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.
Why?– Evel Knievel. (1938-2007)
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,
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
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…
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.
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:
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.
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.