POPS, JEWS, JAZZ & JOINTS

There is no disputing that the vast majority of gifted, African-American jazz musicians were largely responsible for the development of this authentically American musical form. It is also clear that these musicians were not alone in their efforts to produce great art. Adrian Cho, in her essay “Jewish Influences in Jazz,” notes that:

Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Alan Lerner, Frederick Loewe, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg were some of the great songwriters and lyricists who put Tin Pan Alley on the virtual musical map. Jewish influence in Tin Pan Alley was so strong that Cole Porter reportedly attributed his success to the fact that he wrote “Jewish music,” although he was not Jewish himself. (https://carleton.ca/linr/wp-content/uploads/Handout-1-3.pdf)

American Jews also supported jazz by attending concerts, buying records, and working as agents, managers, attorneys, producers and label heads. As partners, African-Americans and American Jews created, produced, manufactured and marketed a musical genre that appealed to and brought together music enthusiasts of all backgrounds, establishing jazz as a symbol of the American “melting pot.” The fellowship between African American jazz musicians and American Jews could be found throughout the jazz ranks, but was nowhere more apparent than in the relationship between Louis Armstrong and his close friend, Milton Mezzrow.

One of the first African-American artists associated with jazz musicianship, Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901 and grew up without a father. Raised by his grandmother, and later his mother, young Louis began working for a Jewish family called the Karnoffskys in his free time. The Karnoffskys brought Armstrong into their home, treating him as one of the family, loaning him the money to purchase his first coronet, and providing the venue for Louis’s first public performance. Living with a Jewish family revealed to the young trumpeter that, like African-Americans, American Jews were also treated poorly and subject to discrimination. For the rest of his life, Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant around his neck in solidarity with the Karnoffskys and with American Jews, telling others that the Jewish family taught him “how to live – real life and determination” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong)

A few decades later, in the 1930s, when Louis Armstrong was a performing jazz musician, he struck up a long-lasting and productive relationship with a young American Jew named Milton Mezzrow. In his exhaustive social history of marijuana, Smoke Signals, author Martin A. Lee recounts the story of “Mezz” (as Mezzrow was widely known) and how he and Armstrong became so close. Lee proffers an analogy to account for Milton Mezzrow and to illustrate Mezz’s significance to Louis Armstrong and to American jazz. Lee explains that the expression, “the real McCoy”, was coined to describe the bathtub gin cooked up by a guy named Bill McCoy during prohibition. His liquor was so highly regarded that imbibers began referring to it as “the real McCoy”. Lee asserts that Mezzrow was to cannabis what McCoy was to prohibition alcohol: if you obtained herb from Mezz, you had obtained “the real McCoy”…or in this case, the real Mezz.

Mezz & Clarinet
The Real Mezz: Milton Mezzrow and his Clarinet

Mezz was born in Chicago a couple of years before Armstrong and spent some of his childhood in reform school. Reform school is where Mezz met and befriended many young African-American musicians. He became so attached to his new friends that he wanted to renounce his whiteness and become one of them, which he began in earnest by learning to play jazz clarinet. Once he was out of reform school, Mezz began both smoking cannabis and playing music with his new friends. Mezz believed that being high facilitated better playing, writing in his autobiography that cannabis allowed him to:

…see things in a wonderful, soothing, easy-going new light. All of a sudden, the world is stripped of its dirty gray shrouds and becomes one big bellyful of giggles, a special laugh, bathed in brilliant, sparkling colors that hits you like a heat wave… You can’t get enough of anything – you want to gobble up the whole goddamned universe just for an appetizer.

After the stock market crash in 1929, Mezz moved to Harlem. He had connections there and soon began acquiring high-grade Mexican cannabis to roll into joints and sell to his fellow jazz musicians for ten cents each. Mezz became so popular in Harlem for his potent reefers that he acquired a number of nicknames including “the Reefer King,” “The Philosopher,” “the Man with the Jive,” “the Link Between the Races,” “the Man that Hipped the World,” and “Pop’s Boy”. The last of these pseudonyms was a reference to Mezz’s close relationship with Armstrong.

Mezz & Pops
Mezz & Pops

Louis Armstrong had an appetite for marijuana and used it often. Because Armstrong spent so much time in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, it was no surprise he connected with Mezz, who became Armstrong’s main supplier. Lee points out in Smoke Signals that, “As Armstrong’s principal supplier…Mezz had almost unlimited access to his hero at a time when Satchmo was at the height of his creative powers.” Satchmo, as Louis was affectionately known, began referring to cannabis as “the Mezz”, which became the preferred local slang for herb, while a fat blunt from Mezz was commonly referred to as a “Mezzerola”. In fact, the Mezz had become so closely associated with the positive feelings the locals had about marijuana that the term “Mezz” became a proxy for “anything that was ‘supremely good’ or ‘genuine,’ especially when referring to kind bud. Armstrong was such a dedicated customer that he would send Mezz letters from the road, asking him to send more “’Lo Zee Rose’ and ‘Orchestrations’”, both pseudonyms for top shelf ganja.

The Mezz continued to play jazz music throughout his life and remained a fixture on the scene. He was fortunate to have been in the recording studio when Satchmo laid down the track “Hobo, You Can’t Ride this Train”, on which Mezz played the train bell heard at the beginning of the song. It was a paean to the dejected and dispossessed victims of the Great Depression. One of the reasons that cannabis became such a popular component of the of jazz scene in the 1920s and 1930s was because of it’s relatively low cost and wide availability. Several jazz songs were written in homage to the hardy and heady plant, with many of these songs reflecting the feel of a marijuana high (probably because the songs were written under the influence). These musicians and songwriters were paying tribute to Mezz, who’s herbal remedies inspired “looser, springier rhythms” in songs comprising a jazz subgenre called “viper music”. Lee notes,  ’If You’re A Viper,’ written by Rosetta Howard and recorded by Stuff Smith, Fats Waller, and others, began with this frolicsome ditty: Dreamed about a reefer five foot long / The mighty Mezz, but not too strong.”

Smoking cannabis wasn’t just an emotional escape for Depression-era jazzers, or a substitute for prohibited alcohol. On the contrary, according to Lee, it was a “revelation” to young jazz musicians of the time, who began experimenting with the fixed musical forms they had inherited, creating a “cutting-edge sound.” Marijuana also became associated with jazz personality and identity, and, along with jive talk, helped create solidarity amongst the jazz insiders. These vipers, the marijuana puffing jazz musicians who played “viper music”, were described by Mezz as being “on another plane in another sphere compared to the musicians who were bottle babies, always hitting the jug and then coming up brawling after they got loaded. We liked things to be easy and relaxed, mellow and mild, not loud or loutish…” Mezz observed and noted the incredible amount of cannabis being consumed openly by performers at Harlem’s legendary Lafayette Theater, with some in the audience partaking, too. This phenomenon would repeat itself in jazz clubs around the United States, where more and more crowds were integrated with people of different races, all coming together to get a little high and a little mellow while music filled their senses. Cannabis, along with jazz, was breaking through barriers of race and class and bringing people together in a way they hadn’t been able to in conventional society.

Mezz’s glorious run came to an end in 1940 when he was caught with sixty joints on his way in to a jazz club and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on Riker’s Island. After serving his time, Mezz followed other great American jazz performers and moved to France, living in Paris for the rest of his life. Mezz the mensch would be remembered by those who’d lived through that wild jazz age “as ‘that funny refer man’ who palled around with the legendary Louis Armstrong.”

