CANNABIS-FRIENDLY MUSIC, PART 3

Note: This is the third installment in our series about cannabis-friendly music. The order applied to the videos & clips isn’t a ranking, but simply follows the order of posts on our Instagram feed. All you need to know is that is heady, cannabis-friendly music.

11. Kicking off the third set of cannabis-friendly music videos is a short film featuring the song “The Ballad of Evel Knievel” as an accompaniment to an interpretive recreation of Evel Knievel’s many ambitious motorcycle jumps (most of which were punctuated by ill-fated landings). Evel was on television throughout the 1960s and 1970s, usually featured in an ABC Wide World of Sports special. The jumps varied in setting, from a cache of 18-wheeler trucks to the Caesar’s Palace fountain, to Snake River Canyon and beyond. Evel was more than ambitious; he was relentless. Relentless because he wasn’t always successful and he endured many serious, bone-breaking injuries, yet he still continued jumping.

Evel released a largely spoken-word, eponymous album in 1974 wherein he attempted to answer philosophically the fundamental question so often put to him by fans and critics alike: Why? Why did Evel do what he did? He answers the question in his poem, “Why?” (reprinted below), on the last track on side 1 of his LP. Whether he succeeded in answering the question is up to us to determine. “The Ballad of Evel Knievel” is the only song on the album, which also features a twenty-minute press conference, an extended message from Evel to “the kids”, and the daredevil’s wistful musings on “the future”. The LP stands alone as a cannabis-friendly cultural artifact the essence of which is captured perfectly by this short homemade cannabis-friendly film, Canyon In The Sky by Gordon Langley.

EVEL KNIEVEL – CANYON IN THE SKY by Gordon Langley featuring “The Ballad of Evel Knievel”

Why?
Everywhere in this world that I go,
No matter who or what I know,
The people, they look, 
Most of them stare,
I wonder if they even care

They see this cane with its golden crown,
Some of them smile, but most of them frown.

I hear them laugh, and see them cry,
No matter what,
They all ask why?

Well, I’m just like you, and you,
and you, and your wife,
We have a special purpose in life.
This way of life, I’m glad that I found,
For like you, I too, make the world go round.

We’re all alike,
Oh yes, we are,
We all have a dream on some faraway star

For when it is over and done at the end of the day,
Some can relax, but I go to pray.
For I know that tomorrow in some other place,
I’ll have that fear again to face.

Could it be the quest for money and fame,
Oh no,
To play with my life is not much of a game.

It’s a want- a want that’s so dear,
It’s given me faith,
I can face the fear

Oh yes, I do think about a day
In life when fate came along and struck my way.

Each time I was hurt, they all said,
The guy is lucky that he’s not dead.

They were right.
But I wanted to get up
To try it again,
I kept telling myself that I knew I could win,
So I’d close my eyes, and to the lord, I’d pray,
Oh, help me God, let me walk someday

And he did.
Every stitch on every scar
Has just brought me closer to my dream afar.

To be a man,
And to do my best,
To stand alone is my only quest.

Success is a term that has a broad use,
For and I to have none in life – there is no excuse.

For you, to do what I do is not right-
But, for me, it’s not wrong
What I’ve been trying to tell you all along
Is that it’s got to be.

So, you wonder why?
The answer to that is just like you,
I’ve got to be me…

– Evel Knievel. (1938-2007)

12. Evel Knievel’s is always a hard cannabis-friendly act to follow but Monoshock‘s “Ice Gazelle” from their posthumous Lost Shock collection makes a commendable effort. The band’s first release, the Primitive Zippo 45 on Womb Records, features on its cover a chiaroscuro rendering of a guy smoking out. They later recorded a cover of Hawkwind‘s “Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)”. They were a cannabis-friendly band making cannabis-friendly music. Aural cacophony…glorious din… however characterized, there’s no doubt it is cannabis-friendly music.

ICE GAZELLE by Monoshock

13. The next cannabis-friendly tune speaks directly to something many cannabis users once dreaded in the pre-legalization days (and may still depending on the employer) known as the drug test. Yo La Tengo captures masterfully in this one short piece all the emotions that surface in the face of drug screening, from the awkwardness and discomfort of forced sobriety in the weeks prior to the test to the anxiety over whether the test will come out clean. The song communicates personal angst at the outset with ominous bass thuds setting the tone and half-formed chords introducing the mood and melody, which is decidedly unsure, inchoate, and a bit of a mess.

Steadied hands soon regain chording control and tame the melody to create space for the singer to tell his tale. The lyrics take great care to convey the singer’s inner fragmentation at being without his steadying drug of choice (we’ll assume it is cannabis), as he confesses that “I’m not ready to face that thing today / I wish I was high”. The song reveals the singer’s unsettled vulnerability as he admits that “I hate feeling the way I feel / I hate feeling the way I feel today / I wish I was high”.

