Happy 4/20 to all those who celebrate it. In the 6 years I’ve run this blog, I have never written a post about pot inspired songs, but we’re going to change that now. In this post, I’ll be going through the history of songs about Mary Jane. A lot of classic rock songs are great for getting high to, but what songs are about weed itself? And no, I’m not talking about “Purple Haze” since it’s actually not about weed, it’s a love song As far as I’m aware, the Purple Haze strain was named after the song (not the other way around). And no, “Puff The Magic Dragon” isn’t about weed either. Just because a song sounds amazing while high, doesn’t mean it’s about drugs.
Let’s explore it! Hope you enjoy it!
Before we start with the songs, something that I found interesting is that there really aren’t that many songs in the classic rock era about pot. It makes sense though for a few reasons. If all bands did was sing about smoking weed, I’m gonna be honest, that would bore people, even the biggest stoners. There’s a lot more to life than getting high.
We like to think about the 60s and 70s as a free spirited hippie time, but the youth weren’t the ones running the show – it was the establishment who were greatest/silent generation (people born from 1910s-1930s). A lot of older people (certainly the ones in power) didn’t get rock and roll and pot smoking culture. They grew up with parents who bought into Reefer Madness and were influenced by that and wanted to ban the stuff. It’s like they didn’t learn from the disaster that was Prohibition, not that long ago actually: between 1920 and 1933. In film terms, that spans the time between the silent film era to when we started getting Talkies. Musically, jazz and blues were in then – that generation’s rock and roll. Musicians like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, BB King, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, and James Brown were born during that time, if it helps to put it in even better perspective!
The real reason the politicians in the 60s and 70s wanted to go hard on banning cannabis was to lock up minorities and political opponents. You can’t arrest people for being black, Hispanic, Asian, Native, or being a socialist, but you can arrest them if they do something that the government deems to be illegal. The law isn’t always right. Funny how the prudish Victorians (who jailed gay men and didn’t believe in germ theory) were more liberal on drugs. Victorian era chemists (drugstores) were like Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman”, “I’m your doctor when in need. Want some coke? Have some weed.”
Were the 60s really one big swinging party? Not exactly. Sure, the privileged who lived comfortably enjoyed the 60s, but there were many marginalised people who were straight up not having a good time. Ray Davies said it well in X-Ray, “I think the sixties were a con: the establishment still ruled the country…” and “…The sixties were like a carrot held up to youth to distract us so that we would not rebel against the ruling classes and all the backhanders and corruption that were actually present in politics.” He’s right though. Rock music and popular culture as a whole is a distraction from humdrum life, sometimes to a fault. Companies nowadays will go “What’s up fellow kids? Here’s some spicy relatable memes! Now buy our products and don’t question our labour practices, UWU!”
What doesn’t get talked about is the poverty. Poor people always get ignored. Sure, unemployment was very low then and families had more money, but the unemployed always get ignored and assumed to be leeches, lazy, and unwilling to work. Any amount of unemployed people or people living in poverty is unacceptable, but some people call me a communist for saying that.
You also had the people coming back from the Korean War and Vietnam War, as said in the Edwin Starr song – “War”, “disabled, bitter, and mean.” The wealthy certainly weren’t sending their kids to fight in the war and possibly die or end up with PTSD or missing limbs, as CCR said in “Fortunate Son”, “Some folks are born silver spoon in hand. Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh. But when the taxman comes to the door, lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.”
Boomers wouldn’t run the show until the 90s and we all know how that turned out! Not so great for us millennials. The boomers in power went from hippie college kids who claimed to be against the man to square and grey people who haven’t met a war they didn’t like. I guess that’s what happens when you get money, it changes you! Well that’s enough of my soapbox, let’s talk about the music!
The Music… or the dream blunt rotation:
Mary Jane (1965): Janis Joplin performed this song live in San Francisco, but never recorded a studio version. Makes sense given establishment America’s prudish culture even in the 60s. The whole song is explicitly about getting stoned and this lyric stands out: “When I bring home my hard-earned pay, I spend my money all on Mary Jane.” A relatable song to many working class stoners. Work sucks, smoke a joint to take your mind off it and cope with how dull life is.