Blues With Bechet LP
Blues With Bechet LP

Postscript: The Mezz passed away about 45 years ago, but his spirit lives on in today’s American cannabis revolution. There is a company in Denver, Colorado called “Mezz Brands” who define themselves as “a cutting-edge lifestyle company leading the next wave of cannabis culture.” Mezz Brands is on social media and on the web: https://www.mezzbrands.com/ & @mezzbrands

CONCENTRATES CUSTOMER: FROM KINGS TO BLUES

The W.E.E.D.
The W.E.E.D. Dispensary: Clean, Well Let, Organized, Good Customer Service

The higher my dive into the cannabis legalization dynamic, the less clear what the impact has been on manufacturers, dispensaries and patients / customers. I’ve written previously about two totally different dispensaries, one, The W.E.E.D., a showcase of cleanliness, good customer service, compliance, high quality product and tax collection, the other, Rolling Stoned, a dynamic, exciting, duty-free recreational trailer-bazaar stocked with a wide variety of potent items and staffed with attractive budtendresses, some with groovy Russian accents. I’ve since patronized a third local dispensary, Kings, located on the other side of the airport, where I had yet another totally unique experience as a new patient and customer.

Rolling Stoned Dispensary Logo
Rolling Stoned Dispensary: Wild, Fun, Well Stocked + Russian Accents

The newest dispensary to serve my customer needs is, like Rolling Stoned, fairly close to home. Kings Pre ICO bears a humble, if not unprepossessing, storefront and is matched on the inside with a cozy dispensary. There is ample customer street parking on the street, but take note that the parking across the street is designated for another business. I climbed the steps and was buzzed in before I had a chance to push the buzzer and was greeted  by a kind young man wearing a “security” jacket. He sat me down in the customer lobby, went behind the office window and processed my paperwork while I took a clipboard and filled out a form. I was pleased to discover that Kings takes it’s medical role seriously. It is extra work, but I think it is respectful and appropriate to differentiate between medical and recreational customers.

Kings Pre ICO
Kings – Pre ICO – Kind & Helpful Budtender, Small but Quality Stock, Folksy & Down to Earth Experience

The young security guard / office administrator then unlocked a door just across the small lobby and took another customer inside. I was impressed at the idea that one person was playing all the roles in the process, from security to administrative to sales and counseling. Serious multitasking. I eyed the two desk-sized glass cases featuring concentrates, edibles, pre-rolls, etc., and then gazed up at the back wall where jars of flowers stood fragrantly on a set of shelves. The budtender showed incredible patience and attention to the first customer, working with him to find the best meds for the amount of cash the customer had to spend. The customer, who had a small, well-behaved dog with him, seemed really happy with his chocolate bar and flower as he trotted out to start his day.

Dab Rig E-nail
Concentrates Dabbing Rig with E-nail

Another customer arrived and took a seat on the bench while I approached the concentrates cases and tried to take it all in. I noticed that just to my left stood a dabbing rig with e-nail. I’d never seen one up close before and I was intrigued. My budtender enthusiastically highlighted some of his favorite concentrates and helped me pick out a few grams. It was happy hour, and I was a new patient / customer, so I was given big price breaks on product and ended up with a gram and a half of shatter and a gram of honeycomb wax. Realizing that I was getting low on my White Russian flower, my helpful budtender simply asked me how much money I wanted to donate that day to help me find the right strain. First time I had ever been asked this question as a customer, and I appreciated it. I gladly included an eighth of Citrus Cookies with my purchase and slid down the counter to the register to complete my purchase.

Kings' Cache
My Cache from Kings (Gatefold of 13th Floor Elevators “Easter Everywhere” LP)

While waiting to pay, I asked my host about the rig, just to my left. I asked about the e-nail and explained that I had a vape pen but not a rig…that I’d never used a rig and wasn’t sure whether to get one. The compassionate budtender kindly offered to allow me to try the rig, using house shatter. I thought about it for a second and decided to go ahead, since this was my chance to experience it for myself. One of the best customer service gestures I had experienced at any dispensary I’d ever patronized.

I waited for the budtender to finish helping the next customer with a small flower purchase and then followed instructions for how to hold the dab rig and be ready for use. I hadn’t realized that dab rigs are basically bongs, but with different headpieces. I also had mistakenly thought that the “nail” was the pointy tool you used to place the dab into the bong. Wrong! I still wasn’t clear about how the electric nail worked – I still didn’t understand that a “nail” isn’t shaped like a nail, so wasn’t sure where the nail was. I had also heard about quartz and titanium nails and wasn’t sure how that played into the experience either. And I had never heard the term “banger”, tho it didn’t apply to this rig. I was a completely clueless customer!

Following instructions, I took my place at the rig’s mouthpiece and watched as my host pulled a decent, pebble sized dab onto his dabbing tool and dropped it onto the titanium e-nail. The shatter bubbled right away and I inhaled deeply as the budtender placed the hood over the nail and cool and fragrant vapor first filled the bong, and then my lungs. It was one of the most pleasant cannabis experiences I’d ever had, because the vapor was so smooth and not harsh like smoke. I pulled a good 3 or 4 more chambers full of vapor and felt absolutely wonderful. The gesture was pure compassion on the part of my budtender, nothing manipulative or untoward about it, and was a kindness that I will remember as return customer.

I departed Kings and said my thanks and good byes to my new budtender and thought about what a great high the dab produced. It felt clean, very cerebral, euphoric & creative. The sensation of all that vapor was also a very enjoyable experience, and I realized that it was time to add a rig to my repertoire. But I was still very uncertain about price and about the crème bruelee torch, so I took a day to think about it. The next day I drove down the boulevard to Blue’s, my local smoke shop. I parked on the street and walked to the opaquely mirrored front door and rang the bell. I was buzzed in right away and was  struck blind by the darkness blanketing the room. I couldn’t see and clumsily asked to use my cell phone light, which I did just for a second. I picked up a dab tool and cleaning brush and asked about dabbing rigs.

Blues Smoke Shop
Blues Smoke Shop – Dark inside, but well stocked

The salesman patently probed my interest with a few questions, including how much I wanted to spend. Not yet fully committed to the idea, I told him I could spend fifty dollars, thinking that would be far too little. But lo and behold he had a decent sized clear glass beaker-shaped bong with glass banger and hood, which he sold to me all-together for $41, dab tools and a mini/portable torch included. I was a happy customer! I went home to try it all out. It took me a while, but after buying a larger torch and watching a few more videos, I’ve become reasonably adept at heady, tasty, low temp dabs. If only concentrates weren’t so d&mn expensive!

So far the dabbing experience has been like smoking ganja again for the first time. It is potent, long-lasting, clean, euphoric, and doesn’t leave the odor that burned plant material does. That said, the question remains, how necessary is it to buy only tested, labeled concentrates, which cost significantly more and include a hefty tax? It is an unwelcome customer challenge to have to choose between potential health impact and affordability. My customer optimism gives me hope that as the industry settles down and assimilates to the new regulations, and as new technologies are discovered and implemented, producing concentrates will become more cost-efficient and customers like me will buy and pay the tax on more reasonably priced, tested, labeled and quality-assured concentrates.  It will be win-win for customers, dispensaries, distributors, manufacturers, and the government who seizes and redistributes the tax revenue. Time will tell. For now, as a customer, I recommend all 3 dispensaries mentioned above as well as the smoke shop. Happy dabbing!

KROQ COMEDY: FREDDY SNAKESKIN’S ’82 AIRCHECK

Back in an era before the internet or cable tv or cell phones, when your ear was always close to a radio speaker, the dee jay was your best friend in the world. If you were home sick, or without any plans on a Saturday night, or driving down the highway, or grounded for the weekend, dee jays helped make everything ok because they were there with YOU, playing music for YOU, being irreverent and obnoxious to satisfy your teenage sensibilities. In the early 80s, even with a more programmed playlist, KROQ was still a very free form radio station, particularly when it came to dee jay banter. One of the funniest and most irreverent weekday KROQ dee jays was Freddy Snakeskin. Freddy always spun the latest new wave pop hits but also found room for groovy oldies, edgier punk tracks and odd art rock outliers.Freddie Snakeskin was THAT dee jay and those were GREAT TIMES. Here’s 30 minutes of Freddy Snakeskin’s 1982 air check archives, replete with original commercials and oddball KROQ in studio guests.

