Today’s song likely has the most bizarre history of any song we have listened to on the Soundtrack so far.
In 1970 folk music and the psychedelic sound crossed paths. Turning on, Tuning in, and Dropping out was the buzzword. Two folk/rock singers, Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley, were performing their upbeat protest songs to hippies across the country. A lot of the music and songs of the day centered around drugs and getting high. Their song One Toke Over the Line was a homage to getting high. Taking a toke meant taking a long drag on a marijuana cigarette.
According to certain accounts, Mike Brewer said about the song. "One day we were pretty much stoned and all, and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it."
The song became a joke until the time they were playing a concert and were asked to do an encore, but had already played their entire set. So, they played One Toke Over the Line. The crowd loved it and it quickly gained popularity.
The song was banned in several areas of the country, especially in the Deep South, the Bible Belt, and the rural areas in the Midwest. Because the lyrics of the song contained biblical references to Jesus and Mary there was a lot of confusion over the subject matter of the song. Some people mistakenly called it a modern spiritual. The confusion led to the song being performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented format, by in-house duo "Gail and Dale".
This caused Michael Brewer to comment: “The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for.”
Since marijuana is legal in so many places now it seems like a moot point.
I still own a vinyl copy of their album Tarkio. It was their most successful effort and featured "One Toke Over the Line" as the opening track. Honestly, I haven’t played it in years, but I did hear the song on the radio a few weeks ago which sparked me to include it in this year’s Soundtrack.
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