Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pusher - Steppenwolf

Don't run off. this isn't about guns. It's about music; more so, it's about learning, responsibility, growing up.

When I was a kid, my older brother, seven years older, decided he couldn't take it any longer and he headed out into these great United States, thus leaving my slightly older sister and myself at home to finish being kids. He left a few things with me. A .303 British bolt action rifle that the Brits used to kill elephants and WWII enemy soldiers with. A .20 gauge breaking, single-shot shotgun. And his entire record collection. This, was a bonus.

sort of like the old shotgun, though this one's nicer

It's interesting to note, that here I was living in the suburbs of Tacoma, WA, in the late 1960s, and I had my own firearms. I never misused them either. Well, once, well, not really. My sister was home from training to be a Flight Attendant for Northwest Orient Airlines and her ex jerk boyfriend got drunk and drove back and forth in front of our house repeatedly one night. I didn't think much of it until I heard her weeping in the foldaway bed downstairs (my little brother and I shared a bedroom and when she moved out, he took her room).

I looked out the window and watched the jerk drive back and forth, fishtailing his semi muscle car. One one pass, he fish tailed his tires spinning, so badly, that he lost control and almost totaled his car into my step-dad's truck. That did it, and I took down the shotgun, loaded it and put it out my second floor window, and waited for him to make one more run. I judged that between my height and our house was about six feet up a hill from the sidewalk, and the distance to the street, and the shotgun was only a 20 gauge, I would probably only blow out a window on his car. He seemed so drunk I figured he'd just drive off and go hide (being drunk while driving).

Well, he must have scared himself so badly that he never did make another pass. I emptied and put the gun away. Eventually, my sister stopped crying and fell asleep.

I never told anyone. But enough of that. The coolest thing I had of my brother's, was his record collection. Here I was a punk kid, and I was listening to the likes of John Mayall, Music from Big Pink by The Band, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Cream, Steppenwolf, Sandy Bull, Paul Butterfield, Iron Butterfly, Simon and Garfunkle, The Beatles (I actually got to see them with my sister when they came to Seattle), The Rolling Stones (didn't like live albums back then, was into the perfection of studio work), and on and on.

I already had my own very interesting collection including electronic and synthesizer music by the likes of Walter Carlos and Morton Subotnick, Ian Whitcom (my first album that I traded a found High School graduation right for, to my brother's singer in his band), a bunch of classical records, Canada's favorite son, pianist , and many others.

I came to learn about music through my brother's albums as they were his, he had started his own rock band and he must therefore know what he was doing. So I tried to learn from his music. And I did. One of those albums, Steppenwolf's self titled album. Amazingly enough, "The Pusher" was a rock song written by country singer/writer, Hoyt Axton. Axton apparently did not record "The Pusher" himself until he included it on his 1971 album, Joy to the World.

The song was made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider which used Steppenwolf's version to accompany the opening scenes of drug trafficking. I actually got to see John Kay, the lead singer of Steppenwolf at the Coliseum in Seattle when he toured solo in the 70s.

I can remember sitting and listening to that song over and over again. Typically, under the influence of something, and as a senior in High School. There were a couple of statements in the song that stuck with me throughout that part of my life and I'm sure, kept me alive in certain situations.

The lines:
"But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill"

I took that to mean (for whatever reason) that one should never do anything that your spirit, your inner power or self, couldn't win out over in the end. Be it drugs, alcohol, sky diving, racing, all things I was going to do in that future from when I was first learning that song.

The other part of the album that stuck with me was the differentiation between a pusher and a dealer. A dealer sells you what you want. A pusher sells you whatever he can push on you, force you to buy, or hook you into repeat business for. This wasn't only about drugs but about a general orientation toward people. That kept me away from people that I knew were shady, dangerous or out only for themselves.

"God damn, God damn, the Pusher man....!"

And I'm still here to talk about it.


You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, I say The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he's not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, God damn the Pusher
I said God damn, God, God damn The Pusher man

Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I'd declare total war on The Pusher man
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

God damn The Pusher
Gad damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

No comments:

Post a Comment