Freddy was on air on KROQ from 1980-1990 and continued dee jay work throughout the years, including a stint as a dee jay on KROQ HD-2, which ended in 2015. From https://www.allaccess.com/

Add CBS RADIO Adult Hits KCBS and ’80s Alternative KROQ-HD2 (ROQ OF THE 80’S) PD/on-air reptile FREDDIE SNAKESKIN to the list of cuts from CBS RADIO.

SNAKESKIN, who worked at KROQ from 1980-1990 and has been with CBS since 2006, took to FACEBOOK to write, “Well, with considerable regret and sadness in my heart, it now appears it’s time to change my status from ‘works’ at to ‘worked’ at KROQ-HD2 & JACK-FM. Unfortunately, yesterday the massive layoffs sweeping CBS came along and lopped my damn head off, and I now join so many of my radio colleagues among the ranks of the unemployed.”

SNAKESKIN added, “I just wanted to say how much I am going to miss each and every person I worked with in the Dumpy Little Building at 5901 Venice Blvd. — you are all truly the smartest, most professional group of radio people it has been my privilege to know, and over the years I’ve met thousands. But more than that I will miss all my FACEBOOK pals and loyal listeners I have gotten to know online, and I thank each and every one of you for the massive friendship and love you’ve all shown this particular disembodied voice on the radio.”

AIR VAPE X SETS A HIGH STANDARD

COSTS, INNOVATIONS & ACCOMMODATIONS

The Air Vape X by Apollo USA is the latest generation in compact, portable, vaporizers that can handle both dry herb and waxy concentrates, and it can be purchased directly via the company website for the moderately immodest price of $179 plus tax. The price of dab pens and portable, dabable vaporizers like the Air Vape X can be prohibitive for many and understandably obviates this category of purchases from their consideration. For better or worse, the high retail prices of innovative products, particularly in the earlier stages of their development, reflects the high cost of creating and producing new technology. That’s just how the system works. Some see the high cost of such items as discriminatory against those who can’t afford, but the reality is that such is the cost of technological innovation. The good news is that eventually new and shiny gadgets become more affordable and thus accessible to a larger population. This is true of old school vape batteries, which were once fairly pricy, but now sell for about ten bucks. Or you can purchase an all-in-one disposable vape pen/cartridge combo for about $30. There’s no reason not to believe that dab and dry herb pen prices will go down over time, and as the technology continues to improve.

Vape Battery with Cartridge
Old School Vape Battery w/Oil Cartridge

The Air Vape folks seem to be aware of the prohibitive cost of their more advanced products and have made some interesting accommodations to help their customers in this area. There is an ongoing promotion via their website that gives customers ten percent off of their total purchase for signing up for the company newsletter.  This is a savings of almost $18 right off the bat. The company, located in Los Angeles, offers free shipping, too. In addition, Air Vape does something I’ve never seen in the cannabis industry, which is to allow customer financing. That is correct, Air Vape USA gives customers the option to make four equal payments of $44.75 once every two weeks (or just over $40 / per installment after the discount is applied). Air Vape offers other promotions as well, like the option to upgrade to newer models once available at a cost of 50% of the retail price, the invitation to complete a short vape survey in exchange for a 15% discount, and an offer to take a customer’s old vaporizer (any make or model from any manufacturer in any condition) for recycling in exchange for a 35% discount. Air Vape demonstrates an understanding of and concern for their customers by making these accommodations, which is another reason to consider their products.

WHY I PURCHASED THE AIR VAPE X

There are many positively reviewed dab pens on the market, each with different plusses and minuses to consider, but my research indicated that the Air Vape X received the most positive consensus among user reviews, industry reviews, you tube demos, and more. The wide varieties of concentrates and flower now available makes dabbing and dry herb vaporizing a more mainstream approach to cannabis consumption and one worth pursuing if possible. It is better for one’s lungs, allows the user more control over each dose & leaves a humbler odor. Once you find the right vape temperature for your dose, the terpenes and their aromas become more apparent and less mysterious, making the whole experience all the more enjoyable. And in the age of terpene appreciation – again, just read through the list of aromas included in my prior post – it seems essential to find a way to experience the palate of these sensory delights. Among other strengths, the Air Vape X demystifies this subtle yet sublime terpene component and clarifies its import as a part of the overall cannabis dynamic.

Air Vape X black blue
Air Vape X in Black & Blue (Rose Gold Coming)

AIR VAPE USA SUPPORTS ITS PRODUCTS & ITS CUSTOMERS

I’ve only owned my Air Vape X for a couple of days, but I’ve already experienced enough to know this is a company and a product worth writing about. For starters, the sleek look of the company website conveys a sense of technological advancement and state of the art product design. Each of the items advertised is presented in detail, highlighting the gadgetry and design enhancements available to the user. Air Vape also maintains a blog with helpful articles about Air Vape products and vaping, in general, and hosts a youtube channel featuring a variety of videos made by the company and by users. There is also a newsletter, as previously mentioned, that is worth signing up for to get the 10% discount. Air Vape’s website design and presentation convey a message that reinforces the look and reputation of the Air Vape X, and was an additional factor in reinforcing my choice to buy. And when, after perusing their FAQ page, I was left with a few questions I needed answered prior to completing the purchase, I filled out their web form and submitted my inquiry. I happily received a response within the hour that addressed my concerns and demonstrated the company’s attention to customers. The only quality more important to me than good customer service is product integrity. So far I’ve been very satisfied with both.

Knowing the company is located fairly close to home, I was hopeful for an expedited delivery of the Air Vape X. It did arrive quickly – I think I ordered it on a Tuesday afternoon and it arrived that Friday. Company policy is to ship within 24-48 hours of ordering. In anticipation of my imminently arriving Air Vape X, I had stopped off at the local dispensary on concentrate discount day and purchased a gram of Juice County Extractz OCD wax and a half-gram of Kan-Ade White Widow hybrid crumble. I was hoping to find another gram of the incredible Juice County Extractz Glookies Budd’r, but they were out.

UNBOXING THE AIR VAPE X

Air Vape X Boxed
Air Vape X Boxed

It was thus with much comfort and confidence that I joyfully retrieved my package from the front porch and proceeded with the unboxing. Like the website, the Air Vape X packaging materials are sleek, modern and designed to emphasize the tech gadgetry of the device. The box has the look and feel of an apple product, like an i phone or tablet. This was a smart move by the manufacturers, as it dials into our collective consumer consciousness about modern technology and gadgetry – particularly the sort that fits in one’s hand. The Air Vape X arrived snugly housed within, its hard shell case situated next to a little accessories box. The accessories accompanying the Air Vape include concentrates pad (to use when dabbing), tweezers, a dab tool, a cleaning brush, extra screens, charging cable, manual and warranty card. My only complaint at this point was the lack of detailed information in the user manual. There were indications that a more detailed guide was available on the website, but if there is, I can’t find it. The good news is that because this is such a popular and successful product, there is plenty of available information on the web with an assortment of tips, tricks and general instructions. And the Air Vape X is very user friendly!

SET UP, BATTERY LIFE, CHARGING & USE

Although not mentioned in the user manual, one of the reviews suggested running the Air Vape through 3 heating cycles at 400 degrees (temperature can be shown in fahrenheit or celsius) to eliminate any potential machine oil residue from the manufacturing process. The Vape arrived partially charged and the manufacturer strongly recommends against using a wart or i phone type wall charger due to the variations in voltage and potential of overloading the battery. Charging via computer is recommended, or you can use any source emitting 5 volts or less. Back up portable cell phone chargers will work. So far the battery life has been acceptable, but less than ideal. I’ve been getting two to three 5 minute sessions from each full charge. That isn’t much, and it takes a good hour to recharge. There is good news, however,  because the Air Vape X can be used for vaping while plugged in to charge. In other words, even if very low battery, the Air Vape X will work as long as it is plugged in. This vastly ameliorates the short battery life and long charging time and makes it a non issue.

