Tag Archives: Steppenwolf

Jerry’s basement

Explosions have rocked our basement this summer.

Our rec room, of course, is where our 16-year-old son and his pals gather to play video games and watch Netflix.

There is an old 26-inch TV to which the Xbox is attached. The old stereo components are still there, too. A turntable, a CD player, a receiver and two small but nice speakers, all dating to the early ’90s. One day, our son found out that the TV was hooked up to the stereo system. If you turn on the receiver while playing video games, the explosions blast through the speakers.

It was not all that different in Jerry’s basement in the summer in the mid-’70s.

We didn’t have video games, of course. We had APBA, a table-top baseball game with cards and dice. There were three, four, five, sometimes six of us. We played in the afternoon, went home for supper and at times resumed at night.

Fairly clear now why the ladies did not dig us then.

Jerry also had a stereo. If memory serves, it was one of those old compact stereos from which the turntable dropped down and the speakers swung out. We cranked up the volume as best we could, but there were no explosions.

Jerry didn’t have many records — none of us did then — but we often played most of what he had. So much so that I remember most of those records to this day, more than 35 years on. They included:

“Montrose” by Montrose (1973). We were listening to Sammy Hagar before he was Sammy Hagar.

“Desolation Boulevard” by the Sweet (1974). Try as I might, I can’t remember hearing the original version of “A.C.D.C.,” which Joan Jett has so memorably covered.

“Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin (1975). I wasn’t much of a Led Zep fan, but I loved “Boogie With Stu.” Still do. Last summer, one of my son’s pals — a guitar player — said he’d love to get a copy of this record. You should have seen his face when I handed him the vintage vinyl a couple of weeks later.

“16 Greatest Hits” by Steppenwolf (1973). This, for us, was classic rock. I really didn’t dig them much at the time. Neither did our JV basketball coach.

“The Adventures of Panama Red” by the New Riders of the Purple Sage (1973). Um, so, yeah.

“That Nigger’s Crazy,” by Richard Pryor (1974). Hugely influential in honing our collective sense of humor, which at the time also was being shaped by the National Lampoon (the magazine and the radio show), Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, Monty Python and Johnny Carson.

Again, fairly clear now why the ladies did not dig us then.

Hey, we were 16. It was 1973. Here are some more sophisticated artists we weren’t digging in Jerry’s basement. If we knew then what we know now …

“Dirty Ol’ Man,” the Three Degrees, from “The Three Degrees,” 1973. This was their first studio album. It’s full of Gamble and Huff’s great Philly soul. This is a great tune that was bigger in Europe than in the States.

“Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” Barry White, from “I’ve Got So Much To Give,” 1973. This was his first album. There was a time before everyone knew Barry White was synonymous with seduction. This was that time. (This edited version of this Four Tops cover is from “Barry White’s Greatest Hits,” 1975. The original LP version which runs longer.)


Filed under August 2011, Sounds

Pusher men

These two songs are forever linked in my head, cued up to a certain time and place.

“Pusherman,” done by Curtis Mayfield for the “Superfly” soundtrack in 1972, hid its tough message under Mayfield’s falsetto and a solid soul/funk groove. The fantastic percussion subtly added some street cred.

It was a song you could play anywhere in the winter of 1972-73 and get away with it.

Not so “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf. Nothing subtle about their 1968 cover of this Hoyt Axton tune — growling, spitting out “God damn, The pusher/God damn, God damn, the pusher/I said God damn, God, God damn the pusher man.”

Found that out one night on the way to a junior varsity basketball game. Someone on the bus played the Steppenwolf cut a little too loudly, sending “God damns” raining all over the place.

“Hey!” the coach yelled from the front of the bus. “Enough!”

Enough for him, maybe, but not for us.

“Hey!” he yelled a little louder, a little more insistently. “I said enough, all right?”

I wish I could say someone had the presence of mind to follow it up with Curtis Mayfield, but all I remember is an awkward silence … then a few quiet laughs among the lads and another Steppenwolf song, the volume turned down just a tad.

So here, 34 years later, is that sequence, the way it should have been on the school bus to Shawano that night.


“The Pusher,” Steppenwolf, from “Steppenwolf,” 1968. (Also on the “Easy Rider” soundtrack, of course.)


“Pusherman,” Curtis Mayfield, from “Superfly” soundtrack, 1972.


Filed under May 2007, Sounds