Sunny Goodge Street (1965): In the 60s, Donovan would get hash near Goodge Street Station. Donovan was one of the first classic rockers to mention weed in his music, with the lyric: “Violent hash-smoker shook a chocolate machine”. He was also the first classic rocker to be busted for pot. This song almost certainly made him a target. He told Songfacts: “I was the first to actually mention it in a song, and that’s why I would be the first to be busted in London.”
Along Comes Mary (1966): This popular Association song is not something that jumps out at you, but when you think about it… it is a stoner song! Yes, for marketing reasons, the band and songwriter denied it at the time, but there’s evidence to believe that Mary is really just cannabis. Songwriter and pot use advocate Tandyn Almer came up with a neat design for a bong called the Slave-Master. In The New Yorker, “Along Comes Mary” was described as one of the earliest and most overt attempts at writing a song about weed.
Eight Miles High (1966): There’s a lot of argument back and forth on whether this song is simply about flying on a plane and The Byrds going to London or if weed was a factor in this song. It’s considered one of the first psychedelic rock songs and it’s become known as a hippie classic. Like a lot of counterculture classics, controversy came with it, in this case a radio ban and accusations that they were supporting drug use.
The Byrds denied it at the time, but decades later admitted that they were indeed high when they wrote the song. David Crosby said: “Of course it was a drug song! We were stoned when we wrote it.” Gene Clark said: “It was about a lot of things. It was about the airplane trip to England, it was about drugs, it was about all that. A piece of poetry of that nature is not limited to having it have to be just about airplanes or having it have to be just about drugs. It was inclusive because during those days the new experimenting with all the drugs was a very vogue thing to do.”
A lot of bands did that sort of thing by hiding references to LSD in their songs, to push the envelope and see what they can get away with in music – notably The Beatles with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds“. Or The Pretty Things, who cheekily titled their 1966 song LSD as “£.s.d” – yeah no, it’s not about pounds, shillings, and pence. At least Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah had some creativity with “Lake Shore Drive”. Perhaps if Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix lived until the 70s or 80s, they might have said similar things about some of their songs.
Got To Get You Into My Life (1966): The Beatles wrote quite a few songs about drugs and you have to admit that recreational drug use inspired them a bit. It’s not a love song, Paul called it an “ode to pot”. He wrote it when he was first introduced to pot. Before pot, they used amphetamines to keep up their energy levels and get through concerts. We can thank Bob Dylan for turning the Beatles onto it. That wasn’t the only song on the album about drugs, John Lennon wrote “Doctor Robert” about a doctor who gives his rock star patients drugs, and it’s based on his own life.
Let’s Go Get Stoned (1966): This self-explanatory Ashford & Simpson song was originally performed by The Coasters in 1965, but the best known version was by Ray Charles. Other musicians who recorded their own versions of it include Manfred Mann, The Amboy Dukes, James Brown, and Big Mama Thornton.
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (1966): The opening track to Bob Dylan’s much-loved album, Blonde on Blonde. The song title doesn’t sound stoner on first glance, so what makes this a pothead song? The lyric “Everybody must get stoned”, which is probably a pun on the ancient, and definitely not fun, punishment of stoning people. Stoning, or lapidation, was mentioned in the Bible, which has no doubt inspired many authors, poets, and songwriters over the centuries.
If you know your Bob Dylan history, you’ll know that around this time, he radically changed his sound and image from acoustic folk to more electrified folk rock. A lot of his fanbase were purists who thought you can’t put electric guitars in folk rock and felt like he alienated them with this change, even booing him and walking out during his concerts. The lyric, “They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car. They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar” could be about that.
Maybe it’s a diss track to the elitist folk purists. That’s the fun of Bob Dylan, he’s so cryptic with his songwriting and you can get all sorts of meanings from his lyrics. Guess I’ll put a fitting meme here:
Bob Dylan said electric guitar go brrr!!!
Been Smoking Too Long (recorded in 1967): A song Nick Drake recorded, but never released on any of his studio albums. A friend of his named Robin Frederick wrote the song and Nick Drake met her while she was studying in university in Aix-en-Provence. He recorded a demo of it in 1967 to give to his parents.
“Tell me, tell me
What have I done wrong?
Ain’t nothing go right with me
Must be I’ve been smoking too long.”
Fixing a Hole (1967): “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” wasn’t the only song with a drug reference on Sgt Pepper and Paul didn’t stop at “Got To Get You Into My Life”. Paul McCartney said that “Fixing a Hole” is about pot. Some people thought the title referenced heroin since it is a slang term for using drugs, but that’s not the case here.
