The Pusher

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"The Pusher"
Single by Steppenwolf
from the album Steppenwolf
Released1968
Format7"
Recorded1967 at American Recording Co. Studio, Studio City, California
GenreBlues rock, hard rock, acid rock
Length5:49
LabelMCA
Writer(s)Hoyt Axton
ProducerGabriel Mekler
Steppenwolf singles chronology
"Born to Be Wild"
(1968)
"The Pusher"
(1968)
"Magic Carpet Ride"
(1968)
 
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"The Pusher"
Single by Steppenwolf
from the album Steppenwolf
Released1968
Format7"
Recorded1967 at American Recording Co. Studio, Studio City, California
GenreBlues rock, hard rock, acid rock
Length5:49
LabelMCA
Writer(s)Hoyt Axton
ProducerGabriel Mekler
Steppenwolf singles chronology
"Born to Be Wild"
(1968)
"The Pusher"
(1968)
"Magic Carpet Ride"
(1968)

"The Pusher" is a rock song written by Hoyt Axton, made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider which used Steppenwolf's version to accompany the opening scenes of drug trafficking.

The lyrics of the song distinguish between a dealer in drugs such as marijuana—who "will sell you lots of sweet dreams"—and a pusher of hard drugs such as heroin—a "monster" who doesn't care "if you live or if you die".

Contents

Steppenwolf version

The song was made popular when rock band Steppenwolf released a cover version of the song on their 1968 album Steppenwolf. When performing the song publicly in the late 1960s, the repeated lyric "God Damn" was often controversial, most notoriously in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where City officials attempted to force the band to use a euphemism (such as "Gosh darn") rather than the actual lyric. Though the band promised not to sing the line, at John Kay's urging, the audience obliged by loudly filling in the offensive words at the appropriate places in the song.[1]

Organist Goldy McJohn, who recorded the original Steppenwolf version, said the version that appears on Early Steppenwolf performed by "Sparrow" (pre-Steppenwolf moniker) in 1967 at the Matrix came about when singer John Kay and Jerry Edmonton were late for a performance:

Nick and Mars and me started that long version of the Pusher. John and Jerry's flight was late one night at the Avalon Ballroom, so we started and then we perfected it at the "Arc" in Sausalito on New Year's Eve in 1966.[2]

Other versions

Songwriter Hoyt Axton apparently did not record "The Pusher" himself until he included it on his 1971 album, Joy to the World.

Nina Simone included a soulful version of this song on her 1974 album, It Is Finished. She was evidently untroubled by the lyrics, since she is well known for writing and recording an even fiercer song, "Mississippi Goddamn" (appearing on her 1964 album Nina Simone In Concert).

The band Blind Melon also did a version of "The Pusher" with a completely different perspective. The late Shannon Hoon changes the song into a double entendre about both religion and addiction. It can be found as the first track on their third album Nico (released in 1996).

The band Cowboy Mouth covered the song for the soundtrack of the movie "Half Baked".

Canadian rockers Helix released a cover of "The Pusher" on their 1998 CD half-ALIVE.

Finnish rock band The Black League recorded the song originally for a Finnish comic book soundtrack in 2007. In 2010 this version was included on a compilation album 'North Will Rise Again' featuring an array of Finnish bands that have drawn their inspiration from Southern rock music

The main guitar riff of the song was the foundation for "Trout" from the 1992 album Homebrew by Neneh Cherry. That song was a duet with Michael Stipe of R.E.M.

Cultural references

References

  1. ^ "First Amendment Rocks Memphis" (HTML). www.freedomforum.org. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=8449. Retrieved 2011-03-17., by Phillip Taylor of The First Amendment Center
  2. ^ "Favorite song Jerry sang" (HTML). GoldyMcJohn.com. http://goldymcjohn.proboards25.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=jerry&thread=1190510147&page=2. Retrieved 2007-12-06.

External links