The album was a successful debut for the band, featuring the songs "Born to Be Wild", as well as "The Pusher", both of which were used in the 1969 film Easy Rider. "Berry Rides Again" is a tribute to guitarist Chuck Berry. The spelling of track #4 on the vinyl is "Hootchie Kootchie Man". The album credits say it was recorded at American Recording Company in Studio City, California; however, the actual name of the studio was American Recorders.
Early editions of the "Silver Background" version credit "Mars Bondfire" with writing "Born to be Wild" on both the LP label and the back of the LP cover.
The background color of the original ABC LP cover was silver or "foil", in contrast to later (MCA Records) LP issues and the modern CD sleeve in which it is replaced by white. It is the only album by the band to have been released in both stereo and mono configurations. Although the latter is simply a 'fold down' of the stereo mix it is sought after as a collector's item.
Steppenwolf entered the studio for their recording debut with a lot of confidence -- based on a heavy rehearsal schedule before they ever got signed -- and it shows on this album, a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit who was obviously searching for a hook to hang their sound on. The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968, though John Kay's songwriting needed some development before their in-house repertory would catch up with their sound and musicianship. On this album, the best material came from outside the ranks of the active bandmembers: "Born to Be Wild" by ex-member Mars Bonfire, which became not only a chart-topping high-energy anthem for the counterculture (a status solidified by its use in Dennis Hopper's movie Easy Rider the following year), but coined the phrase heavy metal, thus giving a genre-specific name to the brand of music that the band played (and which was already manifesting itself in the work of bands like Vanilla Fudge and the just-emerging Led Zeppelin); the Don Covay soul cover "Sookie, Sookie," which, as a single by the new group, actually got played on some soul stations until they found out that Steppenwolf was white; two superb homages to Chess Records, in the guise of "Berry Rides Again," written (though "adapted" might be a better word) by Kay based on the work of Chuck Berry, and the Willie Dixon cover "Hoochie Coochie Man"; and Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher," an anti-drug song turned into a pounding six-minute tour de force by the band. The rest, apart from the surprisingly lyrical rock ballad "A Girl I Knew," is by-the-numbers hard rock that lacked much except a framework for their playing; only "The Ostrich" ever comes fully to life among the other originals, but the songs would catch up with the musicianship the next time out.
Sookie Sookie 3:09
Everybody's Next One 2:53
Berry Rides Again 2:45
Hootchie Kootchie Man 5:07
Born To Be Wild 3:28
Your Wall's Too High 5:40
The Pusher 5:43
A Girl I Knew 2:38
Take What You Need 3:28
The Ostrich 5:43
John Kay: guitars, harmonica, lead vocals.
Rushton Moreve: bass guitar, backing vocals.
Michael Monarch: guitars, backing vocals.
Goldy McJohn: organ, piano, electric piano.
Jerry Edmonton: drums, percussion, backing vocals.