Sonny Barger, the founder of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, is a divisive figure to say the least. To some he is the quintessential outlaw, living free and riding down the open road, a sort of swashbuckler on a bike. To others he is nothing more than a common criminal, and some see him as an even more nefarious threat, a subculture icon that threatens our very way of life. He has been a brother, a leader, and a rallying point. He has also been a menace to society. But love him or hate him, there’s no denying that this is one man who has led an interesting life. And now that his autobiography, “Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club” is available on audio book, you can plug in your headphones and listen to the whole scintillating story told from the point of view of the original Hell’s Angel himself.
The narrative follows Barger over four decades with the most infamous biker gang on the planet, from the inception of his chapter in Oakland in 1957 right up until he was incarcerated following a conviction for incinerating a rival clubhouse in Kentucky. It includes memorable incidents that many readers will no doubt have some knowledge of, like the Rolling Stones’ Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969, in which the Hell’s Angels were tapped to work as security (although their exact role has been disputed over the years) for an event that turned into a free-for-all in which a man pulled a gun and was subsequently stabbed to death by a member of the “security” force. And of course, there are numerous brushes with the law, which has long held that this group of one-percenters is nothing more than a syndicate of organized criminals.
In addition, Barger reveals more personal details from his own life, including the battle with throat cancer that resulted in a tracheotomy and the inability to speak normally. And of course he mentions the ladies in his life, although they are largely overshadowed by his one true love: life on the open road. For those who love motorcycles this might be the best part of the audio book. Barger not only describes his personal views on freedom and how the life of a biker has allowed him to accomplish an existence outside of the meddlesome arm of the law (for the most part), but he also discusses how the Hell’s Angels helped to shape the motorcycle culture in America, the very spirit with which the act of riding is imbued, and Harley Davidson motorcycles themselves (which the club is known to ride).
Barger is no author, so the narrative is his voice through and through. This is not the type of man to call the authorities or a motorcycle accident lawyer when he gets in a scuffle or lays down his bike, and he doesn’t mince words in this audio book either. Listening is not for the faint of heart. But for those who want to track the footsteps of a man who walked on the wild side, it doesn’t get much grittier than the life and times of Sonny Barger. And ‘Hell’s Angel’ will give you the inside pass.