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July 30, 2013

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Why Did I Get So High (1967)

John Merrill, Barbara “Sandi” Robison, Alan Brackett, Spencer Dryden, and Jim Cherniss first got together as a band in the mid-‘60s calling themselves The Young Swingers. Although they changed their name to The Ashes and released a few singles, the band was short-lived, disbanding when Dryden joined Jefferson Airplane and Robison took a leave of absence to give birth. In the meantime, Alan Brackett began playing with Lance Baker Fent and Jim Voigt, calling themselves The Crossing Guards. In mid-1966, Robison and Merill reunited with Brackett’s new outfit, and the new five-piece band called themselves The Peanut Butter Controversy. Drummer Jim Voigt had been the one to come up with the name, but according to Alan Brackett, the band “changed it to Conspiracy right away.”

The band’s first album, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading, which this song appeared on, was recorded with Gary Usher at the forefront. With ties to The Beach Boys, it’s no wonder that Usher borrowed the talents of Glen Campbell (and James Burton) to improve the PBC’s album. The band, on the other hand, wasn’t pleased with the unwanted personnel additions, and would later disavow the album because of their contributions.

The song heard below, written by John Merrill and Alan Brackett*, appeared as the sixth track on the album. It never charted, but the album itself squeezed itself into the bottom of Billboard’s Top 200. It was never released as a single, most likely because the drug-related lyrics would have surely been banned instantaneously.

*[Update 05/21/2014: Alan Brackett was kind enough to stop by and clear up some of the details about this song. You can read them in the comments below. He also included a link to check out a new album of rare and unreleased material from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Definitely check it out in the comments below!]

[Update 01/08/2015: A submission from Alan Brackett has been added to the end of this article.]



A Special Edition post with Alan Brackett of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy!

These are exerpts from the new book I’m writing and cover a couple of songs I wrote that had drug overtones lyrically and, I guess musically, too.

“Why Did I Get So High” was inspired by The Fugs’ song “I Couldn’t Get High” that Frank Zappa played for us at our Frenchy’s gig in Hayward. I think they were very honest about what they said in their song, but they also didn’t seem to care about being commercial at all or getting airplay. We didn’t care that much, but we were signed to Columbia and I did know that they would not be ready for lyrics like that; so when I wrote “Why Did I Get So High,” I did it about love, with a double meaning. It was fun singing about getting high at gigs. And the audiences loved to sing along with that one; and I’m sure they knew the double meaning. It was all about having great- high- expectations and getting totally carried away, only to ultimately crash and burn. The very last word, “stoned,” instead of “high” is the give-away that the song is not just a cute little love song; and I thought we were lucky to get away with even saying that. Of course, the song didn’t get much airplay because the radio waves weren’t ready yet, either. Boy, have things changed. You can say pretty much anything these days it seems.

Musically, I based the song on classical structure with a different chord for almost every word, instead of the melody, and words floating over chords that are holding for a bar or more. John’s song, “You Took Too Much,” was filled with lines like “you tripped out on the trees” and “you’re trippin’ all the time.” So, I was not alone; that’s for sure.

The opening song from Great Conspiracy was “Turn On A Friend” to which Columbia added the next line in the song to the title in parenthesis (To The Good Life). I knew something like that would happen, and that’s why I wrote the song with that line after “turn on a friend” in the lyrics. Like “Why Did I Get So High” in the first album, I wanted to use double-meaning because I saw it as a way of getting away with saying what I wanted to say. The lyrics were all positive, about helping a friend to have a good trip through their life.

Musically, I wrote the song around some big open chords on the guitar and bass. The half step up from the A in the third chord gives an Eastern sound along with blues chords in the rest of the song. On the double-time instrumental break, Mikael Kollandar played some fast-fingered raga style runs that added to the Eastern flavor. This song was released as a single prior to the album in October of 1967.

Paranoid about the lyric content of the song, Columbia made Billy send out postcards to the DJs and promotion people.


A huge thanks to Alan Brackett for sharing excerpts from his book. It was very kind.

And now that you've enjoyed this exclusive story, why not check out what other exclusive stories we've received?



album art

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Why Did I Get So High (1967)

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Lyrics:

Why did I get so high
Just to fall from the sky?
Why did I get so high
Just to see our love die?
Oh, why did I get so high?

There was a time
I thought you were mine
And the world was new
Filled with thoughts of you

In this state of mind
My love was blind
And the world closed in
On my heart, on my mind
And my love, oh no

Why did I get so high
Just to fall from the sky?
Why did I get so high
Just to see our love die?

Now I'm gone, I can't go on
'cause my heart is dead
And so is my head
But I live on to spite the world
'cause there was a time
I thought you were mine
And the world was new
Filled with thoughts of you

Why did I get so high
Just to fall from the sky?
Why did I get so high
Just to see our love die?
Oh, why did I get so high?

Why did I get so stoned?

3 comments:

  1. I actually wrote this song by myself. And you're right - at concerts this was a song that everyone in the audience sang along with word for word....and of course at that time it could never hit the radio! I wrote it with double meaning knowing that Columbia Records would not have released it if it couldn't be interpreted as a "love song". I hope that people will check out the new cd of old rare and unreleased songs featuring the late Barbara Robison, who is now viewed as perhaps the best vocalist from that era of music. You can get it at:
    www.peanutbutterconspiracy.com Thanks for this blogspot and I'm also proud that this song, "Why Did I Get So High" was #3 on Sean Leannon's list of favorites from the '60's in Rolling Stone this month. Nice after ~50 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alan, I'm incredibly grateful that you stopped by and provided the information you did. Thank you very much.

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  2. I wanted to share with you that my book:
    “ALMOST FAMOUS / Journey to the Summer of Love” is now available at:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1541382528/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488690654&sr=1-1&keywords=almost+famous

    As you know, this is a very tough time for me, having suddenly lost my beautiful young wife, and I was able to get the book out now because it was all ready to go when tragedy struck. I’m thankful for that.

    I would very much appreciate your caring enough to read my book and also help spread the word if you like it on whatever social media you have and amongst your friends and family. I also would like feed-back after you read it if you would be so kind. A review on Amazon for the book would also be great. Everything like that helps a lot.

    Because of my present situation it is hard for me to devote myself solely as I should to this at this time – I’m sure you understand. So, your help will be greatly appreciated.

    ATB,
    Alan

    ReplyDelete