There are different factors affecting the battery life of the Air Vape X that the user can control. First is temperature. You have total control over the vaping temperature which ranges from 200 – 428 degrees fahrenheit and can adjust by depressing the up or down arrow on the face of the unit. If you tend toward higher temperatures to produce more vapor, then the battery will run down more quickly than if you prefer lower temperatures for more flavor. I have found over the past few days that my ideal temp range goes from about 380 for dry herb to 395 for concentrates. It is ballpark and subject to change. A downside to vaping at higher temperatures is that the unit can get very hot. It has never been too hot to touch, but it has come somewhat close. Vaping at higher temperatures also may release harmful chemicals not present at lower temps. Different users have found the temperature ranges that suit them. It is largely a matter of taste.

SESSION LENGTH, DAB SIZES & CLEANING THE CHAMBER

The other big factor that affects battery life is vape session length. The Air Vape X comes with a 3 minute per session default auto-shut-off setting, which can be enough time to consume a chamber-full of ground flower (about one-half to one gram), but ultimately falls short. Four minutes is a better session length for dry cannabis. Concentrates are a little bit different, and the amount of time it takes to vape a dab of wax depends largely on the size of the dab. My first waxy dab was fairly small and, perhaps because I had the temperature set too low, didn’t produce much of an effect. So all subsequent sessions have involved larger dabs, closer to the size of a pea than to a grain of rice. It takes some practice to figure out the right dab size and temperature. After 3 minutes the dab has dissolved into the concentrates pad leaving residue on the sides of the chamber. This is no different than concentrate being left in a bucket after a dab. But the Air Vape X chamber is more difficult to clean than a dab bucket, which is another challenge when using the unit.

It would be fantastic to be able to save an unfinished dab by leaving the residue in the chamber, but the across-the-board emphasis is that the chamber must be cleaned after each use, preferably while still warm. This will enable the unit to continue to function properly and continue to produce flavorful, aromatic vapes.  The chamber cleaning process is similar to cleaning a quartz nail — q-tip, ISO rubbing alcohol, diligence, patience. The mouthpiece can be disassembled and soaked in rubbing alcohol as well. In the event you’ve got a few friends over and are sharing a larger dab of concentrate, you do have the option of increasing the Air Vape X session time to four or five or however many minutes you need. But again, the longer the session time, the greater the battery drain, so plan accordingly. Even if you run a 3 minute session and run out of time to finish the bowl, it is better to launch into a 2nd session immediately and vape the remainder than to wait for the chamber to cool all the way down and then start a new session.

It is the little tips and subtleties like these that affect the Air Vape X’s performance. Another nifty feature is that the Air Vape X gives a vibrating buzz when it reaches your desired temperature so that you know when to hit it. You can also watch the thermostat rise as the digital image of a fan spins on the screen. During the session a countdown timer appears on the screen and runs all the way down, until the unit buzzes again and says “ciao” on the screen and the battery shuts off. To turn the unit back on, you push the button on the front three times quickly; you do the same to turn it off. One of the nice features of the Air Vape X is that there are only 3 buttons – temperature up, temperature down, on/off.

CONCENTRATES, CONCENTRATES PAD, PARTS, SCREENS & TOOLS

The concentrates pad is a fascinating innovation and has worked well. My biggest concern is that at some point I will forget to load it in and ruin the Air Vape X by dabbing without it. Vigilance is key! The pad does get extremely hot during vaping, so handle with care when the session is done. You can nudge it a few times with the tweezers and then it should come right out when you turn the unit upside down. The pad can also be sticky with wax, so take care where you deposit it. The included tweezers are very helpful, although they are made a tad too tight for an easy grab of the concentrates pad, and require a slight adjustment. The mouthpiece is ceramic at the tip and connects to the body of the unit magnetically, which makes it so much easier to avoid messy spills or a lost mouthpiece. In addition to the standard accessories, which include a few extra screens, I ordered a second package of  screens for about ten bucks. Not yet sure how how much use will precipitate the need to change screens. The included brush works well for post-session cleaning, and the screens, filters and mouthpiece components can easily be disassembled and cleaned, as described above. One of the reviews I read suggested doing this every few days, but I haven’t seen enough residue to make this necessary. But it definitely should be done at least once a week will work.

VAPING FLOWER

I’ve read different things about how to pack the dry flower but so far have had the most success by moderately tamping down a fully packed bowl.  Dryer herb will vape more quickly than moist, sticky herb, and you can always remove the mouthpiece to check to see how brown the flower is or whether there is any green left to vape. Just stir it up, mon. If the dry herb when vaped smells like burnt popcorn, the temperature is too high. Try dropping it down five degrees. The included hard shell case for the Air Vape X is smell proof and water resistant, so the odor can be masked during travel and won’t succumb to the rain if you’ve got it in your pocket.

SUPPORT GOOD COMPANIES LIKE AIR VAPE USA

The Air Vape USA people offer a number of other vape products, all of which look worthy of closer inspection and trial runs. If money grew like sativa, I’d own one of everything listed on their website, but it doesn’t so I’ll just have to make do with what I’ve got. If I’d had another $60 or $70 last week, I would’ve purchased the Air Vape X SE, which comes with a water bong attachment (also sold separately), a mAh power bank, extra mouthpiece base, etc. I still may go for the water bong attachment to see if I can inhale more vapor with each draw. The Air Vape X comes with a limited lifetime warranty, too.

The point is that Air Vape USA seems like a shining example of a company seizing opportunities presented with legalization by investing in technical innovation and creating sleek, modern, quality products that meet a growing consumer need. They also understand the importance of good customer service and stand behind their products with lifetime warranties. If you are seeking a reliable, high functioning vaporizer, look no further than Air Vape USA and the Air Vape X. Make sure to take advantage of their discounts and make an investment in the quality of your cannabis experience and in the future of cannabis technology, which, in the end will benefit us all. Happy vaping!

 

MAGICAL TERPENES & MARIJUANA MYSTERIES

I’ve spent decades as a cannabis user never appreciating the diversity of aromas emanating from different strains and varieties of herb. I’d never heard of terpenes, never thought about my stash smelling like anything other than skunk or pine. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy to get premium flower strains back in the day, and more often than not I had a baggie half full of seeds and stems that smelled more or less like dirt. It was like being a connoisseur of cheap, watery beer, and only being able to compare Old Milwaukee to Milwaukee’s Best (hint: there is no difference!) There was no top shelf, connoisseur hybrid strain of the week. Seeds, stems and dirt were it!

With maturity has come a bit of sophistication and a desire to experience marijuana’s deeper properties. As if on cue, legalization has provided the opportunity to appreciate the subtle characteristics of countless strains. In the same manner that a sommelier differentiates and describes all the qualities of a fine glass of wine, there are now many marijuana experts fascinated, if not obsessed, with terpenes, the chemicals which give different strains of cannabis a variety of sweet, rich and pungent aromas. One of the helpful budtendresses at The WEED first brought terpenes to my attention, explaining that the effects produced by the flower as experienced by the user are as much a reflection of his enjoyment of a given aroma as it is the result of THC content.

I started to read more about terpenes and the different kinds of aromas produced and thought that perhaps I would start writing regular reviews of strains and their characteristics. This seemed like a great idea, until I ran into a few problems. First, I’m not great at differentiating and identifying subtle differences in aroma. In attempting to list out terpene-produced aromas I realized how subjective it was and that I could write whatever I wanted, with few exceptions. Second, I’m not good at differentiating the effects produced by different strains, unless those effects are completely clear and pronounced and different than I usually feel. A good example of this exception would be my recent review of Inferno Gold’s Fire Sticks, which provided an unmistakably euphoric, creative high.

Nonetheless, there are those who happily review strains and cite their terpene characteristics and the highs produced, asserting a degree of correlation between terpenes and the effects one experiences. Ed Rosenthal, in his Marijuana Growers Handbook, includes a very helpful series of pages describing a large variety of seeds / strains, listing a number of characteristics for each. As I read through this section I noted that of all the legacy strains included, I had only seen or heard of a few, and it occurred to me that we’re at a point, because of legalization, that new strains are appearing all the time in different places. Consequently, this means that only a small number of people might be able to find one strain or another at his dispensary, because a dispensary can only carry so many strains.

