Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Pusher

First recorded by Sparrow (1967).
Hit album version by Steppenwolf (1968).
Also recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).

From the wiki: “‘The Pusher’ was written by Hoyt Axton (‘Joy to the World‘, ‘Never Been to Spain‘) after one of his friends died of a drug overdose. The song was one of the first to deal with harsh realities of drug use, and condemns ‘the pusher’ as a heartless criminal who is only after your money. It was made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider. ‘The Pusher’ was first recorded as a live performance at The Matrix in 1967 by Sparrow (pre-Steppenwolf moniker). But, according to organist Gordy McJohn, the group’s history with the song began in 1966 when singer John Kay and Jerry Edmonton were late for a performance:

Nick and Mars and me started that long version of ‘The Pusher’. John and Jerry’s flight was late one night at the Avalon Ballroom, so we started and then we perfected it at the ‘Arc’ in Sausalito on New Year’s Eve in 1966.

“The song was made popular when Steppenwolf released the song on their 1968 album Steppenwolf. Their recording was then incorporated into the Easy Rider movie soundtrack. (Movie editor Donn Cambern had used various music from his own record collection to make watching hours of bike footage more interesting during editing.) When performing the song publicly in the late 1960s, the repeated lyric ‘God damn’ was often controversial, most notoriously in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where city officials attempted to force the band to use a euphemism (such as ‘Gosh darn’) rather than the actual lyric. Though the band promised not to sing the line, at John Kay’s urging, the audience obliged by loudly filling in the offensive words at the appropriate places in the song.”

Steppenwolf, “The Pusher” (1968):

Hoyt Axton, “The Pusher” (1971):

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