Itchycoo Park (1967): The best known Small Faces song, and no there is no real park of that name, but some think it’s based on Little Ilford Park, Valentine’s Park, or Wanstead Flats in Epping Forest. Sound wise, it’s a combination of American R&B and British music hall. That’s the beauty of cultural exchange and fusion. Americans wouldn’t come up with a song like “Itchycoo Park” because music hall wasn’t a thing there. “It’s all too beautiful” says it all about this song!
Weed isn’t the main theme here, but it is mentioned in the song lyric: “(What did you do there?) I got high.” Ronnie Lane got the inspiration to write the song when he saw a leaflet about Oxford – the song references the famous Bridge of Sighs and “dreaming spires” – the words in the leaflet that inspired Ronnie lane to write the song. Like “Eight Miles High”, “Itchycoo Park” was banned on the radio for its references to drugs, but has since gotten a legacy as one of the best singles of its time. Funny enough, their previous single “Here Come The Nice” was about a drug dealer, but the reference to that flew above the powers that be’s heads and didn’t receive an airplay ban.
Light My Fire (1967): The sad thing about musicians dying young is that a lot of secrets and knowledge about the songs that they wrote are going to the grave. You can’t interview the dead. While Jim Morrison never said this song was about marijuana, you can’t really write a 4/20 blog post without talking about this song. Interestingly enough, Robby Krieger mostly wrote the song, but it was credited to the whole band. Perhaps it was a love song with references to weed. He was inspired by “Hey Joe” and “Play With Fire”. Like a lot of songs with marijuana references, there came controversy. When The Doors performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show, Jim Morrison refused to change the line “girl, we couldn’t get much higher” and that earned the band a ban from performing on the show – Jim Morrison said in response, we just did The Ed Sullivan Show. The song was still a top 10 hit and was one of the most iconic performances on the show. Who said being banned means that you’re going to be irrelevant? Sometimes getting banned gets your band in the history books.
Mr Farmer (1967): A song by The Seeds about a man who grows disillusioned with his grey city life and decides to move out into the country, buys a farm, and grows crops, weed particularly. Songwriter Sky Saxon tried to make it seem less obvious that the song was about drugs and to make it not look good that the farmer grows marijuana, but the radio stations thought it glorified the pot growing lifestyle. Those DJs just didn’t have Tegridy!
With A Little Help From My Friends (1967): Another song from Sgt Pepper. An obvious reference with the lyric “I get high with a little help from my friends”. Are Ringo’s friends buying him pot or are joints and edibles his friends? Joe Cocker notably covered this song and it became an anthem for the Woodstock generation. Did you know this song was once called “Bad Finger Boogie” as a working title in the early writing stage? The reason for the title was that John composed it with his middle finger.
54-46 (That’s My Number)/54-46 Was My Number (1968/1969): One of the first ska songs to get popular internationally, outside of Jamaica. The lyrics are based on the true story of Toots Hibbert getting arrested for possession of marijuana when he came back from the first Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition in 1966 and won first place for his song “Bam Bam”. He later said he didn’t smoke at the time and that he was set up. As the song title suggests, 54-46 was his prisoner number. For a little classic rock connection, The Clash song “Jail Guitar Doors” references this song. “54-46 Was My Number is the sequel to the song, a more polished sound.
Don’t Bogart Me (1968): The most famous song by blues/psychedelic rock band Fraternity of Man. The song was in the soundtrack for the counterculture road trip film Easy Rider. For those who don’t know, bogarting is when you hog the joint or bong all to yourself, or just someone who won’t share things generally speaking. The slang term comes from Humphrey Bogart playing characters who always have a cigarette in their hand. Remember pot etiquette! Puff puff pass!
Don’t Step On The Grass, Sam (1968): Who’s Sam? Uncle Sam! Around this time, America started its racist, classist War on Drugs. The song opens with the narrator watching a TV debate where they talk about drug policy. The symbols for the establishment anti-pot squares in the government are Joe and Sam. Steppenwolf’s main diss against the government can be found in these lyrics where they call and response to the government’s racist, classist policies, all based on lies.
“Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
Well it will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight, alright)”
Now that many states are moving forward with legalisation, it’s other countries’ turn to legalise it. Where’s your excuse? World Police America have largely already legalised it! Racism and classism are indeed factors in who gets arrested in other countries too! Don’t act all high (pun intended) and mighty.
Medicated Goo (1968): This Traffic song’s title is a term for edibles, particularly stews or mac and cheese infused with cannabis. You need fat in the food to get the high from the THC. Edibles are great as this lyric puts it: “Frantic friends and neighbours charge the door. They caught a little whiff Now they’re digging it and seeking more.”
The Pusher (1968): Another song in the Easy Rider soundtrack. Written by Hoyt Axton and performed by Steppenwolf. The song is about how hard drugs can mess you up and how pushers are plain evil and don’t care about people. Not a pro drug song. I think there are lots of drug pushers and no, they’re not all the film characters, some come in the form of Big Pharma. See the opening below. It’s one of my favourite movie opening scenes ever.
Who Needs The Peace Corps? (1968): A satire/comedy rock song by The Mothers of Invention and in the soundtrack for the 1969 film Medium Cool. The song mocks hippies, particularly the fake stoner ones who are only in the subculture for the aesthetic, but don’t take action and stand up for what they supposedly believe in, but rather spend their days lounging around virtue signalling and slactivisting. Not much has changed since the 60s.
Inside-Looking Out (1969): Grand Funk did an excellent cover of The Animals’ original (I’ll just say it, it’s better than the original), which is actually based on a prison work chant called “Rosie”. Grand Funk changed some of the lyrics to refer to pot: changing “And when my time is up, you’ll be my rebirth” to “And when my time is up, you’ll be my reefer”, “I work all day making up canvas bags” to “I work all day making up nickel bags”. Thankfully, recreational marijuana is now legal in Grand Funk’s home state of Michigan and has been since 2018 with legal sales starting in 2019. Even before that though, Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located, had liberal laws when it came to possession of cannabis.
Compare that to the Animals:
Little Green Bag (1969): You might know this song because it was on the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino film (his first feature film) Reservoir Dogs. It was by a Dutch band called George Baker Selection. The original title of the song was “Little Greenback”, but was changed to “Little Green Bag” by accident and that name stuck. What is that little green bag? As Liam Gallagher of Oasis likes to say, “c’mon you know”.
Fresh Air (1970): From the Quicksilver Messenger Service album Just For Love. Founding member Dino Valenti had just been released from prison for drug offences before recording this album and he had a lot of influence on the sound – which instead of being more jazz improvisation influenced, it became more straight rock and roll. “Fresh Air” doesn’t mention weed, but I think it’s pretty obvious with the lyric “hit of sweet air”. It was their most successful single.
Mexico (1970): This Grace Slick-penned Jefferson Airplane song criticises President Nixon and the War on Drugs, particularly his anti-drug initiative Operation Intercept to stop the flow of marijuana from Mexico to the US. Like a lot of songs about drugs, it got banned from radio airplay. Some lyrics from the song:
“There used to be tons of gold and green
Comin’ up here from Mexico
A donde está la planta, mi amigo, del sol?
But Mexico is under the thumb
Of a man we call Richard
And he’s come to call himself king
But he’s a small-headed man
And he doesn’t know a thing
About how to deal for you”
Midnight Rider (1970): While this Allman Brothers song didn’t chart, it’s still a fan favourite. Gregg Allman wrote the song while the band rented a farmhouse called Idlewild South in Macon, Georgia. He felt so free there because he could smoke weed without fear of the cops and that helped him write some great music. “But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no, not gonna let ’em catch the midnight rider.”
Only A Roach (1970): Drummer Jerry Shirley wrote this country rock Humble Pie song about getting busted for pot. The biggest danger of smoking pot is really the legal consequences. “Only a roach won’t keep us from crossing no ocean”
Truckin’ (1970): This Grateful Dead song is a fan favourite and based on the true story of them getting busted for drugs in New Orleans: “Busted, down on Bourbon Street Set up, like a bowling pin Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin They just won’t let you be”.
When Alice Comes Back to the Farm (1970): The Move made a few subtle references to weed in this song: Alice, which is the name of a strain and “time for tearing out the weeds”.
Going to California (1971): In this Led Zeppelin song, the narrator opens with his experiences with a woman who drank all his wine and smoked all his weed and he decides to go to California for a better life. A beautiful song that reflects on the early years of Led Zeppelin: all the encounters with groupies. Joni Mitchell and the Laurel Canyon folk scene inspired this song.
