Mad Dog, my longtime riding buddy and former college housemate back in the Pleistocene era, phoned me up the other day in something of a quandary. For some bizarre reason he’d been reading an article about the organ donation and cadaveric tissue industry, and had come across the expression “beating heart cadavers.” What it referred to was the gold standard of the organ harvesters—brain-dead but biologically viable specimens of humanity ripe for the picking. You can doubtless appreciate the enthusiasm the reapers have for someone in that state, but for Tom it raised an enthusiasm of an entirely different nature, and it also presented the quandary.
The phrase was so visceral, creepy and darkly poetic that he desperately wanted to repurpose it, but he couldn’t decide how best to go about it. He couldn’t decide whether to use it as the name for a new motorcycle club or a heavy metal garage band.
I could understand his dilemma.
In the last half century among American societal fringe elements, it’s pretty much accepted that anytime a few guys with bikes or musical instruments start hanging out together, they’re going to get the notion to start a biker gang or a garage band, and the most solemn task that ensues once the decision has been made is that of coming up with a really cool name—the edgier the better—and the fact is, a lot of cool names could go either way and work brilliantly.
That was the nature of my buddy’s dilemma, and I assured him I’d give it some thought, but I didn’t really.
As coincidence would have it, though, later that same day I received a copy of popular author and longtime THUNDER PRESS contributor Bill Hayes’s newly published reference book, and the title of the volume brought me back to considering the subject. It’s entitled: The One Percenter Encyclopedia; The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs from Abyss Ghosts to Zombie Elite.
That’s the A to Z range of the book’s alphabetic overview of one percenter motorcycle clubs, and I was struck by what a swell pair of garage band names they would make. And that was just the beginning.
For newcomers to the moto-literary genre, let me introduce Bill Hayes: An extraordinary guy by any measure, Bill’s something of a counter-culture Renaissance man: a consummate blues musician and cognoscenti, a martial arts master, and arguably the world’s preeminent moto-cultural historian and commentator. When writing about the biker lifestyle generally and about one percenter motorcycle clubs in particular, he brings an evangelical zeal to the subject matter that’s both riveting and infectious, as anyone familiar with his work in the pages of THUNDER PRESS or his two previous books—The Original Wild Ones; Tales of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club and American Biker; The History, the Clubs, the Lifestyle, the Truth—can readily attest.
Bill brings the same fervor and exhaustive research to his One Percenter Encyclopedia, and while it’s utterly futile to try to catalogue the staggering number of motorcycle clubs that has come and gone or endured over the years, Bill has dug deep and presents a truly imposing collection of over 650 outfits, from the “big five” (Hell’s Angels, Outlaws, Bandidos, Pagans and Sons of Silence) to the “pioneers” (clubs that date to the early 20th century—outlaw or otherwise) to the “classic” clubs (those that arose in the freewheeling ‘60s) to a whole slew of lesser known clubs from throughout the U.S., as well as a good many foreign countries.
There are entertainments galore in this volume, from the extensive back stories of the more familiar clubs to the positively arresting photos taken by Mark Shubin of club vests (or “cuts”) both contemporary and vintage—and in some cases of forgotten origin. But the real joy of this work, and the thing that makes it absolutely impossible to put down once you’ve cracked the cover, is the marvelous mélange of iconic, ironic, mischievous, menacing and madcap club names that fill these pages—some of the most entertaining, ominous and outright baffling of which come from foreign turf.
To wit: Reindeershit from Finland; Crawling Death from Germany; Rotten Dead from South Korea; Fucking Freaks from Finland; Finks from Australia; Crazy in the Dark from Lithuania; Iron Criminal from Russia; Firestarters from Slovenia, and, of course, the aforementioned Abyss Ghosts, who hail from Israel, and Zombies Elite from Germany. That’s just a small sampling.
One name that doesn’t appear in The One Percenter Encyclopedia is Beating Heart Cadavers, so we’re figuring the name is still in play. Now we just need to decide whether to soundproof the garage or start building a clubhouse in, say, Latvia.
It’s all right here in the diaries.
The One Percenter Encyclopedia is available for $29.99 from www.motorbooks.com, among other online booksellers.