“I’m in love with my car, got a feel for my automobile…” – QUEEN
Car culture and rock ‘n’ roll have grown and evolved in such parallel ways that they’ve become two sides of the same coin. Though the automobile obviously predates rock music by over half a century, car culture as we recognize it in America was really born in the post-WWII Baby Boom. The newfound prosperity, unprecedented leisure time and rise of the teenager as a consumer force inspired some of Detroit’s most iconic creations – and it also inspired a new art form called Rock ‘n’ Roll (it’s no coincidence that the first acknowledged rock ‘n’ roll song – Jackie Brenston’s 1951 hit “Rocket 88” – celebrates the virtues of the then-new Oldsmobile 88). In the years that followed, cars have proven among the most enduring of muses for rock songwriters.
There’s something about listening to music on a road trip that just makes it sound better. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a beat-up old jalopy with blown speakers or some exotic luxury machine with a state-of-the-art sound system; music always has a special kind of impact when you’re on the road. For most people, cars are their first taste of real freedom and everything sounds different with that freedom in your head. Maybe that’s why the myth of rock ‘n’ roll ties so closely with the rise of car culture.
1960 Cadillac convertible from the Hard Rock collection
At Hard Rock, we’ve celebrated this connection from the beginning. Our legendary memorabilia collection boasts incredible vehicles that truly celebrate the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll – many of which were owned by the stars themselves. In fact, many of our cafes, hotels and casinos feature a classic car as a sort of beacon – a piece of functional art that encapsulates what we’re all about. Here’s a great example: this is a killer 1967 Camaro that was driven by James Hetfield of Metallica in the band’s video for “I Disappear”. Upon completion of the video, the car was gifted to James who in turn donated it to the Hard Rock.
Here’s an elaborately painted Trabant 601 that was part of the stage set for U2’s 1992 Zoo TV tour. This unique little East German car featured a smoke-spewing two-stroke engine and a body made from a cotton/plastic resin. U2 took a bunch of these strange little vehicles on tour and now three of them are permanent parts of our collection.
Trabant 601 used onstage by U2
This elaborately sequined Lincoln Continental limousine featured prominently in Madonna’s 2001 Grammy® Awards performance. It was driven onstage by rapper Lil’ Bow Wow (who was only 14 at the time) and Madonna emerged from the back performing her hit “Music”. Hard Rock acquired it in 2006.
Madonna’s Lincoln limousine
Probably the most celebrated vehicle in the Hard Rock collection is also one of the most unusual – a British-built Bedford VAL 14 tour bus. This instantly recognizable coach was used in the Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. Part of the Hard Rock collection since 1988, it’s a fan favorite everywhere it goes.
The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour bus
Though cars are quintessentially rock ‘n’ roll, motorcycles are the ultimate expression of rebelliousness and have been closely associated with rock stars from the beginning. Hard Rock owns many amazing bikes, but this one is particularly spectacular. It belonged to Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and was pictured on the cover of the band’s 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls.
Nikki Sixx’ custom Harley Davidson
For over sixty years, car culture and rock ‘n’ roll have set the template for youthful exuberance and the spirit of rebellion – and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. At Hard Rock we salute this blissful union and encourage you to come celebrate it with us.