c.1970 Herbsman Shuffle - King Stitt
Winston Sparkles, the Ugly One, was a pioneering deejay with Coxsone's Downbeat system who recorded this version of the Skatalite's classic Beardman Feast rhythm, updated in reggae style by Clancy Eccles' studio band, the Dynamites, while the King salutes the herb over the rhythm. It's included on a UK compilation, Legalize De Erb and on a crucial King Stitt collection, Reggae Fire Beat.
1971 Kaya - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Among the fruits of the legendary Soul Rebel sessions that were to direct the future course of reggae, this is the first song about the herb to be recorded by either the Wailers' or Lee 'Scratch' Perry. A Jamaican hit in '71, it first appeared in the UK on the Trojan album, African Herbsman, (q.v.) in 1973, and subsequently on innumerable poor quality compilations. Controversy over Lee Perry's right to sell the songs from this period has been as intense as speculation over their authorship, but in People Funny Boy (by David Katz, Payback Press, 2000, ISBN: 0862418542) Scratch's younger brother, Milton, tells how the song was written during a visit to the home of the producer's mother, Miss Ina, in Hanover: "My bigger brother, Sonny, the Rasta one, he always keep a long locks. They was smoking herbs in the house, herbs run out and they get some money to buy some herbs and the rain set up to fall at the same time, so they tell him he must ride a bicycle to go and buy the herb. The rain was falling and they said he must go and buy the herb before the rain fall and so the lyrics come up. They said they want kaya because the rain is falling and then now they start to rehearse it the same place, because Bob have him guitar. I would say it's between Scratch and Bob came up with lyrics, but I remember as a little youth, by saying the word to my bigger brother, he just come up with the idea, put it in lyrics, and they just start from right there." Scratch obsessives must check the Skank version included on what many regard as the first ever dub album, Blackboard Jungle Dub in 1973; Marley fans may know the song, Turn Me Loose, that Bob cut on the Kaya rhythm. Of course, Bob Marley also recycled Kaya as the title track of his 1978 album.
1971 Sweet Leaf - Black Sabbath
A paean to pot written by Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler and performed by the Sabs on their third Warner Bros. album, Masters of Reality: "Straight people don't know what you're about / They put you down and shut you out / You gave me a new belief / And soon the world will love you, sweet leaf". Every other metal band across America covers this song, but Sacred Reich, out of Phoenix, got to cut their version for inclusion on the NORML Hempilation.
1971 One Toke Over The Line - Brewer & Shipley
Michael Brewer who, along with Tom Shipley, joined the Rainmakers to remake their hit for the NORML Hempilation 2 recalls: "It was controversial. The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for."
June 1971 High Time We Went - Joe Cocker
Written by Joe Cocker and Chris Stainton, this song never appeared on an album, but hit #22 in the US single charts, despite its spaced-out vocals: "Well, it's 12 o'clock and I got there / Didn't think I'd make it on time / Somebody's been shouting / 'Don't forget the lemon and lime' / Ain't it high time we went?" I should cocoa. Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies perform a version on the NORML Hempilation.
1971 And It Stoned Me - Van Morrison
From Moondance, his second Warner Bros. album, Morrison seems to be referring to wine ("There were bottles, two / One for me and one for you"), rather than weed, but the chorus is a classic, regardless: "And it stoned me to my soul / Stoned me just like jelly roll". At least that was the rationale for including it on the NORML Hempilation in an estimable version by Widespread Panic.
1971 Illegal Smile - John Prine
Lead track on the prolific American singer/songwriter's eponymous debut LP: "Fortunately I have the key to escape reality / And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile / It don't cost very much, but it lasts a long while / Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone / No I'm just tryin' to have me some fun." Lyric.
1972 30 Days In The Hole - Humble Pie
Stevie Marriott was busted for smoking a joint on a park bench in 1971, the year of Rockin' The Fillmore, after which Peter Frampton quit the band and Dave 'Clem' Clempson joined for the Smokin' album, from which this was a hit single: "Chicago Green, talkin' 'bout Black Lebanese / A dirty room and a silver coke spoon / Give me my release, come on / Black Nepalese, it's got you weak in your knees..." Warren Haynes' power trio, Gov't Mule, were joined by Ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford for a version that appears on the NORML/High Times Hempilation 2. Lyric
1972 I Got Stoned & I Missed It - Shel Silverstein
This raucous singalong from Shel's classic album, Freakin' At The Freakers' Ball became a hit for Dr Hook & the Medicine Show, from their 1975 album, Bankrupt and, apparently, also for Jim 'Spiders & Snakes' Stafford. Lyric. Real Audio @ Morgo's Media Menu.