Of all the helpful information gleaned from testing and included on compliant labels, terpenes are generally not shown. Thus the patent must rely on his own sense of smell to determine which terpenes are in which strains, and the subjectivity of it all suggests that it would be just as easy to misidentify an aroma and purchase the wrong strain as it would be to come home with the right one.

Terpene Chart
Chart of Terpenes and their Effects – Objective or Subjective?

With this in mind, and considering my poor scent identification skills, I gave up on the plan to review strains as a regular feature of Swedish Flying Saucer. Before I reached that point, however, I decided to go through all of these descriptions in Rosenthal’s book and list out all the aromas mentioned, as well as all the effects. These descriptions are as much a function of the sniffer’s command of language and writing ability as they are a reflection of the actual terpene smells. Same with the descriptions of highs. I can’t say that there’s any necessary relationship between specific terpenes and highs, again, because it is so subjective, but others don’t see it that way. In any case, there was always a certain mystery underlying the experience of cannabis and as much as I appreciate all the information available nowadays, I fear the demystification may lesson the wonderment that characterizes for some people, like myself, their relationship with marijuana.

I’m glad to know about terpenes, because knowing about them allows me to ponder the chemical mechanics that happen on such a micro level to affect such a fundamental part of my cannabis experience. And since I’ve begun dry herb vaping and low temperature dabbing, I’ve finally begun to notice the variety of aromas and related effects. I also noticed that a clean bong will allow sweeter fragrances to waft through the smoke. The ability to notice and identify aromas and effects is as much a function of the user as it is the flower, and there are some strains that are better than others at emitting clear aromas and producing specific effects just as there are users who are better or worse at detecting them.

But that’s as far as I’d like to go. I would much rather pay deference to terpenes as part of the greater marijuana mystery and forgive these aromatic chemicals any further analysis and dissection. The terpenes will live on in my imagination, magically emitting aromas and producing effects in a way I’ll never understand, but either way, I’ll always love the variety of scents and highs, whatever language is used to describe them.

Here are the aromas and effects listed in Ed Rosenthal’s book:

SMELLS / FLAVORS

Aromatic, Highly Aromatic

Berry

Blackberry

Blackcurrant Jam

Blossom, Sweet Like Blossom yet Salty

Blueberry

Bubblegum, Bazooka Joe Bubblegum

Candy, Blueberry Candy

Caramel

Cherry

Chocolate

Citrus, Citrus Undertones, Clear Citrus Undertones of Nectarine & Ripe Orange, Hints of Pine/Citrus, Citrusy

Classic

Coffee

Complex

Cookie

Creamy

Diesel, Slightly Diesel

Earthy, Earthy Chestnut

Ethereal

Eucalyptus

Floral, Subtle Floral/Pine Notes

Flowery

Fuel, Acrid Fuel Note

Fruit, Fruit & Spice, Fruity, Tropical Fruit

Ginger, Spicy Sharp Ginger & Herbal Aroma

Girl Scout, Classic Girl Scout Flavor

Grape, Subtle Grape

Grapefruit, Zingy Sweet Grapefruit Edge

Hash, Hashy

Haze, Haze-Like

Herbal

Honey, Vanilla Honey

Incense, Over-strong Musky Incense

Intense

Kiwi

Kush, Kushy, Heavy Kush Undertones

Lavender, Sweet Lavender

Lemon, Lemon Peel, Great Lemon Tang Aroma, Lemon-Lime

Licorice

Lime

Mango, Fresh Mango

Melon, Strawberry-Melon

Metal, Metallic, Almost Metallic

Mint, Minty

Musk, Sweet Musk, Musky, Hint of Floral & Melon Musk

Nectarine

Nutty

Orange, Orange Peel, Accents of Orange & Lemon Peel, Light/Sweet Orange & Lemon Twang, Ripe Orange

Over The Top

Papaya

Peppery

Perfume, Subtle Perfume Notes

Pine, Whisper of Pine

Pineapple, Pineapple Punch

Pungent, Pungent Sweet & Sour Cherry, Skunky Pungent

Sandalwood, Note of Sandalwood

Skunk, Skunky, Heavy Skunk Aroma & Taste

Soft But Penetrating

Spice, Spicy, Spicy Sweet

Stinky

Strawberry

Sweet, Sweet-Sugary, Sweet & Sour

Tangerine

Tobacco

Tropical

Unbelievable

Unique

Vanilla, Wild Vanilla,

Warm, Warm Almost Peppery

Wildflower, Sweet Wildflower

 

EFFECTS

Active

Alert

Alleviating Stress

Balanced, Balanced Body-Stoned, Head-High

Blessed

Blissful

Blueberry, Refined Blueberry

Body

Brainy

Bright

Buzz, Buzzy, Bit of a Heavy Body Buzz, Breathtaking Body Buzz

Calming, Intensely Calming

Cerebral, Extremely Cerebral, Clear Cerebral

Chaotic

Chemical

Clear

Complex

Confusing

Contemplative

Couch Lock, Heavy Couch Lock

Cozy

Creative

Creeping

Daytime

Deep, Deep Physical Relaxation

Devastating

Dreamy

Electric

Energetic, Super Energetic Sativa, Fiery-Energetic

Euphoric, Calm Euphoric

Full On Brain & Body Melt

Functional

Giggly

Good For Active Lifestyles

Great

Happy

Head-Body Balance

Heady

Heavy

Heightened Senses

Hitter, Fast Hitter

Hybrid

Inspiring

Laid Back

Laughter

Long Lasting, Very Long Lasting

Lucid

Medicinal

Meditative

Mental

Mineral

Motivating, Motivational

Munchies

Narcotic

Numb

Old School

Physical, Very Physical

Playful

Pleasant, Very Pleasant

Playful

Positive

Potent, Very Potent

Powerful, Take Your Breath Away Power

Psychedelic

Purple Haze, all in my brain

Relaxing, Body Relaxing, Relaxes Tense Muscles

Sedative, Sedating

Sensual

Sleepy, Dreamy Finish

Smooth

Soaring

Social

Special

Spiritual, Sativa Spiritual

Stimulating

Stoney

Stratospheric, Stratospheric Cerebral

Strong, Extremely Strong

Surprising

Talkative

Teasing

Thoughtful

Trippy, Super Trippy

Up, Very Up, Up High, Sativa Up High

Uplifting

 

 

 

MAKE IT FAST…PUFF-N-PASS

“What’s a Puff-n-Pass?” you ask…

Here at SFS, we’re very attuned to things shaped like a saucer. Whether a space ship or small dish, we dig saucer-shaped objects, especially when they’re flying through the air. We’re also deeply dialed into innovations in cannabis technology, especially if intended to add a new dimension to the herb partaking experience.

Innovations in the marijuana industry don’t always have to involve potency or packaging or herbal variety. While innovations that seem to have the greatest impact generally involve increasing the efficiency and are vertical in nature, there are other engaging developments that simply provide a fun diversion from the conventional.

We think we may have stumbled upon something that fits this horizontal model – both literally and figuratively –  that is saucer shaped and designed for marijuana consumption. What might that be? Swedish Flying Saucer gleefully presents for your recreation and medication, the “Puff-n-Pass Flying Frisbee Pipe”.

Blue-Green Splash Puff-n-Pass
Blue-Green Splash Puff-n-Pass. Solid colored discs sell for $5 less.

We’ve yet to see a Puff ‘n Pass at any of our local dispensaries, but they can be purchased via the Puff ‘n Pass website and range in price from $25 to $35 each, possibly cheaper at your local dispensary. One of the higher priced Puff-n-Pass models is glow-in-the-dark, so you can Puff-n-Pass at night if that’s your thing. Here’s video of some dudes puffing and handing the saucer off to each other, which really misses the point:

Each Puff ‘n Pass has a carb and comes with game instructions. You can probably guess what the rules are, but just to be safe, here they are:

HOW TO PLAY PUFF-N-PASS:

1. Pass Puff-n-Pass to any player (must be a catchable pass).

2. If caught by player: Puff-n-Pass to next player.

3. If missed, dropped or fouled: you miss your puff, then pass to next player.

4. Three misses and you have to pack Puff-n-Pass and pass it.

5. The end of the bowl ends the game. The one with the least or no misses wins!

6. If you’re happy, you’re a winner!

It is one of those “everyone’s a winner” games, which in any other case I would reject outright, but I do believe that when you’re puffin’ with your friends and you’re passing a bong or a pipe or a Puff-n-Pass….everybody wins.