Henry (1971): By New Riders of the Purple Sage. About a guy who goes to Mexico to pick up some weed.
Light Up Or Leave Me Alone (1971): This Traffic song expresses frustration towards a girlfriend who spends all his money, argues with him, and cheating and the narrator tells them to light up or leave them alone.
Misty Mountain Hop (1971): “Going to California” wasn’t the only song on Led Zeppelin IV that referenced weed. This song is about the events of the Legalise Pot Rally in Hyde Park in 1968.
One Toke Over The Line (1971): A song by Brewer & Shipley. Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley got high one day and Shipley said “Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight”. Brewer liked the way that line sounded and they both wrote the song. The song was a fan favourite at gigs when they opened for Melanie. Once again, the man didn’t like this song. Vice President Spiro Agnew called it blatant drug culture propaganda and the song was banned from being broadcast in many parts of the south.
Seeds and Stems (Again) (1971): By Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Pretty obvious what kinds of seeds and stems they’re talking about.
Sweet Leaf (1971): From Black Sabbath’s album Master of Reality, while the song is about smoking weed and how much fun it is, the title actually came from slogan on a package of cigarettes that read: “it’s the sweet leaf”. A lyric from the song: “I love you sweet leaf, even though you can’t hear”.
Willin’ (1971): Lowell George wrote this Little Feat song about a trucker who smuggles weed when he was still in the Mothers of Invention (and allegedly was booted because of it), but didn’t record it until he formed Little Feat. The band’s name comes from a comment Jimmy Carl Black made about Lowell George’s feet, the changed spelling is an homage to The Beatles.
There are three legends on why he left the Mothers, the first being that when George showed “Willin'” to Frank Zappa, Zappa felt like he was too talented to be in his backing band and would outshine him. The second was that he played a 15 minute guitar solo with the amplifier off, and the third reason is that “Willin'” had drug references. Regardless, Frank Zappa didn’t hang him out to dry. He helped Little Feat get a record deal.
30 Days In The Hole (1972): Many drugs are mentioned in this Steve Marriott-penned Humble Pie song about a person who gets busted for drug possession and is facing 30 days in the hole. Of those that are weed and hash: Black Nepalese, Red Lebanese (Chicago Green), and Durban Poison. Smokin’ was Humble Pie’s most successful album and their first album released after Peter Frampton left the band. This song is a fan favourite and has been used in the GTA V soundtrack, in Los Santos Rock Radio.
I Got Stoned and I Missed It (1972): A poem by Shel Silverstein, performed as a song on his album Freakin’ At The Freakers’ Ball. You could say it’s the OG “Because I Got High”, coming out nearly 30 years before Afroman’s song. A lyric from the song: “I was sittin’ in my basement I’d just rolled myself a taste of somethin’ green and gold and glorious to get me through the day.”
Pusherman (1972): As mentioned in the intro of the blog post, “Pusherman”, while mostly about cocaine, references weed in this lyric: “I’m your doctor when in need. Want some coke? Have some weed.” It’s one of the most popular songs on Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly soundtrack. The album doesn’t glorify drug use, but in fact talks about the realities of it and how poor people turn to drugs because they feel hopeless. Along with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Gil Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man, these albums were some of the most important political soul albums. There’s a term for this kind of music, progressive soul, basically the black American answer to progressive rock. There’s a lot of similarities: the influence of jazz and rock music, concept albums, multiple movements within a long song, and incorporation of science fiction themes in the albums.
Band on the Run (1973): Paul McCartney wrote this song in response to rock bands getting busted for drugs. “Stuck inside these four walls, sent inside forever” describes the way the American criminal justice system treats people who use drugs. Isn’t it crazy that you can get a longer jail sentence for doing drugs than for committing a violent crime? Out of whack priorities.
Panama Red (1973): A country rock/outlaw country song by New Riders of the Purple Sage. The song title is a reference to a popular, potent strain of marijuana at the time, but the song was about a cowboy named after it.
The Joker (1973): The Steve Miller Band wrote one of the best known stoner songs. No need to explain it: “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker”. A lot of songs inspired this one: Allen Toussaint’s “Soul Sister”, The Clovers’ “Lovey Dovey”, and The Medallions’ “The Letter”. Steve Miller famously made up a word in this song: “pompatus”, inspired by him mishearing a word in “The Letter”. What even is a pompatus?
