Resin-free radio

Pop music as we know it would be different without weed

Oh yes, marijuana has been culturally influential. But is it ennobling or corrupting? Some say our cheeba-choked world is like an evil universe, where everything good and true is turned upside down and jokes aren’t really that funny but nobody admits it and Spock has a goatee. Would it not be so much safer and wittier and more logical, they argue, without the herbal influence? Well, let us speculate. Let us consider but a few of the ways—there are too many to list—things might work in an herb-free world. Let us ask ourselves whether we’d want to live in it.

Everybody knows Louis Armstrong’s “Muggles” was actually about the denizens of a United Kingdom wizard world who don’t happen to have magical powers. Why do you think Armstrong’s estate sues J.K. Rowling for stolen intellectual property and shuts down the Harry Potter franchise before it even begins? Hel-lo.

While undergraduates never even bother trying to decode the title of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” in late-night bull sessions, grad students do find themselves confounded by the song’s uncharacteristically clunky lyrics, particularly the metrical oddity of the line “Everybody must get persecuted once in a while.” Countless dissertations don’t get finished, key Dylanologists don’t get tenured, and the proper dissemination of smug, leisure-class cultural wisdom comes to a grinding halt.

Beatles: One-hit wonder.

When Willie Nelson says, “God put it here; if He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?” he is talking about his own penis. Offered as explanation for his mysterious and abrupt departure from service in the U.S. Air Force, the comment makes the red-headed stranger into a red-state pariah; his career never recovers.

Jim Morrison actually is a good poet.

When an irate Peter Yarrow swears to modest coffeehouse audiences that his song “Puff the Magic Dragon” is, in fact, about a magic dragon, nobody argues. Or cares.

Cypress Hill raps about urban poverty, violence, racism and why abortion should be legalized. (Nobody has the heart to tell them that abortion has been legalized.)

Ever since Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” extolled the virtues of Earl Grey in the afternoon, the heavy-metal subculture has been a bastion of smooth, wry decorum.

Dr. Dre’s solo debut, The Tonic, is a flop, disowned by cognoscenti (“What kind of parental advisory is ‘contains quinine?’”) and by the west-coast rap establishment. The intended breakout single “Scweppervescence on Death Row” doesn’t manage enough gansta cred to spare Dre the enmity of his former NWA crew, let alone to launch Snoop Dogg’s career, and G-funk as we thought we knew it collapses into quirky, lyrically ambitious pop-art kitsch. Dre’s 1995 North American tour with David Byrne is the final nail in the coffin.

When people snicker about 4/20, they mean April 20th, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and that’s just not funny. That’s not funny at all. Come to think of it, it has nothing to do with music, either.

Although the members of Green Day have sense enough not to squander their success writing fatuously earnest political concept albums, they don’t actually have any success, because their band is still called Sweet Children.

Without the benefit of that first gig opening for Keanu Reeves’ band (this world doesn’t tolerate Keanu Reeves), and without the weed to mellow them, Weezer’s jittery dork-n-roll takes a turn for the hardcore. The success of their 2001 hit single “Crack Pipe” swiftly transplants the nation’s crack epidemic from the inner-city minority neighborhoods for which it was intended to the campuses of Northeastern prep schools, fully corrupting America’s upper-middle class youth and crippling our next generation of privileged politicians and Wall Street financiers.

White people realize that Bob Marley’s music is political. Except, that is, when it descends into highly sanitized bubble-gum pop.

Instead of singing, “You’re still my man, nothing can change it” to her crack-head husband Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston sings, “Get yo’ muthafuckin’ ass offa my lawn.” Her career thrives indefinitely.