Origin Stories – Mars Bonfire on Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”

By: Juliette Jagger (@juliettejagger)

It’s amazing how many classic pop songs started out as B-sides but ended up becoming mega hits when somebody decided to turn over the record.

When Canadian-born Mars Bonfire (real name Dennis Eugene McCrohan) penned the now iconic “Born To Be Wild,” which was a B-side for Steppenwolf, he was young and broke, living in Hollywood, and trying to make it as a songwriter.

In the early 1960s, Bonfire had played in a moderately successful Canadian band called The Sparrow. Having gotten their start playing popular venues like Chez Monique and El Patio in Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood, the band eventually secured a deal with Capitol Records out of New York before making their way to the West Coast where they opened for popular acts of the day including The Doors and Steve Miller Band.

Then in 1967, Bonfire decided to leave the group and strike out on his own.

“Songwriting was really what I loved to do,” he says. “When I was growing up, my Dad operated a popular dance hall in Oshawa called the Jubilee Pavilion, so music was always around. I never really saw myself as a musician per say. I can’t play much on an instrument and I can’t sing very well, but writing songs always seemed to come naturally to me and I didn’t feel I needed to be a part of a group to do that.”

When The Sparrow (then known only as Sparrow) dissolved a short while later, Bonfire’s former bandmates, which included his brother drummer Jerry Edmonton, approached him about songs for their new group, a hard rock band called Steppenwolf.

“At that time, I had been walking the streets of Hollywood trying to get a deal as a songwriter,” says Bonfire. “I actually presented ‘Born To Be Wild’ to three or four publishers, but nobody showed any interest. Luckily the guys were interested. They’d initially approached me about rejoining them in their new band, but I declined. Then a few months later they asked me if had any songs I could contribute. That’s when I showed them ‘Born To Be Wild.’ They immediately liked it, and took it for their debut album.”

Continue reading via National Music Centre.

Juliette Jagger

Juliette Jagger is a Canadian music journalist. She is on Twitter @juliettejagger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.