The desire for cannabis comfort finally has the singer imagining what he would be doing if not for the test as he describes his vision to the listener, “I see myself with headphones on / I’m listening to Wake of the Flood (2x) / now I’m high”. Desperation and anxiety have pushed the singer to psychically recreate the setting he would otherwise occupy, high and listening to the Grateful Dead with headphones on. But the daydream is ephemeral and within moments the sobered singer admits his inability to ditch this “wish” that he was “high”.

The singer begins to rationalize the exaggerated desire to be high by conceding he’s “brighter than nothing / smarter than nobody” and “wasted away.” The singer’s self-worth is shot and wholly subject to his desire to be high. He’s physically diminished and lacking the strength to redirect his efforts, even for the sake of the income that would enable him to buy more cannabis. The song never really resolves and there’s no indication whether the singer passed the test, or even took it at all. The song ends with the same ominous bass thuds with which it began but then adds one repetition of the verse melody to end the piece signifying, perhaps, a final thread of hope to which the singer clings.

Don’t take my word for it, tho. Here’s Yo La Tengo performing “Drug Test” live and sober in 1989:

DRUG TEST by Yo La Tengo

14. Next up isn’t cannabis-friendly music per se, but it is cannabis-friendly. Those old enough to remember SCTV will be familiar with the character Dr. Braino and his “Dr. Braino Hour” segment. John Candy, RIP. That was indeed the ultimate bummer.

BUMMER by Dr. Braino (SCTV)

15. Rounding out this 3rd installment of Swedish Flying Saucer’s cannabis-friendly music video menagerie is Rod Stewart’s Faces covering Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” live in Edmonton, Canada in 1973. The show also happened to be Ronnie Lane‘s last gig with the band (he died in 1997). The song is a classic and I would’ve much rather posted a live version of Christine McVie performing it, but I couldn’t find one. There’s something about cannabis and live music performances complement one another, whether attending a concert or watching live footage at home. And there’s something nostalgic that comes to the fore that is cannabis-enhanced when seeing those guys so young and at their peak. So just put yourself in the right mood, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

GETTIN’ THE BUDTENDER GIG: IT’S WHO YA KNOW!

I JUST WANNA SAY I MET YOU
IT’S WHO YOU KNOW

“Who You Know” by X

Budtenders are a consumer’s link to the cannabis industry, providing product and brand information, relaying important industry news, explaining regulations and taxes, demonstrating new devices, and much more. Budtenders are both repositories and transmitters of crucial industry knowledge and effectively liaise between the consumer and seed banks, growers, processors, trimmers, manufacturers, distributors, bakers, candy makers and more. I decided last year that as my kids head off to high school and college, I would very much like to find a job in the cannabis industry and combine my passion for and knowledge about marijuana with gainful employment. Lacking industry experience, a budtender job seems to be an ideal position for me to build a deep and fundamental understanding of all that is involved in bringing safe, legal cannabis products to the public.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, there is an increasing need for companies to hire additional staff. Industry growth is a sign that legalized cannabis is succeeding, putting down roots while meeting current demand and preparing for future expansion. Companies are structuring themselves corporately in anticipation of big business dealings along the lines of the adult beverage industry. This bodes well for both the future of legal marijuana in states that have authorized its sale and use and for national legalization, generally. As the industry expands and establishes a foothold in new markets, more new jobs are created, reducing unemployment and increasing consumer spending. This is all very good news, particularly for job seekers. But it is worth taking a closer look to see what kinds of cannabis industry jobs are actually available and how accessible these jobs are to the general public.

Kris Knox, right, a bud tender, helps Kris Bunker of Boulder choose a strain of weed at the Terrapin Care Station (photo: stuffstonerslike)

From the 1970s through the 1990s one of the coolest jobs a young adult could get was a record store job. I was fortunate to work at a few record stores in my youth. One was easy to get, working as a holiday temp at Tower Records back in the day. But the other record store job was at an independent shop in downtown Santa Barbara, and the only reason I got that job was that I knew someone who worked there. I recently began applying for budtender work at local dispensaries and it is not lost on me how much today’s cannabis dispensaries resemble record stores of yore. The truth is that there aren’t many record stores around these days, so those jobs now are even harder to come by. The continuing proliferation of cannabis dispensaries, particularly here in the east San Fernando Valley, however, leads me to believe that budtender jobs are plentiful and available to the right candidates.

Although some dispensaries advertise for budtender jobs on internet job boards, others do not. Most of the listings for budtender and dispensary positions require some amount of cannabis industry or budtender experience for a candidate’s consideration. This is reasonable but it also filters out interested applicants lacking such experience yet possessing other qualities suitable for the position. And it begs the question of how one acquires cannabis industry experience if he is excluded preemptively from consideration for the only job that would provide him with that requisite experience. The best answer I can come up with at this point is that in almost all cases, the only opportunity for those who haven’t acquired budtender experience is to either know someone working at a dispensary or be a well-acquainted customer. Record store jobs work the same way.

