One Toke Over The Line

One Toke Over The Line

I’m going to start this week off a little differently than normal. Instead of waiting to the end of the post, here’s a song at the beginning. Do make sure to watch all the way to the end of the clip:

Yes, that really was the Lawrence Welk show. Yes that really was Myron Floren (who is definitely NOT Myron Cohen) introducing “one of the new songs” and Lawrence himself at the end styling it as a “modern spiritual”.

You can’t make this shit up.

Now for the best part. The same week that Lawrence Welk was proclaiming the song fit for middle American consumption, Vice-President* Spiro Agnew derided it as subversive to American youth. The FCC then sent out a warning to all radio stations in the country that the song was “problematic” and perhaps should be pulled from rotation. Apparently not enough stations did so as that week it reached it’s highest position on the Billboard charts ever at number ten.

Talk about your mixed messages.

One has to wonder just how high the guy was who walked into Welk’s office that week and announced “hey, there’s a modern spiritual moving up the charts, we need to do a version”. Or was it a fed up associate producer who’d had enough of the champagne melodies? Or was it Myron Floren, holding back a cough (or was it a snicker) as he introduced Gail and Dick?

The thing is, this was a show produced in Hollywood in 1971 that was filled with professional musicians. None of them knew what “toke” reefered…um…pardon me…referred to? Highly suspect.

No, they knew what the song was about. They knew and yet they went ahead and played it, consequences be damned. They knew the boss was wrong, maybe even some of them tried to tell him, maybe Welk listened to them but didn’t HEAR them. And when Welk proclaimed it a modern spiritual the viewers accepted it as such.

And then they stormed the Capitol.

Oh sorry that was the viewers’ grandchildren.

Belief is a funny thing. It’s been shown again and again that humans will believe what they want to believe even if shown again and again that that belief just isn’t so. Flat Earthers are shown pictures of our planet from space, all round and blue, but won’t believe the evidence of their eyes. Religious zealots will be shown evidence that the galaxy is billions of years old and you can even tell them the story of Genesis is an allegory for the millions of years it took evolution to bring us to where we currently are and they will still hold that the world was created in six days. Twelve good men and women listened to months of testimony about the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman and still said “Nah, OJ didn’t do it”.

And these days, despite all the investigations, despite all the lawsuits. despite all the damage it’s doing to this country, there are still those who will insist the 2020 election was somehow “stolen” from Donald Trump. Why? Because Donald Trump says so.

And Lawrence Welk says One Toke Over The Line is a modern spiritual.

Disbelief in favor of personal postulation is everywhere these days. The climate is literally burning up and energy companies say there is no correlation between higher temperatures, warmer oceans, the icecaps melting, et al and their products. Governments are literally whistling past the graveyard rather than take action because they don’t want to believe in climate change. After all, it might cost them money.

Mass murders committed with military grade weapons happen just about every week in America and yet real significant gun laws aren’t even up for debate because congressional leaders, funded by the gun lobby, refuse to even have the debate. Yet look at all the other western democracies who have powerful gun control laws and tell me how often one of these mass shootings happen (hint: not often if ever). What more proof do you need that these laws work?

The same goes for socialized medicine.

He who dies with the most toys is still dead. The problem is they want to take the rest of us with them. Whether it’s climate change or the destruction of the greatest democracy the world has ever seen or letting hormonal teen boys buy lethal weapons they don’t care as long as they get theirs.

But hey, Lawrence Welk says One Toke Over The Line is a modern spiritual.

Reality check. The song is about marijuana and being too high. The climate is getting to the point where humans won’t be able to live in it. The 2020 election was won by Joe Biden far and square. Gun control laws work.

Lawrence Welk, the most unhip man in 1971 America, believed One Toke Over The Line was a modern spiritual. Let’s face it, we’re all snickering if not outright belly laughing at the notion. What we shouldn’t be laughing at is that in that same vain when leaders spout blind, obsessive, personal interpretations instead of reasoned, analytical, thought out facts many people will listen and believe what they hear, especially when those interpretations happen to coalesce with the audiences’.

That’s not good for democracy, the health of the planet, or our personal safety.

By the way, Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley, who wrote the song, insisted for years that toke in the song was a metaphor for excess; that anything in excess will lead to a bad result.

I think that interpretation makes the song even more relevant today.

Let’s clean our musical palate with the song writers’ top ten version.

Shapiro Out



3 thoughts on “One Toke Over The Line

  1. Am I one toke over the line, or are Brewer’s and Shipley’s lips completely disconnected from what they are singing?

  2. I remember this Welk show being a “viral” topic in my junior high school back then. The thing is, though, Welk likely knew what the song was about and didn’t much care. To him, “modern spiritual” probably meant “modern minstrelsy” or white people (originally in blackface) playing black-style music with allusions to drinks, drugs, and sex.

    On the OJ trial, the trial was the topic of discussion for months (often on the TV) at the black barbershop I went to in East Palo Alto. The barbershop (and likely some of the jurors) weren’t really thinking “Nah, OJ didn’t do it”. They were thinking OJ probably did do it, but the LAPD has a history of lying and fabricating evidence against black people, did it this time just to make sure, here’s a chance to show them they can’t get away with that shit any more. That was jury nullification, “everyone” in the black community knew it back then, there were even white talking heads on TV yelling about how white jurors would never do such a thing.

    It seems like past beliefs and interpretations are sometimes re-interpreted to fit new narratives.

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