8 Dieu Fumeur de Havanes Serge Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve
Finally, two songs from an era before health warnings. Paired with coffee by Otis Redding, they’re fuel for two infatuated lovers talking late into the night. Smouldering in Patsy Cline’s ashtray, they’re potent emblems of a devastating affair. Neither would work quite as well with bar snacks.
Choosing just one reggae song that celebrates weed is bound to be arbitrary, but among several suggestions (Barrington Levy, Mighty Diamonds, Rita Marley), U-Roy’s Chalice in the Palace is surely the most novel. Inspired by a dream, he sketches out his plan to bond with the Queen over a hashpipe. Arise, Sir U-Roy.
5 Smokin’ Super Furry Animals
6 The Hymn for the Cigarettes Hefner
For now, though, it’s one of music’s hardest-working metaphors, representing companionship in Simon & Garfunkel’s America (“We smoked the last one an hour ago”), carefree youth in Supergrass’s Alright (“Smoke a fag, put it out”) betrayal in Pet Shop Boys’ So Hard (“We’ve both given up smoking so whose matches are those?”) and life itself in Bowie’s Rock’n’Roll Suicide (“Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth”). And sometimes, as Freud almost said, a cigarette is just a cigarette.
1 When I Get Low I Get High Ella Fitzgerald
Tonight’s the Night was Neil Young’s most ragged and inebriated album. This bleary-eyed country-rocker, looking back at Woodstock through a fog of smoke, strongly suggests Young took the Method approach to recording. Super Furry Animals were such enthusiastic smokers that the sleeve of their debut featured celebrity stoner Howard Marks. The rambling, rousing Smokin’ is a prime slice of Rizla philosophy which rhymes “meaning of life” with “Johann Cruyff”.
And so to regular cigarettes. For Hefner’s Darren Hayman, at his most biting here, they’re the equivalent of Proust’s madeleines: “Camel Lights remind me of my ex-girlfriend at Christmas time/ And Marlboro Reds remind me of giving up in Berlin.” For Rufus Wainwright on his charismatic 2001 showtune, they’re emblematic of his self-destructive habits. For some reason, cigars and pop rarely mix but Serge Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve speak up for stogie fans by contending that God smokes them. I’m no theology buff but I’m sure they’re right.
Readers recommend: songs about smoking Dorian Lynskey Friday 9 December 2005 The Guardian For now, though, it’s one of music’s hardest-working metaphors, representing companionship in Simon &
From Dylan and the Beatles to Afroman and Snoop – with a little bit of Willie sprinkled on top – the best songs for stoners of all stripes
Let’s be honest: At one time or another, we’ve all been Tony Iommi at the beginning of “Sweet Leaf,” hacking away in agonized bliss after a particularly large hit. The Sabbath guitarist’s tape-looped cough serves as the perfect segue into the song’s iconic sludgy riff (a riff that, it should be noted, later popped up everywhere from the Beastie Boys’ “Rhymin’ and Stealin’ ” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away”). Reportedly, the song’s title was nicked from a brand of Irish cigarettes that touted its product as “the sweet leaf,” but it’s Ozzy’s words that best capture the youthful excitement of a new, yet sadly unrequited, love: “I love you sweet leaf,” he sings, “though you can’t hear.”
“What am I without herb, and what is herb without me?” Peter Tosh asked Rolling Stone in 1981, a rhetorical question if there ever was one. Certainly, marijuana had no greater reggae proponent in the Seventies and Eighties than the former Wailer, who launched his solo career in 1975 with this legalization anthem, which includes the decades-ahead-of-its-time assertion that ganja is “good for tuberculosis.” Tosh’s 1976 album of the same name had the additional stoner cachet of being bankrolled by a marijuana distributor. “He approached a pot dealer in Miami to invest in the album, and the dealer agreed,” reggae historian Roger Steffens told NPR in 2011. “He said, ‘So what are you gonna call it?’ And Peter said, ‘I’m gonna call it Legalize It.’ And the dealer got really upset and said, ‘No, man, you’re gonna put me out of business!’ But eventually he changed his mind and gave Peter the money.”