1972 The Pope Smokes Dope - David Peel & the Lower East Side
Title track from the Original Punk's third album, produced by John Lennon: "The Pope smokes dope, God gave him the grass / The Pope smokes dope, he likes to smoke in mass / The Pope smokes dope, he's a groovy head / The Pope smokes dope, the Pope smokes dope..." Lyric
1973 Acapulco Goldie - Doctor Hook & The Medicine Show
A Shel Silverstein song from Dr. Hook's 3rd album, Belly Up: "Just like Acapulco Goldie, por que did you go. / You said you'd always hold me. / But you vamos away with me Acapulco gold. / Ya ya, you run away with me Acapulco gold." Lyric.
1973 (Down To) Seed and Stems (Again) - Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen
George Frayne got a shambolic group of hippies together at the University of Michigan in 1967, naming the entity after a 1950 movie starring Kristen Coffen as Kommando Kody, and co-wrote the band's first songs, including Seeds'n'Stems with Billy C. Farlow, in a library during a break in finals. In San Francisco for the Altamont summer of 1969, the band caught the tail end of the Psychedelic scene where they "jammed, hung out, got high and generally Lived The Life", blagging a recording deal in the process.
Their fourth album on Paramount Records, Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas (PAS-1017), recorded live at the infamous Armadillo World Headquarters in 1973, was voted one of the best of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Seeds'n'Stems is a highlight of the set and also features on The Tour From Hell LP that documents other performances during 1973, in which year the band were literally booed off the stage at a C&W Convention in Nashville with cries like 'Get A Haircut!' According to the Commander, "the term 'Commie butt fucker' was heard for the first time from the crowd. Of course that year, 1973, we were the headliners at the International Communist Party festival in Paris, (the 'Fete Du Humanitie') so they weren't exactly wrong. On the other hand, the Vietnam veterans came back, mostly Cody fans who heard Hot Rod Lincoln in the foxholes. That year the Indian Movement took control of Alcatraz Island, and Russell Means invited us to visit them there, when Fidel Castro invited us to come and play in Cuba. We didn't of course, but we were protesting this unrighteous war, and wanted to bring everybody home before anybody else got killed.
1973 Catch A Fire (LP) - Bob Marley & The Wailers
The Wailers first Island LP, somewhat sanitised for international audiences, introduced reggae music to a global audience. If the lyrics to tunes like Stir It Up and Kinky Reggae don't refer explicitly to marijuana, their groove is implicitly informed by the herb and, if that isn't obvious to the casual listener, the point is made graphically clear on the cover, where Bob is pictured blazing a huge spliff. A remastered deluxe 2-CD set that includes the original Jamaican version of the album has recently been released.
1973 The Joker - Steve Miller Band
Miller's entire Band had been busted and deported from England while recording their first album for The Beatles' label, Apple, in 1968. Five years later, the title track to The Joker album cast the singer in the role of a laid-back player, a 'space cowboy', a 'gangster of love': "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker", croons Steve, "I sure don't want to hurt no one..." It's covered by Spearhead, with Michael Franti in fine form as the amoral lover man, on Hempilation 2.
1973 Panama Red - New Riders of the Purple Sage
First track on the 'Riders fourth album, The Adventures of Panama Red which was re-released in Europe with Gypsy Cowboy as part of a two-into-one CD by Beat Goes On Records, 2000, no: BGOCD 509.
1973 The Pot Head Pixie - Gong
Written by Daevid Allen and performed by Gong on their debut for Virgin Records, Flying Teapot, an album-length story that features Lawrence the Alien, the great yogi Banana Ananada, Zero the Hero and the Witch Yoni: "Somebody somewhere has got to be high";-) Raging Slab essayed their own version of this whimsy from gong's album in 1995 for the NORML Hempilation.
