From Jesse James to Tony Soprano, outlaws have always held a singular if ambiguous place in America's popular imagination: we fear and loathe their appetite for violence, yet we envy and covet their freedom. In early 1965, LIFE photographer Bill Ray and writer Joe Bride spent several weeks with a gang that, to this day, serves as a living, brawling embodiment of our schizoid relationship with the rebel: the Hells Angels. Here, in a gallery of never-published photographs, Ray and Bride recall their days and nights with Buzzard, Hambone, Big D, and other Angels (and their "old ladies") at a time when the roar of Harleys and the sight of long-haired bikers was still new, alien, and for the average, law-abiding citizen, simply terrifying. [via LIFE]
This was a new breed of rebel, they, of course, didn’t have jobs. They despised everything that most Americans pursue — stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time, fought with anyone who messed with them. They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary.’ ~ Bill Ray
Bill Ray vividly remembers the moment he truly felt accepted — or as accepted as he was ever going to be — by the Angels. Ray says that ‘he got in a bit of trouble one day, in a bar. Some bikers — guys who weren’t Angels — saw me taking pictures. They didn’t like it, but they didn’t realize that I was a sort of mascot of the real tough guys. I was about to be attacked by one of these guys when a Hells Angel standing next to me made it clear that if a hair on my head was touched, the other biker was a dead man. From that point on, I felt …. well, not safe, because I never felt safe with those guys, but as if I’d passed a test, somehow.’
Bad boy writer Hunter S.Thompson defends his book against a Hell's Angels biker.
Hunter S. Thompson & Hell's Angels (1967)
naked on wheels from lord black on Vimeo.
Great TV series on a Biker Gang. Sons of Anarchy