Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch”series, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music and musicians from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip!
In the early hours of May 25, 1996, 28-year-old singer and guitarist Bradley Nowell called Troy, his wife of exactly one week and mother of his 11 month-old son, Jakob. Earlier that night, Sublime had played at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, about seven hours north of Nowell’s home in Long Beach, California. Although the show went well and everything seemed fine, it would be the last time Troy would ever speak to her husband.
At the time of his lethal heroin overdose, Nowell and his reggae-infused punk band were winding through a five-date promotional run for the upcoming release of their self-titled third album and major label debut, set for release two months later. By all appearances, Nowell had been doing much better in his long battle with heroin addiction, and he had been doing his best to stay clean.
Sublime played their first show on July 4, 1988 at Harbor Peninsula, a small club in Long Beach, California. As legend has it, the performance initiated a small-scale riot, now known as the Peninsula Riot.
Their first record, 40 Oz. to Freedom, was released through a homemade label, Skunk Records, started by Nowell and Sublime manager Miguel. It sold an amazing 5,000 copies before they were signed to MCA and spent over 50 weeks on Billboard’s Alternative New Artist chart.
Their commercial breakthrough didn’t occur until July that year after Nowell’s death when their third, self-titled album was released.
Miguel (a.k.a. Michael Happoldt) played a major role in the band, playing several instruments on their first album and producing their outtakes collection Second-hand Smoke after Nowell died.
Wilson and Gaugh continued in music after Nowell’s death. They formed the Long Beach Dub Allstars, which released their first album in 1999.
Lou Dog was Nowell’s dog, a dalmatian. He was name-checked in several songs, not to mention the backing vocals he contributed. Some consider him the fourth member of the band. Once, he was lost in Costa Rica, but was quickly recovered… in the jungle. Lou Dog died in 2001.
Artists that have been cited as Sublime influences: Black Flag, the Specials, KRS-One, the Circle Jerks, Selector, Run-D.M.C., and NWA. Artists that Sublime toured with: Firehouse, No Doubt, the Ramones, the Melvins and Butthole Surfers.
Gaugh on politics: “We’re pro-choice. We think everyone should have the right to smoke pot or not.”
Nowell’s first band was formed when he was 13 and was called Hogan’s Heroes.
One night, they found a man in a halfway house named Raleigh Theodore Sakers. He began hallucinating and the band pulled out their tape recorder. Some of his ramblings can be heard on their second album, Robbin’ the Hood.
The Long Beach Dub Allstars include Marshall Goodman, who was in charge of samples and turntables for Sublime, and singer Opie Ortiz, who did artwork for Sublime.
Brad’s heroin addiction got so bad he got the tattoos to his elbow and underarm just to hide his track marks.
Bud Gaugh was drunk before one show and decided to go BMX riding. He fell flat on his back and broke two ribs. He finished off the tour and only got minimum medical attention.
Paul Leary, who produced their 1996 self-titled album, is the guitarist in the Butthole Surfers. “He heard our song ‘Date Rape’ on the radio, so we hooked up back then,” Eric Wilson said in an interview “And ever since then, there’s no reason looking for anyone else. He’s such a perfectionist when it comes to producing.”
Leary also produced the 2015 Sublime With Rome album Sirens.
After Bradley wore out his Ibanez, he got a custom-built guitar from a friend to which he gave the affectionate name, “The Brown Guitar.” It was designed especially for him and now is owned by his family in Long Beach, California.
When Nowell was 11 years old, he went to the Virgin Islands with his dad. This was when he was introduced to reggae, which greatly influenced his music.
The last show that Sublime played was at Petaluma, California, which took place on May 24, 1996, about 8-12 hours before Nowell was found dead in his hotel room. This is quite a rare recording, as most websites have been forced to remove links to it. However, there are a lot of fans who still hold these recordings. The show was eventually given the name “Play Nice in the Pit.”
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