August, 1973 Stoned Out Of My Mind - The Chi Lites
A wistful lament in their classic style, this was the Chi Lites last hit with the original line-up. While the lyric is about being deceived by a girlfriend and really has nothing to do with pot, the refrain, "You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)" is irresistible. Lyric.
1973 Too High - Stevie Wonder
The first track on Innervisions (Motown): "She's a girl in a dream / She sees a four-eyed cartoon monster / On the TV screen / She takes another puff and says / It's a crazy scene' / That red is green / And she's a tangerine." Far out!
December, 1973 Let Me Roll It - Paul McCartney & Wings
McCartney's second band was down to just him, his missus, and Denny Laine by the time they flew out to Lagos, Nigeria, in August, 1973, to record Band On The Run at Fela Kuti's studio. This song, which was released as the flipside of the UK single, Jet, in February, 1974, exemplifies the deceptively light feel of the album, with it's opening organ solo and unforgettable guitar riff. The lyric, widely interpreted as a riposte to John Lennon's How Do You Sleep? may not be about skinning up, but it sure sounds like it: "You gave me something, I understand / You gave me loving in the palm of my hand". It's covered by Canadian rockers, Big Sugar, on Hempilation 2. Lyric
1974 Herb Vendor - Horse Mouth
An appreciative rap voiced by drummer, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, over the rhythm of Delroy Denton's Give Thanks, with The Upsetter at the controls of an early Black Ark production that appeared on the Public Jestering album.
1974 Judge Natty / Ganja Crop - Jah Lloyd.
Pat Francis began as a vocalist with the Studio One group, the Meditators, coached the Mighty Diamonds in their formative days, and found local fame as a deejay, Jah Lloyd. Working with Lee 'Scratch Perry in the early days of the Black Ark, he voiced several versions of the To Be A Lover rhythm, including Soldier Round The Corner and these two weed conscious toasts for the Teem label. Judge Natty - included on the UK compilation, Legalize De Erb - is a hilarious variation on the Judge Dread scenario, in which the dread Judge gives the defendant (possibly played by Lee Perry) a lecture on the divine origin of ganja.
July 1974 I Shot the Sheriff - Eric Clapton
Slowhand's version, a hit single from his 461 Ocean Boulevard album, introduced Bob Marley's music to a worldwide audience, though not all may have fully understood the tale, told by a marijuana grower hunted by a fanatical law enforcement officer: "Sheriff John Brown always hate I / For what, I never know. / Everytime I plant a seed / He say, kill it before it grow. / He said, kill them before they grow." Lyric
1974 Too Rolling Stoned - Robin Trower
Trower got his start with Procol Harum in the '60s and was a stadium axe hero and regular contender on The Old Grey Whistle Test riff of the month competition in the mid 70s, from which era comes this tune from his second Chrysalis solo album, Bridge of Sighs, as well as on his Live! album the following year. "It's a nice relaxing jam that works well with pot," says Kevin Kinney of Athens-based band, Drivin' N' Cryin', who perform a version on the NORML Hempilation: "It's the epitome of a concert pot-smoking song."
1975 Roll Another Number (For The Road) - Neil Young
From Tonight's The Night: "I think I'll roll another number for the road / I feel able to get under any load / Though my feet aren't on the ground / I've been standing on the sound / Of some open-hearted people going down." Lyric
1975 Chalice In The Palace - U Roy
Ewart Beckford pioneered the modern DJ style in Jamaica in the late 60s, toasting on King Tubby's system, and remains an inimitable practitioner. On this gem, produced by 'Prince' Tony Robinson, riding the Mighty Diamonds' Queen Majesty rhythm, U-Roy fantasises about sharing the pipe of peace with Her Royal Highness and reasoning over the problems of the people in the ghetto. Released by Virgin in the UK on the flip side of another classic, Runaway Girl, and on the mighty Dread Inna Babylon set, it's included on the Big Blunts compilation (Tommy Boy, 1994) and in a live version on Natty Rebel - Extra Version (Virgin CDFL 9017; 1991). Weed conscious rapper, Canibus, performed a hip hop version, Buckingham Palace, on his 1998 debut album, Can-I-Bus.