PRE-ROLLED JOINTS & THE SHAKY-HANDED TWAXER

Pre-rolled joints are another of the potent varieties offered at dispensaries for both medical and recreational use. As someone with shaky hands who has a terrible time with fine motor coordination, pre-rolled joints are a welcome option. There’s something about smoking a joint that doesn’t compare to pipe or bong. It is harsher, yes, but there is a more intimate and direct connection with herb when only a thin sheet of rolling paper sits between you and it, like the skin of an apple holding all the juicy fruit within.

When I try on my own to roll joints, with a dollar bill or a roller, disaster ensues. I spill a bunch and then have to add more, only to spill again. If I use the roller, it is hard to keep the paper down, and so again, there is spillage. And even when I do succeed with the roller, the joints are rolled so tight that the only smoke you can inhale is what is emitted at the combusting end. Maybe I need to invest in a new, more technologically advanced roller, but in the interim, pre-rolled joints seem to be a better option for a perfectly rolled, potent and fast acting effect. I don’t smoke joints often, but when I do, pre-rolled joints are it.

I’ve previously written about Henry’s Original Smokes, and the potent Chemdawg sativa half gram pre-rolled joints I dialed in at the ELO show. Half gram joints were a revelation to me. Who can finish a full gram joint of potent cannabis by themselves in a single setting? Really harsh on the lungs. But a half-gram joint is manageable and in many ways the perfect portion. When I was at the local dispensary the other day, I asked about half gram pre-rolled joints and to my dismay, they had none. The kind budtendress did point out some solid full gram joints, of which the had a decent selection, and after having failed miserably the day before at trying to roll my own twaxing joint, I decided it was time to attempt twaxing with a well constructed pre-rolled joint.

Varieties of Inferno Gold Fire Sticks Pre-rolled Joints
Inferno Gold Fire Sticks Pre-rolled Joints – Are they still in business? Hope so!

I bought an Inferno Gold Fire Sticks pre-rolled joint for $18 and very happily noted that this green apple flavored blunt was an organic, hash-infused mix of flower, honey oil and kief. When the time was right to spark the spliff, the green apple flavor hit right away and was not unpleasant. I had to be careful because the joint between filter and herb seemed a little weak, and this was a hefty blunt. Soon the green apple flavor turned into a rich, thick combination of flower, oil & kief smoke. I burned about half the pre-rolled joint and experienced some relief from a few physical maladies, while the high I was beginning to experience was incredibly euphoric and creative, leaving my body feeling wrapped in a warm blanket. This was hands down the best effect I’d experienced in a while. Better than any of the edibles or concentrates. Really idyllic.

Putting the pre-rolled joint out without damaging it was a true challenge, in part because the oil likes to keep burning. After a number of gentle taps on the side of a plant pot, the smoking ember at the end fell out, a minuscule amount that didn’t really diminish the rest of the joint. If these Fire Sticks could be made in half-gram sizes, they would be perfect. The half of the joint I smoked had me seated in front of the computer, happily adding MIDI sounds and creating dubbed out sections of the drums for a project I am producing. The pre-rolled joint was a perfect match for the focused creativity in which I was engaged. Beautiful. Later in the evening, I shared most of the rest of the joint with my better half, and we made our own good use of the effects. And even then, I still have almost an inch of the pre-roll left.

Note: The next time I bought an Inferno Gold Fire Stick, it did not live up to the experience I had the first time. It really seemed like they’d forgotten to put the hash oil or kief in it and had just sold me a very overpriced plain joint. The good news is that many companies now make infused pre-rolls worthy of a toke.

SCRATCH FEELS THE CITY HEAT & HEADS FOR THE HILLS

Lee Scratch Perry’s “City Too Hot” is a song that, through music, lyrics (included at end of post) and  arrangement, situates itself in a very specific time and place and as a whole, evokes much deeper issues than the song title or chorus would suggest.

SCRATCH WAS FEELING THE HEAT

Cover art for Scratch & The Upsetters "Super Ape" LP
Super Ape by Lee Scratch Perry & The Upsetters (1976)

Scratch’s deep roots track was released in 1977 as the “A” side of a 12″ single on his Upsetter Records label, featuring another hefty cut on the back called “Bionic Rats”. The single was released on the heels of his excellent 1976 LP, Super Ape, both coming at a time of great violence and political upheaval in Jamaica. When Scratch bewails the urban heat in “City Too Hot”, he’s evoking not just the noontime scorch, but also the intensity of conflict in Kingston and elsewhere at that time. Fortunately, the self-appointed Kojak (“my name is Kojak / meet me at the track with a dubble attack” – “Kojak” from Revolution Dub, 1975) knew of a physical / spiritual / metaphorical refuge within reach, capable of alleviating the heat at all levels, providing comfort, safety, spiritual fulfillment and community.

SCRATCH’S JAMIACA IN 1977 – TWO SEVENS CLASHING

Jamaica in 1977, was at a boiling point. Not only was political violence out of control, but the Rastafarians on the island harbored extreme anxiety about the  repeating sevens in the number configuration “1977”. The Rastafarian roots group, Culture, released their debut album Two Sevens Clash, featuring a title track recalling Marcus Garvey’s grave prophesy of apocalypse to occur in that year.

Interestingly, while Lee Scratch Perry’s “City Too Hot” documents the intensity of city life in a heavy roots style with Nyabinghi drums, Culture’s “Two Sevens Clash” is sweet, melodic, pleasant and joyful. There’s a conflagration on the horizon, but Culture doesn’t seem concerned. As Jo-Ann Greene writes in All Music:

The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.) However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island’s current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted. The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics’ ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period.

THE UK CONNECTION: THE CLASH TAKE A CUE FROM SCRATCH

Culture’s darkened view resonated across the Atlantic in London, where one of the first British punk bands took “The Clash” as their name to signify the economic and social turmoil there at the time. The Clash then doubled down on this vision, and on their identification with roots reggae, with their song, “1977”, designating the year as a sort of musical and cultural “year zero” for England’s youth (“No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones” – “1977”, B-side of “White Riot” 7″ single). The upheaval and punk genesis in the United Kingdom is a subject for another post, but it is clear that London was experiencing much “heat” that summer as well.

Not only were The Clash in sync with Scratch’s sense of sense turmoil, but they claimed a physical connection with it by recording a version of Perry’s “Police and Thieves” (originally recorded by Junior Murvin) on their debut LP, and later

worked with Scratch in the studio on their 1977 single, “Complete Control”. Perry was so intrigued by the first Clash album that he recommended it to Bob Marley, who included a reference to The Clash in his “Punky Reggae Party”.

STATE OF EMERGENCY OR CIA COUP?

Back in Jamaica, however, fear, paranoia and anxiety cast a spell over the island nation and its people. Things were so bad that Prime Minister Michael Manley declared a “state of emergency” for much of 1976 and 1977. This “state of emergency”, writes Manley in his book, Struggle in The Periphery (Third World Media, 1982), was in response to “acts of destabilization in 1976, such as unexplained fires and violence apparently designed to create panic and make the Government unpopular to get them voted out of office” (Michael Burke, Jamaica Observer, 6/15/16). An explanation offered in rebuttal to Manley’s avers, “prominent members of the Jamaica Labour Party stated that the 1976-77 State of Emergency was really a plot to rig the general election that was held on December 15, 1976, by arresting supporters of the Opposition who would stop the rigging if they were not deprived of their liberty” (Burke, 6/15/16).

