Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Steppenwolf – “The Pusher”

This song is about a drug dealer. It is one of the first songs to deal with harsh realities of drug use, and condemns “the pusher” as a heartless criminal who is only after your money.

Hoyt Axton wrote this song after one of his friends died of a drug overdose. Axton has written songs for many artists, including Elvis Presley, The Byrds, and Three Dog Night.

This was popularized by a Canadian group called The Sparrows, who played it as a long jam during their concerts. Steppenwolf recorded a much shorter, more radio-friendly version.

Steppenwolf Performing Live Circa 1970

Along with Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” this was featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. The film is considered a landmark of ’60s counterculture, and using this song in the movie was important because it portrayed the downside of doing drugs.

The lyrics certainly “pushed” the limits as to what was acceptable for broadcast in 1968. It was far from the first song to make abundant and obvious drug references, but it was the first major release to include the phrase “God damn,” which appears in the line, “God damn the pusher man.” The following year, the Grateful Dead included the epithet in their song “Uncle John’s Band.”

Psychedelic Lunch

Steppenwolf released Monster in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War. Although some of the lyrics haven’t necessarily aged well, the title track Monster/Suicide/America is another story altogether. The words in that epic song ring possibly even more true today than when they were written. John Kay (a Canadian) wrote about the dichotomy of what makes America simultaneously great and horrible, with an unflinching outsider’s perspective. Powerful stuff indeed, as was the playing on the entire album. Steppenwolf had a lot more in their tank than just Born To Be Wild. A couple of other stellar songs from this underrated album include Move Over, Power Play, and From Here To There Eventually. Kay’s vocals are superb and Larry Byrom shines on lead guitar in his first outing with the band. Check out those lyrics and see if you agree with me…definitely thought provoking content.

Written By Braddon S. Williams

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