1975 Quarter Pound of I'Cense - Max Romeo
A track from Revelation Time, a classic from the Black Ark that's known as the first Jamaican concept album: "The songs may not necessarily sound alike, but if you listen to the words, it's like reading the Bible and just turning the pages," claims its creator. 'I'Cense' is the holy herb that's burned for its meditative incense, but the word 'incense' also has the negative connotation of anger, so the Rastas adapt it to sound more appropriately like a sensitizer. The words is also rendered as 'I'Shence', or 'I'Shen', as in the deejay version by Lone Ranger, 1/4lb. of Ishen (q.v.). Revelation Time was lovingly re-packaged and re-issued in 1999 by Blood & Fire as Open The Iron Gate.
1975 Brushweed Corntrash - Bunny & Ricky
William 'Bunny' Clarke and Ricky Grant address the difficulty of locating decent weed over a Black Ark rhythm, produced by Lee 'Scratch' Perry and included on The Upsetter's contemporaneous Revolution Dub album in a version titled Bush Weed, in which the Upsetter hums the absent melody line.
1975 Expensive Shit - Fela Ransome-Kuti and The Africa 70
Fela's true genius has been reassessed in the short years since his death in '97, via various compilations; MCA re-issues of Fela's old albums on CD; and the imminent Red Hot + Riot AIDS tribute album. Worth seeking out is the Masters At Work Tribute to Fela from '99, for which Vega'n'Gonzalez brought in the Latin percussion legend, Luisito Quintero, to let rip on their version of 'Shit, which was inspired by an incident in which the Nigerian authorities failed to catch Fela in possession of cannabis because he swallowed the joint. So the goons collected Fela's faeces and had it tested for cannabis residues... No shit!
1976 Legalize It - Peter Tosh
Title track from the Bushdoctor's first solo album on Columbia, this song has become a rallying cry for the pro-pot movement: "Legalize it, don't criticize it / Legalize it, and I'll advertise it." Tosh, who was gunned down in Jamaica on September 19, 1987, explained: "Only de small man go to bloodclot jail for herb. Man must get herb cause man keep de earth runnin' till today." It's been widely covered, by UB40 on Labour of Love 3 in 1998; Rasta Surf Punks, Sublime, who own first album was 40 Ounces to Freedom on Skunk Records, gave Legalize It the dub treatment on the NORML Hempilation. Lyric.
1976 Smokin' Cheeba Cheeba - Harlem Underground Band
Written by Paul and Ann Winley, this rare groove appears on the Harlem Underground's only album on Paul Winley Records. It features jazz-guitar great, George Benson, a lengthy harmonica solo by Buddy 'Pop' Lewis and the recurring 'cheeba cheeba' theme, sung by Ann Winley. Tone Loc famously sampled it for his own Cheeba Cheeba (q.v.) and a group called High Fidelity did a cover on the first NORML Hempilation.
1976 Colombia Collie - Jah Lion
As was his wont, Lee 'Scratch' Perry chose to rename Jah Lloyd, aka Pat Francis, for a wicked deejay album of which this is the title track, celebrating the Colombian weed that was the draw of choice among well-heeled American potheads of the time. As Francis recollected: "Him say, 'You move strong.' Might be physically or musically strong, but Jah Lion different from Jah Lloyd... We do great works at the Upsetter studio." Reissued in 1994.
1977 Bad Weed - Junior Murvin
Reel Two of Arkology, the indispensible 3-CD set of Lee 'Scratch' Perry productions, 1976 - 1979 features an incredible rhythm shower based on Police & Thieves, showing how Perry was able to build many songs on the same foundation: after the Junior Murvin hit from the summer of 1976, sax man Glen DaCosta's instrumental Magic Touch is followed by the terrific Soldier & Police War by Jah Lion and The Upsetters' echoing Grumblin' Dub. Just when you thought the rhythm has been stretched out enough, Junior's ominous Bad Weed takes it further. "It was only four tracks on the machine, but I was picking up twenty from the extra terrestrial squad", Scratch says and Junior confirms: "Lee Perry's 4 tracks sound like 8 track, some time it sound like 100 track (laughs)... Scratch used to say him nah change, cause it's four generations y'know".
