No. 48 Forty-Eight Years Ago

So today we’ll head back to March of 1971, during the last half of my senior year of high school. I was taking courses in astronomy, mass media, journalism and civics and I was singing in the concert choir and playing my horn in the orchestra.

I was also writing lyrics (most of them poor and/or derivative), reading science fiction and, well, being seventeen. And as March began forty-nine years ago, the No. 1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 was the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple,” a decent enough record.

Our business, though, is further down, as it frequently is. Sitting at No. 48 forty-eight years ago this week was a record that we’ve heard here frequently, having explored its genesis and history at fair length as we went through my Ultimate Jukebox here years ago.

As I wrote back then, Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over The Line” was a happy accident, as some noted in some comments on the duo’s web page:

Michael Brewer: “We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We played there a lot. We were real bored, sitting in the dressing room. We were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us.”

Tom Shipley: “‘One Toke’ wasn’t meant to make it to record. We were opening for Melanie at Carnegie Hall, and we played two encores. We really didn’t have anything else to sing to them. So we played ‘One Toke,’ and the audience gave us a standing ovation. The record company president was there, and he said ‘Record it!’”

Record it, they did, with Jerry Garcia providing the steel guitar parts, according to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles. As March began in 1971, “One Toke Over The Line” was heading up the chart, having moved from No. 57 a week earlier. It would peak at No. 10, the duo’s only Top 40 hit. (Two others, “Tarkio Road” and “Shake Off The Demon,” would peak at Nos. 55 and 98, respectively.)

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