Being in a rock 'n' roll band gets you scrutinized by people in the straight-laced world. They immediately assume you're some drug addict and, if you're like me -- a person who doesn't drink or smoke -- assume you're a recovering drug addict. Truth is, I never had much of a palette for it. I was also lucky enough to get copies of Minor Threat and Bad Brains albums when I was a very impressionable teenager and combing through the lyrics of songs like "Attitude," "Out Of Step" and "Straight Edge" had an indelible effect on me that I am only now starting to recognize.
Despite these beginnings, I, like a lot of people, was curious about drugs. I definitely experimented, dabbled, even habitually enjoyed for some time, and had a general all-around blast. Nobody got hurt and there was never any silly high-school drama attached to it. It was only when friends around me overindulged in alcohol did the drama start flowing like a corny after-school special. I never really had the stomach for alcohol either, though.
Eventually, I knew my time with light drugs had reached its inevitable end and I quietly unrolled the joints, so to speak. Some people have peanut allergies or a fear of heights, I simply couldn't handle my high. There wasn't any horrific misadventure or run-in with the law predicating the decision. I'm somewhat of a control freak, but I still proffer that for most people a little indulgence is fine.
But while I've abstained from smoking even an occasional joint, don't think for one second that I don't get a clamoring to grab it every time it's casually passed around me. Much in the same way a lactose intolerant pizza lover feels a hunger pang every time the aroma of a slice hits their nostrils, I too feel the sting of a lost puff between my lips from a nearby flaming joint. And even though I don't smoke anymore my support for the legalization of cannabis is absolute. For anyone interested in learning the true story behind cannabis, I highly suggest watching The Union: The Business Behind Getting High by Brett Harvey and Adam Scorgie from 2007.
My main reason for smoking marijuana in the first place was only to enjoy the music I already loved so much, but at a heightened level. It's true that marijuana can open dormant senses and when applied to music the results are unquestionably fantastic. Songs that I'd heard almost a hundred times over suddenly sparkled with nuances that opened up to me like a gift on Christmas morning. Songs that I couldn't quite understand what all the fuss was about suddenly became illuminated as pieces of wonderment. Conversely, pot somehow also helped me to identify shallow, trite music and instantly realize it was unbearable. My drug usage had an indisputable effect on how I heard music forever and increased my love for music tenfold.
It's only now when I listen to music sober that I know what bitter pill I've swallowed after choosing to forgo even the occasional smoke. When I see people freely puffing and using it for expanded music listening, I'm struck with envy because I know what I'm missing. Still, there are songs that are so close to the feeling I got while on pot that they're almost contact highs by default. I've assembled a mixtape list in order for the uninitiated to get a feel for the magic and for those who "know." Put this list on and just enjoy, you lucky bastards.
Mercury Rev "Chasing A Bee" (from Yerself Is Steam/1991) -- Easily the best song to start any sort of audio trip.
Donna Summer "I Feel Love" (from I Remember Yesterday/1977) -- Close your eyes and let this song take you to a place where disco never sucked.
Kyuss "Odyssey" (from Welcome To Sky Valley/1994) -- Any track off the record would suffice but this one has the word "mountain" sung by John Garcia. It's hard to pass up.
Jesus Lizard "Then Comes Dudley" (from Goat/1991) -- Easily one of the greatest tracks to feature the guitar stylings of Duane Denison, one of the most underrated, overlooked guitarists of a generation.
Slint "Nosferatu Man" (from Spiderland/1991) -- Most would choose "Good Morning, Captain" but that's just too damn depressing when trying to assemble a contact high mixtape.
Hella "Try Dis..." (from Chirpin Hard/2005) -- Probably the one track on this list that comes closest to the raw audible trip all on its own.
Wu Tang Clan "Clan In The Front" (from Enter The Wu-Tang/1993) -- This, like most RZA produced tracks, comes alive with substance assistance.
Funkadelic "Maggot Brain" (from Maggot Brain/1971) -- If you start weeping while listening to this song and you're totally sober then congrats 'cause you're halfway there.
The Rolling Stones "Heaven" (from Tattoo You/1981) -- The hidden gem from arguably their last great album.
John Coltrane "Olé" (from Olé Coltrane/1961) -- Pretty hard not to contemplate your entire life listening to this 18 minute opus of bliss.
Shakti "Joy/ Lotus Feet" (from Shakti/1976) -- Another song(s) to bask in its sweet rapture.
Monster Magnet "Tab..." (from Tab e.p./1991) -- This song is a journey.
Chrome "SS Cygni" (from Alien Soundtracks/1977) -- One of the best riffs to hear with or without the aid of dope.
Can "Yoo Doo Right" (from Monster Movie/1969) -- Sitting and listening to the full 20 minutes of this song is a good antidote to the three minute pop song world we all inhabit.
Royal Trux "The Spectre" (from Cats And Dogs/1993) -- The perfect elixir to a bad day, a bad trip, a bad time.
Rush "Jacob's Ladder" (from Permanent Waves/1980) -- Rush's diverse fandom can be distilled down to a few songs like this one.
Outkast "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" (from Aquemini/1998) -- You don't need to be stoned to fall in love with this song but it would seriously help.
Neil Young "Cowgirl In The Sand" (from Everybody Know This Is Nowhere/1969) -- I see this song as the audio equivalent of a relaxant.
Fu Manchu "Blue Tile Fever" (from King Of The Road/1999) -- If you can make it to this song you're either too high to press stop or soberly sleeping.