Scratch would've seen this front page of Jamaican newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, July 12, 1977
State of Emergency, Jamaican Daily Gleaner, July 12, 1977

Competing claims and explanations aside, what was clear was that “there was certainly a new and unusual form of violence prior to the 1976-77 State of Emergency” (Burke, 6/15/16), and “unusual” violence lends itself to explanations beyond the ordinary. There are some who have argued that this was a false crisis wrought by the CIA in response to Jamaica’s warming relations with communist Cuba. The food shortages, violence and Trench Town fires seemed to some to come straight out of the US Army Manual of Psychological Warfare (Burke, 6/15/16). Whatever the origination of the upheaval, the effect on Jamaican’s daily lives was palpable and the anxiety and fear felt by the populace was duly expressed by the roots rockers and dub poets of the time. Yet another example is the superlative instrumental LP, State of Emergency, released by producer Joe Gibbs and his studio band, The Professionals, in 1976. It is an album The Clash would cite as an essential influence.

Scratch would have been aware of this info from from the book The Clash: Return of The Last Gang in Town
Early Reggae Influences from The Clash: Return of The Last Gang in Town

SCRATCH’S “CITY TOO HOT” IN CONTEXT

In truth, the Kingston thermostat in 1977 did not indicate a particularly scorching climate. The weather forecast in The Daily Gleaner for  July 12, 1977 was in the high 80s, suggesting Lee Perry’s heatwave was spiritual, psychological, emotional, social, etc., but not literal. And yet the musical texture of “City Too Hot” conveys all the combusting, sweaty, melty, sticky, thick, stifling, claustrophobic feelings one experiences in an urban setting at summer’s peak. The Nyabinghi drums set a plodding tempo echoing the singer’s struggle to march across his metropolis of residence under the scorch or the summer sun. The muddy, phased, warbling guitars and piano plunks evoke a blurred confusion akin to heat stroke, while the bleating horns seem to announce a determined march across the desert. The reverb-drenched echo feels like the inside of Scratch’s heat-stifled brain as he asks himself over and over, “Why?”, while the repeating percussive sounds rebound across his frontal lobe. The “Why?” is a clearly rhetorical question aimed at the senseless violence and unrest underlying the declared state of emergency, for we know that the sun is the source of literal summer heat and that it was not unduly hot in Jamaica in 1977.

“City Too Hot” is a dirge in which Scratch expresses a dire need for refuge, release and relief.  Where might a young man, so stressed and oppressed by the ongoing violence, find sanctuary? Where might Scratch go to “cool out”, to hide, to decompress? If he is a reggae singer, musician, dee jay, or fan, “I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top”, in the lush hills outside of the city where the violence has not taken hold. Scratch paints a cool, verdant picture of a breezy hilltop outside of the city, where he can go to escape the state of emergency. The hills, he confidently informs us, exist in a state of grace, where it is “fresh and clean”. None of the urban rot, killings and harsh laws that plague the Island and oppress the average citizen.

Lee Scratch Perry knows where he needs to be and who will be there to receive him, for the hills are home to the true believers in the Rastafarian faith. It is where dreadlocks and Nyabinghi meet to converse in the ancient drum language, calling and responding, evoking the rhythm of the natural world. And being passed from one dread to another in this spiritual circle is a chillum, or kutchie, filled with the mystical herb of spiritual elevation. The singer may be singing about retreating to the hill to find peace and solace in a Rasta gathering, or he may be suggesting that partaking of ganja and producing reggae music provide a worthy, meaningful escape from the stresses and pressures of the “war in town”. Scratch can’t abide the chattering teeth (“too much teeth a clap”), signifying fear, or perhaps too much talk, because clearly there is too much happening in the city (“Too much things a gwaan”). He must escape the heat, but it takes a long time, as the full song clocks in at just under nine minutes.

KINGSTON CLAMPDOWN: UNDER HEAVY MANNERS

When Prime Minister Michael Manley declared a state of emergency for Jamaica, he referred to the program as putting the citizens “under heavy manners”. Another Jamaican reggae album released in 1977 addressed this directly. The dee jay / singer, Prince Far-I, had his first major hit with his “Heavy Manners”, the featured track on the Under Heavy Manners LP.  Far-I expressed his disgust at the extreme measures, mocking the government, singing “Manners is unto a dog, discipline is what the world needs today baby, heavy, heavy discipline”. Jo-Anne Greene, again writing in All Music:

The populace awaited a new election, while rumors flew that the CIA was surreptitiously planning a coup against the government. These tales were given credence by the mysterious flood of guns onto the island, which inevitably turned up in the hands of supporters of the opposition JLP party, and seemingly confirmed by former CIA operative, James Agee, who publicly identified a number of alleged CIA agents. The US ambassador’s vigorously denials were treated with disdain by most Jamaicans who remembered all too well the fate of Chilean President Allende.

Whether or not the CIA was involved in an attempted coup is left to the reader to discern, although recent revelations in America about the extent of corruption plaguing our Intelligence Services suggests that Greene is probably correct.

If Scratch believed in the Rastas as a refuge from political turmoil in the city, Prince Far-I sought to make this clear in his “Heavy Manners”. Greene continues:

And heaviest of all, Prince Far I, prophesising “War in the east and, war in the west, war in the north, war in the south, crazy Joe get dem out, what a terrible bout.” And with that, he attempted to remove the Rastas from the fray, leaving the baldheads to fight amongst themselves. And some did indeed do just that. The more pragmatic, however, remained behind Manley, and helped the PNP sweep the elections later this year.

SCRATCH WAS NOT ALONE

In other words, Scratch wasn’t only seeking leave from a “City Too Hot”, but also seeking to join a community that existed outside of the violence-plagued population, away from the warring factions. The song is almost messianic in its vision of a community co-existing in harmony and peace. Perry had been made sick with spiritual heat stroke by the never-ending Trench Town battles, and wanted to step out, to cool out, to hide away until the heat was gone, by smoking herb, by communing with the Rastas, by leaving his oppressed state of being. With “City Too Hot”, Lee Scratch Perry proffered the roadmap to sanctuary, escape and redemption in just over eight and a half minutes, enough time to draw from the chillum and settle into a state of peaceful release, to live confidently and securely and to resume the never-ending struggle on some other day.

May Jah intercept your mission.

LYRICS

City Too Hot (Lee Scratch Perry, 1977)

Why, why, why, why
Why, why, why

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

This city red hot
Too much things a gwaan
This city red hot
Too much teeth a clap
This city too hot
Too much things a gwaan

I’m heading for the hills
I’m heading for the hills
I’m heading for the hills
Yeah, where it fresh and clean
Fresh and clean

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

Cah the war in town
? fight for ?
Cah the war in town
? fight for ?

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
I’m heading for the hills
I a go cool out, upon the hill top
I’m heading for the hills
I a go cool out, upon the hill top

This city too hot
I and I a go cool out, I a go cool out
This city too hot
I-a man a go cool out, I a go cool out

(..)

Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
It’s like a ??

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
And, this city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
Oh

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

But teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much things a gwaan

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top

This city too hot
This city too hot
This city too hot
This city too hot

(..)

?? come to town
?? come to town
?? come to town
Hey

This city too hot
I a gonna cool out, I gonna cool out
This city too hot
I a gonna cool out, I gonna cool out

This city too hot..

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry lyrics are copyright by their rightful owner(s) and Swedish Flying Saucer in no way takes copyright or claims the lyrics belong to us.

TROUBLE BOYS: BOOKING THE REPLACEMENTS

Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr is an exciting, engaging, raucous (and roctus) recounting of the band’s anything-goes-while-you’re-inebriated adventures in a post-punk / pre-grunge Midwestern America.   Their struggle to succeed in spite of their own best efforts to debase or destroy nearly every opportunity they encountered is the plot line that connects all the stories, all the music, the fans, friends, guardian angels, moguls, detractors… In the long run, nothing and nobody in The Replacements’ orbit escaped their cynical, contrarian, nihilistic approach to swimming round and round in the rock and roll shark tank.

