God damn the pusher man

Estimated reading time is 6 minutes.THOSE OF US OLD ENOUGH to have at least witnessed “the Sixties”—even if only as teenagers watching it happen all around us—remember that there was a time when the terms “dealer” and “pusher” were NOT synonymous. A dealer sold only “good” drugs—“head drugs”—like marijuana, hash, and the occasional psychedelic (mostly LSD). 1

A pusher, on the other hand, sold the hard stuff (read “addictive”), the “bad” drugs: the opiates (usually heroin) and speed (usually meth). This was so well understood that the rock group Steppenwolf even recorded a song about it. While never a hit single, it received countless spins as an LP track in 1968 on the then new “underground” FM stations. 2

For your listening, reading and learning pleasure(s), I have included here a video (a rather staid bit of ersatz psychedelia) of the recording followed by the lyrics to the song, written by Hoyt Axton:


You know I smoked a lot of grass .
Oh Lord, I popped a lot of pills.
But I’ve never touched nothing
 that my spirit could kill.

You know I’ve seen a lot of people 
walking around
with tombstones in their eyes .
But the pusher don’t care
 if you live or if you die.

God damn the pusher . . .
God damn I say the pusher . . .
I say God damn, God damn the pusher man!

You know the dealer is a man
 with a lot of grass in his hand.
But the pusher is a monster, he’s not a natural man.

The dealer, for a nickel, he’ll sell you lots of sweet dreams
But the pusher’ll ruin your body,
he’ll leave your mind to scream.

God damn the pusher . . .
God damn, God damn the pusher . . .
I said God damn, God damn the pusher man!

Well, Lord, if I were the president of this land,
you know I’d declare total war on the pusher-man

I’d cut him if he stands and I’d shoot him if he’d run,
and I’d kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun.

God damn the pusher . . .
God damn the pusher . . .
I said God damn, God damn the pusher man!

I don’t believe that any other rock or pop song dealt so directly or so harshly with the sellers of hard drugs.

The Avid Record Collector

Steppenwolf’s first album STEPPENWOLF was issued in early January 1968 by Dunhill in mono (D-50029) and stereo (DS-50029). The front cover had a silver foil-like finish that usually shows wear poorly, consequently the condition of the jacket is important to the value of the album. Finding a copy of the album without wear on the front cover is nigh on impossible.


Steppenwolf-mono

Initial printings of the jacket (first released in January 1968) had a silver foil-like covering on the front cover and made no mention of the single Born To Be Wild (because Dunhill hadn’t the sense to release it as a single until May) and looked like the mono copy above. Suggested NM value for mono and stereo albums without the “Born To Be Wild” sicker is $40-60. (See note below.)


BornToBeWild

Released in May 1968, the third single from the first album didn’t reach the national charts until July, spending three weeks at #2 behind the Rascals’ Got To Be Free on both Billboard and Cash Box.  First pressings of Born To Be Wild (Dunhill 4138) were on the Dunhill label. A rather rare record indeed with a suggested NM value of $50-100.


BornToBeWild ABC

Shortly after its release, parent company ABC Records changed the labels to Born To Be Wild by adding their logo alongside the Dunhill logo. These second pressings make up the bulk of the million-plus sales of the title in the US and are easy to find in collectable condition, although NM copies have a suggested value of $15-20.


Steppenwolf-stereo-sticker

After the single became a hit in the summer of ’68, a sticker noting the inclusion of Born To Be Wild was affixed to the jackets (the stereo album above). Meaning copies of this album with the sticker were probably issued in September or October, eight months after the album’s initial release, meaning they are not technically “first pressings.” Suggested NM value for mono and stereo albums with the “Born To Be Wild” sicker is $30-40.


Steppenwolf LP ABC

After ABC Records acquired Dunhill Records in late 1967, they began using the new logo (the abc-rainbow engulfing the familiar Dunhill arch) on new LPs almost immediately. But the inventory of already printed Dunhill labels was large enough to last into mid-’68. So while the Steppenwolf album was issued six months before Born To Be Wild, first pressings of the LP featured the new labels and are easily found on the used market.

Apparently many pressings of the mono record (D-50029) have one side in mono and the other in  stereo—and it varies from record to record. Copies with both sides in mono have a suggested NM value of $75-150.

Steppenwolf in England 

In some countries, this album was manufactured as an ABC record. In others, it was manufactured and distributed by RCA, notably England. Most of the albums released abroad were more or less identically packaged as the US album and are only of interest to diehard Steppenwolf collectors. Below are a few exceptions . . .


steppenwolf France Car

In France, the album jacket carried a photo of what appears to be a ’57 Ford Popular, a model manufactured for the English market between 1953-1962. Oddly, the type of men associated with modifying and racing cars of this vintage were the opposite of the men associated with Harley-Davidson, who are the ones usually associated with the song Born To Be Wild (the movie Easy Rider cementing that relationship forever).


Steppenwolf_UK_RCAjacket

Steppenwolf_UK_RCAreddot

STEPPENWOLF was first issued in the UK by RCA Victor in mono (RD-7974) with the older RCA labels that had a red circle above the spindle hole. Based on several sales on eBay between 2004-2011, I would hazard an estimated NM value of $100-200. That is a “hazarded” guess, as the conditions of the records sold carried and some sold without standard (or even understandable) grades assigned them.

First stereo pressings came a little later and had the newer RCA labels without the “red spot.” A later mono pressing with the orange labels (which began in 1969 in the UK) is worth considerably less ($30-40).

Steppenwolf Stateside

After RCA, the album was manufactured and distributed in England by Stateside. First pressing records have black labels and are not easy to find. Later pressings on the orange label etc. are common.

 
 

BornToBeWild PS 1973b

Born To Be Wild was coupled with The Pusher on the ABC/Dunhill Goldies 45 reissue imprint in 1973. First pressings were shipped with this picture sleeve, tying the songs in with Easy Rider. Hard to find sleeve with a suggested NM value of $40-60.


 
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Footnotes:

1   I was 15-years old during the Summer of Love and kept my virginity and my straightness (dope reference there, not sexual) until the year of Woodstock and Altamont. For many people in the US, the “Sixties” that was happening in San Francisco and London didn’t happen until the early ’70s.

2   This article was originally posted on November 13, 2013, as part of an article titled “just how many people have died from a marijuana overdose and what does steppenwolf have to do with this?” That article was edited and expanded and had all of the images added to become the article on this page. 



 
 

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