Eight Miles High: The History of Music and Marijuana

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.44.27 Rock and roll minus marijuana equals Cliff Richard. If that’s what you want, what are you even doing here? It’s a little more complicated than that of course, so in this post we’ll take a look at how the noble plant has influenced musicians across the years.

Early Daze

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Perhaps, around 30,000 years ago, Og the caveman chanced across a small weed bush and thought, “Ooh – herbs! I shall add that to tonight’s mammoth pie.” By midnight he was ripped to the Palaeolithic knackers, and had fashioned a rudimentary trumpet out of a length of tusk. By 2am he’d invented a kind of proto-jazz, and by 2.15 he was hungry again. By the following Tuesday he’d worked out how to grow his own marijuana from seeds.


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What we do know is that the recorded history of music and dope starts in 1930’s America, with jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. Armstrong was looking at six months inside for possession at one point, until the judge turned out to be a fan. He was free and playing in a club later that night. Jazz musicians found that smoking fatties improved their perception of how they were playing to the point where they were able to improvise freely over the top of whatever was written down; weed literally “jazzed up” the original tunes.

No Fun

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People were having too much fun, goddammit, so it was time for the government to step in and crack down, which has obviously worked so well in the intervening years that certain US states have given up in the War On Wastedness. Anyway, the next major milestone allowed rock and roll, which was ready to die of blandness in the early 1960’s, to be reborn. Bob Dylan met the Beatles in a hotel room in August 1964. He just happened to be in possession of some eye-wateringly powerful tetrahydrocannabinol, conveniently rolled into smokable form. Paul McCartney’s thumbs have not stopped being aloft since then.


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Before having their minds turned upside down by Dylan’s devilish doobies, The Beatles were releasing “nice” songs like All My Loving. Shortly afterwards we got all the chords in the world in Help! (1965). Things became increasingly weird (partly due to the increasingly naughty nature of the chemicals the Fab Four were ingesting) culminating in Sergeant Pepper (1967) via Tomorrow Never Knows, from Revolver (1966). The youth of an entire planet was officially corrupted. Hoorah!


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Things were also turning strange in the Caribbean. Fast, jumpy ska music had been mellowed into long, lazy, loping reggae by the madness that is reefer. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh sang of the joys of herb, and the vibes filtered through to white boy rock music, some of which was excellent and some of which necessitated the invention of punk, to blow away some cobwebs.

Do. Or Do Not

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These days it’s rap artists like Snoop who are keeping the, er, “torch” alight. Heroic quantities of pot have turned the Dogg into Snoop Lion, apparently christened thusly by a Jamaican rasta priest. Snoop Lion’s songs “No Guns Allowed” and “Smoke The Weed” exemplify his new reggae direction. These days, governments are beginning to realise that people who want to smoke, do. People who don’t, don’t. There’s little or nothing they can do about it.

(Images courtesy of stonerdays.com, wikipedia, spclarke.com, ultimateclassicrock.com, juantadeo.com, wikipedia, mtviggy.com)