Original line up – live
Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Mehr’s tome is as much a history of the ‘Mats as 80s punk-rock-n-roll band as it is an existential case-study in primitive / garage-punk / get in the van band-life in the 1980s, and it brings that era’s Minneapolis music scene and its history to the forefront alongside all the other great music scenes of the time. We learn that The ‘Mats were fans of early LA roots-punk bands like X and The Gun Club, and that the LA bands had taken a shine to The Replacements as well (Songs like X’s “The Have Nots” or The Leaving Trains’ “A Drunker Version of You” easily could have been ‘Mats’ songs – or titles for Mehr’s book.) We also learn that REM, one of the few indie / roots bands of the era to find huge commercial success, was a major factor in the ‘Mats’ band psychology, leading to various associations, resentments, paranoias and career-breaking decisions.

In the end, Trouble Boys tells of both tragedy and triumph, as it positions the band’s depth of talent and creative ability squarely yet schizophrenically alongside its relentless penchant for self-sabotage and auto-destruction. To borrow a phrase, The Replacements “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” even while making incredible music and engaging the good-time myth of the never-ending rock and roll happy hour. Whether snickering cynically at their storied antics or lamenting the losses caused by their willful implosions, this “true story” of The ‘Mats will increase by orders of magnitude your nostalgia for the time when The Replacements drank to excess and made incredible music. And it will have you appreciating how soberly relevant and relatable their music remains today.

JEFF LYNNE’S ELO LIVE AT THE FABULOUS FORUM, LA, 8-5-18

Walking across the Forum parking lot to see ELO for the first time, it hit me that I’ve probably seen more aging rockers play shows over the years than I can remember. It is impossible to try and remember all the bands, shows, etc., I’ve seen over the past 40 years, let alone my favorites. Last night Mr. T asked me to name my 5 favorite shows of all time, and I was at a loss, because I know there would be many I wouldn’t recall.

Iggy mounts Watt’s bass amp, Coachella, 2003

As far as kicking ass goes, no sexagenarian has done it better than Iggy. I saw the reformed Stooges several times on their reunion tours in the 2000s thanks to an old friend who’d been tour managing the Iggy-less reformed Stooges ever since they’d climbed back on stage opening up for Dinosaur Jr. Iggy, Ron, and Scott

were a bit older than the Minutemen’s Mike Watt, who’d been drafted in as bassman, but the 3 original O-minds were as intense and unhinged as they’d ever been. Other stellar performances I’ve witnessed by guys in their 60s and 70s include Dylan, Sean Bonniwell (Music Machine), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Niney The Observer, Buck Dharma/Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Elvin Jones, Gil Scott-Heron…there are too many to recount.

Niney The Observer, 2014
Niney the Observer w/Soul Syndicate live at the Dub Club / Echoplex, LA, 5/14/2014

It is hard to appreciate what it takes for a 70 year old to command a rock and roll stage the way he did when he was 20, or even 30, yet there are guys who get up there and still give it 1000%. Iggy was like that. Nik Turner and Niney were like that. BOC was like that, too. Last night another legendary septuagenarian took the stage, the incomparably prolific orchestral pop rock master, Jeff Lynne, and his current version of ELO. I can’t say that Lynne wholly reached the intensity of his younger days, but he was steady, solid, in great voice, and was leading a much younger backing band.

BOC LIVE OJAI
Buck Dharma, Eric Bloom & Blue Oyster Cult rocking Libbey Bowl, Ojai, CA 4/1/17

This was ELO’s first North American tour in 35 years, and while it didn’t necessarily have me seeing ELO in a new light, it definitely reinforced why I love their music and legacy. The performance successfully and potently evoked the essence of ELO in a live setting, which I’d never experienced in person. Jeff seemed a little frail, didn’t do all the singing or take all the solos as he once did, but he anchored the whole thing and made the production far more than the sum of the individual musicians. Lynne also had longtime ELO band-mate Richard Tandy on piano and moog, lending the act additional authenticity.

I had taken care to be psychically prepared to climb aboard the ELO spacecraft by eating a package of sweet and sour medicated gummies made by Sugar Stoned (300mg) during the ride to the show (T drove). I topped ‘em off with a half-gram Chemdawg pre-roll of Henry’s Original Smokes, on the walk from the car to the stadium entrance. I shared the pre-roll with Mr. T, who hit it like a cigarette and coughed up a storm. We were just in time for the opening band, who were stereotypically bland and uninteresting, so we hit the lobby and grabbed a few beers, instead. There was a crazy cross section of So Cal styles, types, age groups to ogle…any permutation of So Cal culture you can imagine was in attendance. I accompanied Mr. T out for one last cigarette (for him) and while he puffed it, added a maricap to my enhanced viewing sensibilities. We returned to our seats, which were pretty great, just as the last of the Travelling Willburys filler music faded out. Comfortably situated, we watched as…wham…the spaceship landed and the opening strains of “Evil Woman” filled the arena.

Seeing ELO live, with all the lights and video projections is like climbing aboard their Out of the Blue spacecraft and joining them on a musical journey through the ages. I was too busy digging the experience and taking pics and vids to note the complete set list, but I did find it on line. Lynne & co. played pretty much all the songs from their greatest hits collections with the exception of “Strange Magic”, one of my personal faves, particularly because of the phased guitar. But that was the only omission in an otherwise comprehensive set. The songs that stood out the most really depended on which were already your favorites. I have several ELO songs on my drum playlist and know them intimately, and it is the ones I enjoy playing drums with the most that really hit home. My favorite tracks were “Mr Blue Sky”, “Do Ya”, “10538 Overture” and “Livin’ Thing”. Why?

I’ve always dug “Livin’ Thing”. The haunting ghost vocal wailing (“I’m takin’ a dive…off the stage”), the caution from the backing singers (“Don’t you do it / Don’t you do it”) and the rest of the lyrics describing an extreme sense of hopelessness weighed against the drive to find the will to live. “Do Ya”, originally a song by Lynne’s prior band, The Move, and the early ELO pop masterpiece “10538 Overture,” were both rocking and rollicking, scream out loud anthems, both bringing a nostalgic tear to the old eye. “Mr Blue Sky” incorporated all the Beatlesisms infused in the original – have you ever noticed how much it is like the middle section of the Beatles “A Day in the Life”? – and the backing singers and strings players and keyboardists were phenomenal in evoking the orchestral beams of electric light we were witnessing. “10538” reminded me that Cheap Trick were hugely influenced by ELO and stole the opening of that song for their “Downed”.

Jeff on the Big Screen for “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”

When the show was finally over and the lights returned, Mr. T and I felt a twinge of disappointment that the show hadn’t been longer. I guess the motto about always leaving ‘em wanting more rings true…except that I’m not so sure ELO will ever be back to LA. Jeff really is looking a little weak. Lets hope he comes back and includes “Strange Magic” in the set next time. There were other highlights in the show including an incredible young drummer (Donavan Hepburn). The encore was only a single song, “Roll Over Beethoven”, played as well and as rocking as ever, but even with the powerful orchestral intro of Beethoven’s 5th, it wasn’t the encore I wanted. I wanted “Strange Magic”. They left me wanting more. If I could’ve changed anything about the show, it would’ve been to swap out “Roll Over Beethoven” for “Strange Magic”. But it is the imperfections as much as the perfections that make our experiences memorable, so I’m good with it.

Mr. T was all sobered up by the time we drove through Inglewood to get to the 105 and home. I was still feeling pretty elevated and perfectly happy about my live ELO experience. I was starving, though, as I hadn’t had any dinner, so I made myself a sandwich when I got home and remembered all the greatness of seeing Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

ELO Mothership lands in Inglewood

 

Here’s what they treated us to:

Standin’ in the Rain

Evil Woman

All Over the World

Showdown

Do Ya

When I Was a Boy

Livin’ Thing

Handle with Care (Traveling Wilburys cover)

Rockaria!

Can’t Get It Out of My Head

10538 Overture

Shine a Little Love

Wild West Hero

Sweet Talkin’ Woman

Telephone Line

Don’t Bring Me Down

Turn To Stone

Mr. Blue Sky

Encore: Roll Over Beethoven