Cannabis-Friendly Music, Part 4

Note: This is the fourth installment in my series about heady, cannabis-friendly music, drawn from the clips I’ve posted on Swedish Flying Saucer’s Instagram feed.

16. Max Frost & The Troopers – The Shape of Things to Come (1968)

Max Frost & The Troopers’ “The Shape of Things to Come” is a fierce 1960s anthem by the fictional band at the center of American International Pictures’ 1968 teen rebellion film Wild in the Streets. The shock-cinema spectacle tells the story of Max Frost, an idealistic rock and roll lead singer who becomes involved in politics until all turns to chaos when the band’s fanatic followers take to the streets.

The story is set amidst the social chaos and cultural transformation sparked by rebellious, marijuana smoking teens in the 1960s. These are the same teens for whom Max Frost and his fans wage their cinematic rebellion.

The song is a plaintive, desperate warning about the future disguised as a teen anthem. The singer is totally unaware of the revolution’s ill-fated destiny yet announces to all its inevitability, not realizing that what’s coming will be as untenable as what’s already passed.

Max Frost & The Troopers “The Shape of Things to Come” from the film Wild in the Streets (1968)
  • Note: For those interested in a totally different take on the song, check out George Benson’s version, here.

17. Richard Thompson – Just The Motion (1981)

Richard Thompson is one of the most prolific songwriters of the last quarter of the 20th century, an incredibly gifted musician and singer, and probably the funniest troubadour you’ll ever see on stage.

Thompson started out with the legendary Fairport Convention and played with them throughout the 1960s until launching a solo career. Shortly thereafter he met and married Linda Peters and the two became the very talented and prolific musical duo, Richard & Linda Thompson.

The couple performed “Just The Motion” variously in 1981 and included it on their 1982 Joe Boyd-produced masterpiece, Shoot Out The Lights. The version here is performed solo by Richard in 1981 in a different key than on the album.

The song is a beautiful meditation on the human spirit and its existential condition, reassuring and comforting listeners that angst, confusion, stress, frustration, self-doubt, fear, and so many other destructive emotions are merely the result of living.

In “Just The Motion” the Thompsons remind us that our journey through life is often obstructed, sabotaged, undermined, unwound, by the mere fact of existence and that it is up to us to accept these challenges gracefully and continue our struggle meaningfully.

Richard Thompson performing ‘Just The Motion’ solo on Videowest’s ‘Guitar Player Session in 1981

18. Norma Tanega – A Street That Rhymes at 6am (1966)

Norma Tanega is known by some for her novelty folk hit “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” but another fantastic ditty from her album of the same name is this ditty, “A Street That Rhymes at 6am.

Norma was born and raised in California, then moved to New York in the mid-1960s and joined the folk scene. She continued playing music, painting, and eventually became a teacher, but her songs, especially “Cat” were covered by different artists in the ensuing decades, keeping her legacy alive.

Norma also wrote songs for and had a romantic relationship with the British singer Dusty Springfield.

“A Street that Rhymes at 6am” has a child-like, almost nursery rhyme quality to it and the lyrics relate what sounds like the end of a night-long acid trip when the singer is wandering the neighborhood in a daze searching diligently for rhyming street signs.

“Street” features a poppy melody and soft vocal texture that reminds me of some of the better Schoolhouse Rock videos and the vocal/guitar doubling on the lyric “All I want is a new skyline” adds an unexpected eastern touch to the melody.

Norma Tanega performing “A Street That Rhymes at 6 A.M.” live on tv

19. The Creation – If I Stay Too Long (1967)

The Creation was a post-Mod psych/pop-art sixties Brit phenomenon known for some of the earliest bowed electric guitar and an original lead singer, Kenny Pickett, who spray-painted canvasses on stage and set them alight during shows.

The band was supercharged power-pop and used their on-stage antics to capture all the energy and dynamism of the forces fueling their sound. Picket the “Painter Man” left the group in ’67 to be replaced by the band’s new leader and this track’s singer, the bespectacled, Scott Walker-esque Bob Garner.

