Song Of The Day 10/22/2014: Canned Heat - "Amphetamine Annie"

Cautionary Tales: It's not easy finding cautionary songs from the damn hippies. The reasons for that should be self-evident. Or maybe not; it's been almost a half-century since they had their close-up. I never hear the term "hippie" in even partial reverence these days. The last time anyone argued for their impact to me was in junior college by a professor who liked the social ramifications but hated the music.

I finally found one by Canned Heat, a band I never paid much attention to nor feel inclined to start doing so. They had two hits, "Going Up the Country" and "On the Road Again," that were sung in Muppet-style falsetto but were apparently delivered by real humans. One of those hits featured a flute, which for a minute there was threatening to be a vital component of rock music along with Keith Emerson's 36 keyboards and electric sitars. That was a close one. Regretfully I'm not available to lead the Canned Heat renaissance/rediscovery, as I'm going through a Keb Darge period at the moment. I'll let you know when I'm through. No, actually, I won't.

ANYWAY, there is indeed a warning song in Canned Heat's canon, and it's called "Amphetamine Annie." It's about taking speed. That was, one would gather, the line over which Canned Heat would not further a toke. One of the planks in their argument against amphetamines was that it came in pill form: "Your mind might think it's flying, baby/On those little pills." They had a point, in that the ritualism of pill-taking can't even come close to the ritual of taking hits from a bong or a joint, or bending over a mirror and plugging one nostril, or tying off and vein-mining, or Jazzercise. Pills simply bring all of the convenience and none of the romanticism of stoners, cokeheads, junkies or Jane Fonda. This song also features the refrain "Speed kills!" I was wondering if this song was the first usage of that term, but figured if somebody actually had the inspiration to invent such a hooky slogan, it probably wasn't Canned Heat.

The '60s. If you remember them, there's an off-chance Tom Brokaw will be calling you up for his next book.

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