(photo: gocaliva)

Even with this strategy, how easy is it for a customer to become so familiar to a dispensary staff that he would be offered a job even if lacking budtender experience? The short answer is that it isn’t as easy as doing the same thing in a record store. Why? Because anyone may walk into a record store and browse without buying anything, spend time talking with the employees there, ask them questions and demonstrate music literacy. Dispensaries, on the other hand, regulate customer ingress and at times require the customer to sign a legal agreement. Once the customer is in the door, there is an expectation that he will make a purchase. Dispensaries don’t allow for the kind of browsing one can do at a record store. And because dispensary shopping generally requires a budtender’s active assistance, time is always of the essence so that waiting customers may be served. The downside of this for the customer at the counter is the feeling of being rushed to make a choice and complete the transaction. This leaves very little time for an idle, getting-to-know-you chat with budtenders, and makes it much harder for a customer to establish himself as a familiar face to be considered for a job, as he could otherwise do in a record store.

Mysterious record store clerk (Photo by Sergio Bastidas/Brooks Institute, ©2008)

Another significant difference between record stores and dispensaries is that music products are generally less expensive than cannabis products. A music customer can find a desired used compact disc or elpee for, say, five dollars, but a dispensary customer generally has to spend more than that on each visit. Theoretically, a cannabis customer could buy a gram of flower for something close to five dollars, but whereas that elpee or compact disc can be played over and over, the gram is only going to last a day or two in most cases. In short, it is more expensive to patronize a dispensary than a record store, making it all the more challenging for a prospective budtender to be there to familiarize himself with a prospective dispensary/employer. Making matters more difficult, sales tax on cannabis is roughly three times more than the tax on records and compact discs. The economic challenges facing inexperienced would be budtenders clearly impedes the ability to compete for dispensary work.

Marijuana buds in glass jars on wooden background (photo: Leafly)

The growth of the cannabis industry is the result of individual cannabis businesses across the board becoming successful and expanding production and marketing operations to meet demand and increase sales. Consequently, there are many marijuana-related jobs listed that don’t require any cannabis industry experience at all, because they are corporate positions. The corporate cannabis listings include VPs, Operations, Product and Social Media Managers, Sterile Processing and Lab Techs, Sales Reps, Accountants, and the list goes on. All of these require either a corporate background or technical skill irrespective of any affinity for cannabis, no matter how passionate. My desire to work in the cannabis industry is fueled in large part by a desire for a decidedly non-corporate experience. Budtenders in almost all cases aren’t corporate, and the position, itself, is wholly unique to the cannabis industry. Marijuana and marijuana products are a budtender’s focus, leaving him free of corporate considerations, departmental budgets or production chain issues. And while corporate and technical jobs generally restrict employees to office interiors and cubicle walls, laboratories, and greenhouses, budtenders man the front lines engaging the public, meeting new and likeminded people, exchanging ideas and information and sharing a passion for cannabis.

To the north and west of where I live there are several cannabis dispensaries and it isn’t unreasonable to believe I might find a budtender job at one of them. But upon closer look, not all dispensaries are the same. The three storefronts to which I’ve submitted my resume are all successful, legal, well-run shops where any self-respecting cannabis aficionado would eagerly work. It is more than reasonable to believe that competition for budtender positions at these outlets is high, and that candidates with experience or official cannabis education or with friends on staff have the greatest likelihood of being hired. But these are three of at least ten, if not more, local dispensaries. What of the others? There are a few legal, compliant local dispensaries that I’ve yet to patronize, but I’ve avoided them thus far due to high prices. Other local dispensaries are black market or quasi-legal at best and incompatible with my approach to cannabis.

(photo: stonerdays)

For now, I’m left to continue experiencing what I can of the cannabis industry, writing, editing and publishing my thoughtful observations here at Swedish Flying Saucer. I’m happy to continue in this manner for now while seeking out opportunities to enrich my understanding of the cannabis industry and working towards my desired goal. In this manner, I will advance my marijuana industry “experience” even though technically only a layperson. I’m a few years older than most budtenders I encounter, and it is easy to see how a younger person might have an easier time establishing friendships with budtenders that might lead to a job. But folks of all ages consume cannabis for medical or recreational reasons and of them, there are those who prefer an older budtender. I’ve also noticed that a majority of budtenders I engage are female, which has me wondering if that is the norm and another hurdle I must clear in my pursuit of a dispensary job. Ultimately it is inconsequential because I am patient and determined to achieve what I’ve set out to accomplish. I have abundant confidence that as the cannabis industry continues to grow, it will carve out a budtender opportunity for me, your faithful scribe. Once that happens, I look forward to seeing you on the other side of the counter!