“If I Stay Too Long” is a plaintive, entreating account of the singer’s longing for his love interest and his awkwardness and insecurity at whether she’ll return those feelings. He heads to her house with purpose, “rehearsing everything I’ll say” because the last time they talked she left him in tears.

The lyrics are delivered in a dramatic swell that ramps up as the singer arrives at his lover’s door, finally reaching a crescendo when he’s sitting “hand in hand” awaiting a kiss, assured that his love is reciprocated. The singer is now “feeling fine” and can “relax” in anticipation of the way his lover’s lips will allow him to “forget about the time” and live in the moment.

The Creation performing “If I Stay Too Long” & “Painter Man” live on Beat Club tv show, Germany, 1967

20. Fred Neil & Rolling Coconut Revue – Dolphins (1976)

Fred Neil is probably the most criminally unknown Greenwich Village folk-singer / songwriter of the 1960s. Although his legacy has enjoyed a well-received reprise over the past few decades thanks to reissues and retrospective articles, Neil’s music is not as well known as should be, and the one song of his that everyone knows best, “Everybody’s Talkin'” is far too often mistakenly credited to Harry Nilsson. Other Neil songs like “The Dolphins” were also famously covered by singers like Tim Buckley, Richie Havens and Linda Rondstadt.

After relocating to Coconut Grove, Florida, Neil largely ceased performing and instead worked with Stephen Stills to start The Dolphin Project. He refused offers to play The Tonight Show, Johnny Cash Show and others but eventually formed the Rolling Coconut Revue with fellow environmentally conscious musicians to promote dolphin awareness.

The star-studded Revue played shows in Coconut Grove (as in the clip, below) and eventually performed in Tokyo. Fred’s good friend, Ric O’Barry (who now runs The Dolphin Project), recounted how Fred became so interested in the dolphins’ plight once relocating. It is worth quoting here in full:

“Fred started coming around to the Seaquarium where I was training dolphins for the Flipper TV series,” O’Barry says. “He was interested in dolphins and diving. At that time, I had five dolphins to care for. Whenever I had to go to the Bahamas to do the underwater filming, I would leave Fred babysitting some of the dolphins that I left behind. Fred would all spend time with the dolphins while I was gone. Fred had the patience of a saint, which made him the perfect dolphin babysitter. I remember watching Fred with his head under the water with bubbles coming out all around, trying to sing to the dolphins underwater. He would come by all the time and would bring his friends to play music for the dolphins. I remember Joni Mitchell, Rambling Jack, even LSD guru Timothy Leary and several other far out people. I was always getting in trouble because of this. This was the early sixties, and long hair was starting, and people were wondering what all these long hairs were doing, tripping around the grounds. Felix Papplardi, Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, from the Mamas and the Papas, David Crosby, all these people were coming around with Fred to hanging out and playing music to the dolphins. Those were great times. I knew Fred more as a diver and someone who was interested in dolphins than a musician. He seemed more interested in what I was doing than in what he himself was doing at the time.”

“Fred Neil Tribute Dives Into Musician Dolphin Activist”, Florida Daily Post (8/6/18)

Fred’s mad love for dolphins is well illustrated in this clip. He’s on stage at a local venue, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, performing his classic homage to dolphin life accompanied by his former partner Vince Martin on guitar and former musical collaborator and friend, John Sebastian (of the Lovin’ Spoonful) on harmonica. Perhaps he’s high or drunk, or both, but there’s an innate, irrepressible grin that Neil’s face can’t hold back as he sings his dolphin song alongside his friends.

Fred Neil & Rolling Coconut Revue performing “Dolphins” in 1976

Primitive Zippo
Doing high dives into the California cannabis industry, cannabis culture, cannabis-friendly music and anything else cannabis-related residing in the vast expanse of my turgid cranium.

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