Last week, I turned people on (so to speak) to “The Pot Smoker’s Song,” a track off of Neil Diamond’s third album. Velvet Gloves and Spit. It would be relevant given the recent passing of I-502 if it weren't such an aberration. Actually, to call this cut an aberration would be an aberration to aberrations. Judge for yourself.
I know, right? Let’s follow the logic:
1) Neil wants to make an anti-drug song. It was 1968, so he was clearly in lock step with the times. 2) But! He also thinks “Verses? Fuck verses, man. Let’s just use recordings of interviews with former heroin addicts because this song is about marijuana, and that makes total sense.” You’d have to be high to think that, but okay. 3) Then, to Elmer’s Glue the whole thing together — because you can’t get high off of sniffing that stuff, y’see — he exhales a chorus that sounds like something out of HR Pufnstuf, the old psychedelic puppet show that was admittedly fueled by (and named after the Hand Rolled) wacky weed. 4) Satisfied with ridding the world of joints and bongs, Neil goes on to a very successful music career filled with gold records, sold-out tours, HBO concert specials and this classic pose. Oh, and he gets busted in 1976 for possession of marijuana, which proves that you can believe your own press but you still can’t believe your own songs.
No joke, it’s the worst song he ever recorded, and I’m talking about a guy who wrote a song about E.T.* And as he told David Wild of Rolling Stone magazine, “It also confirmed a lot of people’s feelings that I wasn’t hip.” Not hip? Would an unhip performer have the guts to go out on the ledge and do something like this?
Whoops! On second thought, yeah. However, Velvet Gloves and Spit is redeemed by the inclusion of “Two Bit Manchild,” the greatest Neil Diamond song you’ve never heard.
And kids, don’t do drugs. Especially with Neil Diamond.
* That was also the decade that McGruff and Regina undid the Diamond drug damage and rid the planet of hookahs and hypos with this musical K.O.: