LIFE.com says: Outlaws have always held a singular if ambiguous place in America's popular imagination: we fear and loathe their appetite for violence; we envy and covet their freedom. In 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. Now, in a gallery of never-published pictures, 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 sight of long-haired, Harley-riding bikers was still new, alien, and for average, law-abiding citizens, simply terrifying.
Bill Ray / LIFE
Hells Angels cruise north from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, Calif. in 1965. Today, when a popular TV show like “Sons of Anarchy” brings the outlaw-biker aesthetic into living rooms every week, it's easy to forget how thoroughly (and willfully) the Angels shocked and frightened "polite" society 45 years ago. "Some of them are pure animals," Birney Jarvis, a one-time Hells Angel who later became a newspaper police reporter, once said. "They'd be animals in any society. These guys ... should have been born a hundred years ago -- then they would have been gunfighters."