Cocaine may indeed be a helluva drug, as Rick James memorably attested on Chappelle’s Show, but the man clearly had a prodigious appetite for the sticky green stuff, as well. “I have to buy marijuana,” James told Rolling Stone in 1982, at the height of his fame. “I don’t buy ounces, I buy pounds.” A Number Three R&B hit in the fall of 1978 – but only making it to Number 41 on the pop chart, probably because the song’s message was too blatant for many radio programmers – “Mary Jane” is sensimilla-infused soul of the highest order. James would often perform the song onstage flanked by two gigantic fake joints, and punctuate the lyrics by taking exaggerated hits off a real one. Coolio, who obviously understood where James was coming from, would sample the song on “(I’m in Love With) Mary Jane,” recorded for the soundtrack of the 1998 stoner comedy Half-Baked .
L.A.-based folkies Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley scored a surprise Top 10 hit in the spring of 1971 with this catchy little ditty – often introduced in concert as “our cannabis spiritual” – about waiting for a train while being more than slightly baked. “One day we were pretty much stoned and all,” Brewer told Rolling Stone in April 1971, “and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way it sounded and so I wrote a song about it.” The song might have risen even higher in the charts if the FCC hadn’t suddenly stepped in with a helpful reminder to U.S. radio programmers regarding the actual meaning of “toke” – a term apparently still relatively obscure at the time among non-tokers, given that TV’s ultra-wholesome The Lawrence Welk Show didn’t think twice about featuring the song on their program.
“I never have and never will write a drug song,” Bob Dylan famously announced during his legendary performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1966, but that hasn’t stopped several generations of dope smokers from adopting the lead track from Blonde on Blonde (which also hit Number Two on the Billboard singles chart in the spring of ’66) as an anthem. The song’s woozy chorus of “Everybody must get stoned!” is obviously responsible, along with the claim that “rainy day woman” is old-school weed-head slang for a joint – though some new-school stoners will also helpfully point out that 12 times 35 equals 420, maaan. The Mighty Zimm, however, continues to insist that the stoning in question was Biblical, not herbal. “It doesn’t surprise me that some people would see it that way,” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “But these are people that aren’t familiar with the Book of Acts.”
Marley followed up 1977’s landmark Exodus – an album focused on religion, politics and faith – with an album that was decidedly more laid-back in temperament. And nowhere was this more evident than on Kaya‘s title track, an ode to chasing away the rain (both literal and metaphorical) with a bit of the titular plant (“kaya,” Marley once explained, is Jamaican slang for “herb”). Over a lilting rhythm, Marley essentially wakes and bakes, and before long declares that he is “feeling irie” (Rastafari for “good”). Why? “Because I have some kaya now.”
This sunny, soulful track from 1966’s Revolver LP is generally thought of as one of the Fab Four’s many upbeat love songs – but according to Paul McCartney, the love object in this particular instance is a weed, not a woman. “‘Got to Get You into My Life’ was one I wrote when I had first been introduced to pot,” he told Barry Miles for the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. “I’d been a rather straight working-class lad but when we started to get into pot it seemed to me to be quite uplifting. It didn’t seem to have too many side effects like alcohol or some of the other stuff, like pills, which I pretty much kept off. I kind of liked marijuana. I didn’t have a hard time with it and to me it was mind-expanding, literally mind-expanding. So ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ is really a song about that, it’s not to a person, it’s actually about pot. It’s saying, ‘I’m going to do this. This is not a bad idea.’”
Recorded in the wake of the deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Tonight’s the Night is the sound of a man and a band in the depths of chemical- and alcohol-assisted despair. “I’m not a junkie,” Young said in 1975 about making the album. “But we’d get really high – drink a lot of tequila, get right out on the edge.” But if he was fueled primarily by booze, it certainly sounds like some weed was added to the proceedings for “Roll Another Number,” as Young struggles to start his car and declares himself “a million miles away” from the hippie days of Woodstock. Far from celebratory, the song’s overall mood is closer to, as Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot once described it, “a drunken Irish wake.”
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