No No Song (1974): This Ringo Starr song talks about Colombian marijuana and other substances, but as the title suggests, the narrator refuses them. Songwriter Hoyt Axton released his own version with Cheech & Chong.
Wildwood Weed (1974): This Jim Stafford song was inspired by 20s folk music group The Carter Family’s recording of “Wildwood Flower”. The lyrics about farmers who discover a psychedelic plant are spoken. The feds bust the farmers and destroy their crops, but they managed to hide some seeds and they are determined to grow some more wildwood weed. The song was a top 10 hit on the pop charts, but some AM radio stations banned it.
Roll Another Number (For The Road) (1975): Neil Young’s goodbye, read: a good riddance, of sorts to the Woodstock chapter of his life. Like Frank Zappa, hippies loved him, but he didn’t like the hippie culture and what it stood for. He said this about drugs: “I’m not a junkie and I won’t even try it out to check out what it’s like. But we all got high enough right out there on the edge where we felt wide-open to the whole mood. It was spooky. I probably felt this album more than anything else I’ve ever done.”
A Passage To Bangkok (1976): This Rush song is all about drug tourism, only stopping for the best. One of the best tracks on 2112. While it doesn’t mention drugs by name, there’s a lot of clever innuendo. Neil Peart was such a great lyricist! Prog rock and hard rock didn’t have the mainstream success and radio airplay that more mainstream rock subgenres did so I’m not aware of any radio bans.
“Our first stop is in Bogota
To check Colombian fields
The natives smile and pass along
A sample of their yield
Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams
Golden Acapulco nights
Then Morocco, and the East
Fly by morning light”
Legalise It (1976): A classic Peter Tosh song from the album of the same name – his solo debut after leaving The Wailers. The lyrics were based on the police going after him and a bold statement – “Legalise it, don’t criticise it. Legalise it and I will advertise it”. It even extols the medicinal benefits, not just how it can make life more fun. Like a lot of the songs on the list, the government didn’t like it. When it was released in Jamaica, it was banned – but the fans loved it and he got famous because of it.
Smokin’ (1976): From Boston’s famous, well-loved, self-titled debut. Pretty self explanatory: “We’re cookin’ tonight, just keep on tokin'”.
That Smell (1977): A song by Lynyrd Skynyrd about guitarist Gary Rossington’s struggles with drugs and alcohol: referencing a car crash that happened while he was drunk, addiction symbolised by the angel of darkness, and the smell of weed being described as the smell of death. Be responsible with your consumption of drugs and get help if you feel like it’s out of control. “So take another toke, have a blow for your nose. One more drink, fool, would drown you (Hell yeah)”
Two Hits and The Joint Turned Brown (1977): A more obscure song by country group Dillard-Hartford-Dillard. The lyrics namecheck Bob Marley.
Kaya (1978): From the Bob Marley and the Wailers album of the same name. The title is a Jamaican slang term for herb.
Mary Jane (1978): The second single from Rick James’ debut album, Come Get It!
“I’m in love with Mary Jane.
She’s my main thing.
She makes me feel alright.
She makes my heart sing.
And when I’m feeling low,
She comes as no surprise.
Turns me on with her love.
Takes me to paradise.”
My Collie (Not A Dog) (1980): A song by ska band The Selecter. The lyric that makes it clear it’s not about a dog: “I love my collie, it makes me feel so high. It gives me deep meditation. Oh my sweet collie. I love it I love it I love it so.”
Champagne & Reefer (1981): Performed by Muddy Waters. An excerpt of the lyrics below:
“Yeah bring me champagne when I’m thirsty
Bring me reefer when I want to get high
Well you know when I’m lonely
Bring my woman set her right down here by my side
Well you know there should be no law
On people that want to smoke a little dope”
Doors, Bars, Metal (1981): From a late post-teen idol Bay City Rollers album with Duncan Faure (formerly of South African rock band Rabbitt) on lead vocals, the opening track of the band’s album Ricochet (their last studio album) is based on The Bay City Rollers touring South Africa in the early 80s and Duncan Faure being arrested for possession of marijuana, hence the video having a jail theme. The rest of the band got arrested for not paying off debts, but the rest of them being British citizens were able to escape on the next flight, but Duncan was left stuck in his birth country. Duncan Faure received a suspended sentence and ended up fired from the band after the Rollers fired him via a newspaper story, but he took them to court for unfair dismissal and won. The Bay City Rollers decided to ignore the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa and tour there because they were desperate for money. Duncan Faure cussed on stage and said “sex drugs and rock and roll” at a concert and with South Africa being very conservative at the time, it was controversial.
