads Club long before we actually moved to Salford. There’s not that much about cycling in the lyrics but the video is Morrissey and, weirdly, a group of Morrissey look alikes cycling around Salford and stopping for the (now) mandatory photo in front of the Salford Lads Club.
As a proud Salford resident and former lead on cycling and walking at the Salford City Council, it would be a dereliction of duty to have this anywhere other than number 1.
When Salford City Council took Brian Deegan and Martin Key on a tour of Salford.
2. Mark Ronson – The Bike Song
A song that’s packing in a lot of good stuff: tandems (which are very much #BeyondTheBicycle), the mental and physical benefits of cycling and, of course, drawing attention to cars damaging the planet:
“Girls love cars, cars cause harm to the planet
Don't you wanna take a joyride on my tandem”
The only downside is the strange allusion to riding a bike not being a “real job” although the song never divulges what his job is – Diliveroo rider, maybe?
The video has a 1970s vibe which seems to have been inspired by The Mixtures’ The Pushbike Song (see number 5!) and features a cool range of bikes including a unicycle cameo and tandems.
3. Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways – Medway Wheelers
‘Medway Wheelers’ is about Billy Childish’s mum and her days out cycling with her cycling club in the 1950s. Ah, the 1950s before cars took over the world… back when it was completely normal to cycle 60 miles to the coast, eat your sandwiches, drink your flask of tea and cycle home again.
Those were the days, eh?
4. The Daniel Pemberton TV Orchestra - I Wanna Ride My Bike
This sounds remarkably like the kind of band we would have put on in the days of Feedback so scores highly purely on that basis.
And who doesn’t like screechy, lightly out of tune punk rock demanding “I wanna ride my bike all day and all night”.It loses points for not promoting inclusive cycling *at all* and promoting completely unacceptable behaviour (“hey, hey get out of may way”) - sharing is caring, folks, particularly on shared use paths!
5. The Mixtures – The Pushbike Song
I find this song a bit sexist, frankly, but the lyrics feature a tandem while the video is packed full on fun stuff include cyclists and rollerskaters taking over a multi lane highway (it was the 1970s), tandems and, rather strangely, a penny farthing!
6. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks – Bike Lane
OK, confession time: I’m a MASSIVE Pavement fan and have always been slightly in love with Stephen Malkmus so I was pretty damn excited when I first heard this song. Stevo’s from Portland, Oregan which is one of the few places in the States with pretty decent cycling rates so it didn’t come as a huge surprise that cycling would feature in his life. And I loved the repetitive lyrics “another beautiful bike lane”. I could only assume it was red and fully kerb protected. Maybe with some nice street trees and rain gardens providing a buffer… but I digress.
I looked up the lyrics and didn’t really get them, to be honest.
However, Malkmus has explained them in a few interviews…
The lyrics reference a 25-year-old African-American Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, who died in police custody:
“The cops, the cops that killed Freddie
Sweet young Freddie Gray
Got behind him with the truncheons
And choked the life right out of him”
The idea of the song is to juxtapose life, death and racism with cycling campaigners. It’s been interpreted as being anti-cycling by some active travel advocates (as have some of his interviews about the lyrics but in an interview with the Chicago Tribune said: “Bike lanes are great! Don't cut on bike lanes! The song is almost about the impotence you feel about enacting social change."
I think we can all sympathise with that sentiment.
7. Half Man Half Biscuit – Excavating Rita
Half Man Half Biscuit have more songs featuring cycling (and particularly bike components) than any other band (possibly unsurprising coming from The Wirral?) so it was pretty difficult to pick just one for this list but I think any song introduced as “when necrophilia meets the Betterware catalogue” deserves a place here.
8. Mungo’s Hi Fi – Bike Rider
This song by Glaswegian Jamacan Reggae outfit (yeah, what of it?) Mungo’s Hi Fi reads like a cycling campaigner’s crib sheet. Let’s just go out and sing this a random people in the street:
“Everybody should ride bicycle
Everybody should ride bicycle
Bike for me, bike for you
Bike for everyone
Bike for me, bike for you
Bike for everyone”
9. Kimya Dawson – I like my bike
Proving that not all cyclists are anti-car zealots, Kimya alternates between declaring “I like my bike” and “I like my car”. Was it so that she had something to rhyme with “I go so far”? Quite possibly, yes. I’m including it anyway because I love a bit of Kimya Dawson (check out Loose Lips if you haven’t heard it).
10. Pink Floyd – Bike
Squeaking into the list in number 10 is Bike by Pink Floyd, purely on the strength of these lyrics:
“I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like.
It's got a basket, a bell that rings
And things to make it look good.”
Because, let’s face it, the most important thing about your bike is it looking pretty.
So, there you have it. There's actually loads more than that and I've had to omit some fairly obvious ones from the list (including Kraftwerk!)
Completely disagree with my choices? Think I’ve missed the greatest song every written about cycling? Stick it in the comments! If you suggest enough decent songs about bikes and cycling, I might even be tempted to do a part 2...