1977 Macka Spliff - Steel Pulse
First recorded on the predominantly punk compilation, Live At The Hope And Anchor, this track appeared on their first album, Handsworth Revolution, in 1978, as Macka Splaff. Whatever the spelling, the meaning it clear: "Mister collie, collie collie man / Me want some herbs to smoke tonight/ Mister collie, collie collie man / Marijuana smoke tonight / Mister collie man/ Want some herbs to smoke tonight / Mister collie man / Ganja smoke tonight...". A live anthem and theme tune for Steel Pulse, it features on their Reggae Greats (Island) compilation and is included on Big Blunts Vol.3 (Tommy Boy):
1977 Reefer Madness - Hawkwind
"One of my fingers fell from my hand, onto the carpet / Crawled across the floor, Up to my shelf / Inside my piggy bank and stole my stash. / STOLE MY STASH!" Lyric
1977 Homegrown - Neil Young
An agricultural anthem, performed by Crazy Horse around the same time as Roll Another Number but not recorded until the ninth Reprise album, American Stars 'n' Bars: "Homegrown is all right with me / Homegrown is the way it should be / Homegrown is a good thing / Plant that bell and let it ring." Gus, a left-handed songwriter who believes that "hemp is a very powerful plant," provided a fair rendition for the NORML Hempilation.
1977 Two Hits & the Joint Turned Brown - John Hartford with The Dillards
Funky Bluegrass from Hartford, in trio with Doug & Rodney Dillard, collected on an album entitled Glitter Grass From The Nashwood Hollyville Strings
1978 Easy Skanking - Bob Marley & The Wailers
The first track from the Kaya album (Island ILPS 9517) and a solid stone classic: "Excuse me while I light my spliff / Oh, God, I gotta take a lift / From reality I just can't drift / That's why I am staying with this riff..." It's also included on the Natural Mystic compilation (1997). Lyric.
1978 Bustin' Out - Rick James
"Alright you squares, it's time to smoke / Fire up this funk and let's have a toke / It can make you dance or some of everything / Everybody get high..." The album sleeve depicted a guitar wielding Rick leading the escape from a prison marked 'Serious Joint'.
1978 Smoking My Ganja - Capital Letters
The first UK-based reggae group to be signed to Greensleeves Records enjoyed a big hit with their debut single, which is included on the compilation, Legalize De Erb (Kickin' Records, 1997).
1978 The Smoke Off - Shel Silverstein
The epic tale of the showdown between Pearly Sweetcake of sunny San Rafael and The Calistoga Kid, a beatnik from the past, at Yankee Stadium, in the World Series of pot smoking: "'Nothin' left to roll!', screams Pearl, 'Is this some twisted joke? / I didn't come here to fuck around, man, I come here to SMOKE!'" and so on...Lyric. Real Audio @ Morgo's Media Menu
1978 Jamaican Weed - Lone Ranger
A joyous celebration of ganga over a bubbling bassline from the influential Studio One deejay, who is perhaps best remembered for his hit, Barnabus Collins, this gem was rescued from oblivion for inclusion on Tommy Boy's original Big Blunts compilation in 1994. Big Blunts Vol.2 (Tommy Boy, 1996) includes 1/4lb. of Ishen, riding the Royals' Pick Up The Pieces rhythm with the Ranger, aka Anthony Waldron, giving a nod to U-Roy while adapting lyrics made famous by Ranking Joe. Included on the excellent album, On The Other Side Of Dub in 1981, it probably dates from around the same period as Jamaican Weed.
1979 Billy Bardo - Johnny Paycheck
The country character best remembered for telling his boss in song to Take This Job And Shove It included this pro-pot song on his 1979 album, which kicks off with a ditty advising listeners to (Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train .
1979 African Reggae - Nina Hagen
"Haschisch, feinstes kaschmir / edelster türke, afghanisches gras / ein plätzchen für mein schplätzchen / cannabis im schwarzwald / Bob Marley auf der venus". Or words to that effect. Lyric.
1979 Spliff Tale - Triston Palma
The perpetrator of dancehall anthem, Entertainment, Triston had a string of hits in 79/80 on Black Solidarity, a label he ran with producer Ossie Thomas, including this all too familiar tale, told in militant rockers style. It's collected on Bamboo Fence & Curry Goat and on a UK compilation, Legalize De Erb (Kickin' Records, 1997). Interview with Triston.