Pass The Kouchie (1981): A reggae song by The Mighty Diamonds, later on remade by Musical Youth as “Pass The Dutchie”.
Pass The Dutchie (1982): One of the most famous stoner reggae songs. This version has a cover of the intro from U Roy’s “Rule The Nation” and it not only covers “Pass The Kouchie”, it combines it with “Gimme The Music” by U Brown, which you can hear in the first verse and throughout the song. I like when a band cover a song and it’s not a straight cover, but combined with other songs. This song removed drug references by changing kouchie to Dutchie, the term for a Dutch oven, but Dutchie has since turned into a slang term for weed thanks to this song. To be fair, Amsterdam does smell like weed. As well, instead of “how does it feel when you’ve got no herb?” it says “How does it feel when you’ve got no food?”. Well, it would be a bad look if a bunch of kids started singing about weed.
Drugs Drugs Drugs (1983-ish?): A follower of mine on Instagram, @verymildpain, told me about Tonetta’s song “Drugs Drugs Drugs”. Tonetta is a Canadian lo-fi outsider musician who started recording music in the early 80s after he divorced his wife. He also started doing drag and Tonetta is his drag name. As this is a lo-fi, outsider song recorded around 1983 on a reel to reel tape recorder in his mum’s house, the quality of the audio isn’t professional, but it adds to the charm. It wasn’t released until decades later, but it sounds like something straight out of the late 70s.
Smoke Two Joints (1983): This song was originally performed by The Toyes, but later famously covered by ska punk band Sublime, who made it one of the most iconic songs about pot. While on holiday in Hawaii, two of the band members were chilling under a banyan tree, smoking weed, and listening to funky, rootsy reggae. This song was in the soundtrack for the 1998 film, Homegrown.
“I smoke two joints in the morning, I smoke two joints at night
I smoke two joints in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright
I smoke two joints in time of peace, and two in time of war
I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints, and then I smoke two more”
Under Me Sleng Teng (1985): A song by Jamaican reggae/dancehall musician Wayne Smith. Sleng teng is one of the first computerised riddims (instrumental accompaniment) in Jamaican music. The inspirations behind the lyrics were Barrington Levy’s “Under me sensi” and Yellowman’s “Under me fat ting”. Musically, Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else” and David Bowie’s “Hang Onto Yourself” were influences.
One verse mentions weed:
“Because-a, inna me eyes there is red like blood
And I been moving around like a human flood
Smoke out of me mouth, and outa me nose
I blow it in the air, ’cause it must expose”
Reefer Man (1932): Also known as “Have You Ever Met That Funny Reefer Man?”, it was originally performed by Cab Calloway and appeared in his film, International House.
If You’re a Viper (1936): A jazz song originally performed by Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys. Viper is Harlem slang for a stoner, coming from the hissing intake of smoke.
Since I can’t find the song on Spotify, I’ll link it below:
The Weed Smoker’s Dream (1936): Originally performed by the Harlem Hamfats, it was rewritten as “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and famously performed in 1941 by Lil Green with Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and a year later by Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman in the film Stage Door Canteen.
Viper’s Dream (1937): A jazz song popularised by Django Reinhardt.
Viper Mad (1938): Also known as “Pleasure Mad” – as performed by vaudeville and jazz singer Blossom Seeley in 1924, it was recorded by saxophonist Sidney Bechet, one of the most important jazz soloists.
The Reefer Song (1943): A remake of “If You’re a Viper” recorded by Fats Waller. It was a diss track of sorts to Harry Anslinger, the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, formed in 1930 and dissolved in 1968 and replaced by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and eventually becoming what we now know as the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). Anslinger went after pot smoking jazz and swing musicians. Sounds familiar? A lot like when the government went after rock stars.
Below, you can find the complete playlist of all the songs:
Did I miss something? Did you learn something? Find a new favourite? Let me know in the comments!
Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!
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