Click the arrow to play “Marijuana Smoke”

Launch a reasonably serious website, and people you never expected to hear from again reemerge. You never know what could land in your inbox. Mates who played leading roles in your past incarnations may surprise you with long-lost mementos from the days of yore.

Take, for example, “Marijuana Smoke,” the first song I ever wrote and recorded, circa 1967.

Wouldn’t you know it, the juvenilia gem lives again, resurrected to my great astonishment. Back, then, cassette recorders were just a gleam in an engineer’s eye — musicians didn’t receive copies of their work, unless it was pressed onto vinyl.

Victor Levine, probably early 80’s.

Thanks to Victor Levine for hitting Record in 1967, hanging onto the original reel-to-reel for so long, digitally transferring it to mp3, then offering to share it with the cannabis-conscious music conoisseurs on this site. Besides being curator for the lone copy, Victor played banjo and added vocals in our “suburban hillbilly” style.

Before it resurfaced, I was vaguely aware that the first song I ever wrote was the aforementioned “Marijuana Smoke.” I knew I had performed it live at several semi-momentous occasions — like that crisp fall night in 1969, at a church next to the North Vietnamese embassy in Washington DC, when tear gas emptied out the sanctuary — and that it always went over pretty well. I could recall some lyrics, like the first verse, and bits and pieces of the music.

That’s about it, since I haven’t heard the recording since . . . well . . . 1967. When I think about all its travels in a shoebox, or whatever, in all that time . . . jeez!

Coincidentally, the last song I wrote, this year, Stardate 2010, is “Budtender Baby.” That makes 43 years between tokes, I mean takes, of pot anthems by yours truly. So, if my life ended today, the first and last songs of my sometimes prolific songwriting career would be about pot – with none in between!

Prehistoric Polaroid of “the author,” prior to “the folk craze.”

Here’s the backstory . . . In 1967, the New York area was awash in folk and bluegrass music. It all emanated from “The Village,” where Bob Dylan found a following in coffee houses and clubs. Before long, festivals like Newport were held all over the Northeast. Beatnik trio Peter, Paul, and Mary went over big, playing “Puff  The Magic Dragon” to packed, enthusiastic audiences.

What that told me was: a) people liked songs about pot, and b) guitar playing beatniks could “frolic in the autumn mist” with blonde goddesses like Mary Travers.

Strumming a couple of chords and raising my voice in song seemed doable enough. So, opportunistic little fucker that I was, I made the scene, playing popular protest and topical songs at Village coffee houses like The Gaslight.

Then a certain magical herb entered my life.

Not long after “a certain magical herb entered my life.”

Older siblings returning from college got a kick out of turning me and Victor on. They’d break into hysterics as we rolled around on the floor, choking on their bunk weed, with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention desecrating the family hi-fi:

“Suzie, Suzie cream cheese . . . “

Eventually, I found myself alone with a guitar and my very own “nickel bag” (five bucks worth) for company. A few tokes, and maybe a half hour later, I’d written my first song.

If you wanna sing along, here ya go:

Marijuana smoke with me
Marijuana smoke
Light that pipe and pass it around
Everybody take a toke
Now you keep saying how your parents nag
And your home life’s just a drag
I just bought me a nickel bag
Marijuana smoke

Marijuana smoke with me
Marijuana smoke
Light that pipe and pass it around
Everybody take a toke
Well don’t get hung on Gallo’s wine
Cocaine or heroin
Good old grass makes ya feel just fine
Marijuana smoke

Marijuana smoke with me
marijuana smoke
Light that pipe and pass it around
Everybody take a toke
I aint sayin’ ya gotta be hip
I aint takin’ ya on a trip
I’m just offerin’ you a little nip of
Marijuana smoke ©

Anyone who made it through Music 101 might note the appearance of an actual diminished chord. Hearing that threw me a little. I don’t think I’ve used one since — guess I burned up my lifetime allotment back then!

Enjoy musical interlude #1, “Marijuana Smoke,” with its curiously realistic, lo-fi stereo sound effects. Musical interlude #2, “Budtender Baby,” is up next . . .