Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots
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|"Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots"|
|Single by The Cheers|
|B-side||"Some Night in Alaska"|
|Songwriter(s)||Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller|
|"L'Homme à la moto"|
|Single by Édith Piaf|
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller|
|"L'Homme à la moto" (French TV, 1956)]|
"Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" is a song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Recorded by The Cheers, it went to #6 on the Billboard Best Selling singles chart in the fall of 1955, becoming Leiber and Stoller's first top ten pop hit. Veteran performer Vaughn Monroe covered the record, going to #38 on the Billboard charts; the song also rose to a top-10 chart appearance on the Cash Box chart (which counted songs, not records, and thus counted all cover versions of a song as one). 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.
The song tells the story of a motorcycle rider, described as "the terror of Highway 101," and his loyal but oft-neglected 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." When investigators arrive at the scene of the collision, they find no trace of the motorcycle or rider except for his clothes. 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. Its popularity coincided with the death of teen idol James Dean in an automobile crash in the week following the record's release, and the disappearance and presumed death of the song's subject made the song an important forerunner of the teenage tragedy song phenomenon that emerged in the early 1960s.
This song was also recorded by Canadian group The Diamonds for the Coral Records label; the Diamonds later achieved fame later with "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.
References and further reading
- Stan Cuesta. L'homme à la Moto: Le Chef-d'Œuvre d'Edith Piaf. (Paris: Scali, 2007).
- Leiber & Stoller interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- "Splatter Platters: A Look at Teenage Tragedy Songs". Go Retro. July 9, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
- Tom Armstrong, "Long Live the Teenage Tragedy Song", Sabotage Times, October 8, 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2016
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