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The Pope Smokes Dope is the third album by David Peel and The Lower East Side, released on April 17, 1972 through Apple Records.
Peel, along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, performed Peel's "The Ballad of New York", on The David Frost Show, with Lennon playing tea-chest bass. The trio, joined by The Lower East Side Band, played several songs by Lennon and Ono. This episode was recorded on December 16, 1971 and broadcast on January 13, 1972.
Formed to support David Peel in 1967, the Lower East Side Band originally consisted of Harold C. Black and Billy Joe White. They soon became popular enough in New York City's then thriving downtown counterculture that they were signed to Elektra Records in 1968. With the addition of Larry Adam and George Cori to the line-up, the band recorded with David Peel on the Have a Marijuana album conceptualized by Danny Fields as a collection of drinking songs for pot smokers.
In 1970 The Lower East Side Band recorded their second album, The American Revolution, which was also released by Elektra Records (now part of Warner Music Group) on the Sire Records imprint. In 1971, after the record was released and the band toured in support of it, Harold C. Black and Billy Joe White left to form the glitter rock band Teenage Lust. Harold went on run New York City's after-hours nightclub the 210 Club. They were replaced by Tommy Doyle, Frank Lanci and Billy Minelli. In the mid-seventies, the Lower East Side band was produced by its long-time friend and admirer John Lennon for Apple Records. Lennon then produced David Peel's The Pope Smokes Dope, which was banned in several countries outside the United States and Canada.
The Pope Smokes Dope managed to push the buttons of almost everyone in authority around the world back in 1972, with the result that it was ultimately banned almost everywhere except the United States, Canada, and Japan. David Peel & the Lower East Side open the album with the upbeat "Everybody's Smoking Marijuana" - which starts out with a goof/homage to Country Joe & the Fish - and the vicious Merle Haggard/"Okie from Muskogee" parody/answer song "The Hippie from New York City," both still as laugh-out-loud funny in the 21st century as they were back when, and leading into the catchy and delightful "Ballad of New York City."
It's funny where it should be, serious in all the right places, scary sometimes, and the result is a listening experience that's ultimately laugh-provoking and savage. Some elements of the album recall Lennon and Ono's Sometime in New York City, but there's a much greater resemblance to the Country Joe & the Fish Rag Baby EPs from mid-'60s Berkeley, only with some more subtle edges and quietly sophisticated attributes - and other parts of this album will recall the work of rival/contemporary Lower East Side denizens the Fugs.
Perhaps the high point (so to speak) is "F Is Not a Dirty Word," in which Peel goes through the origins and usages of the word in question, and he's not only etymologically correct throughout but musically adept and engaging - and damned funny. And he almost tops himself with "The Birth Control Blues," an account of youthful ingenuity and improvisation concerning the subject at hand set in an early-'60s rock idiom -- specifically recalling "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" - that evolves into a stunning spoken word piece with musical accompaniment.
And after all of that, "The Pope Smokes Dope" is almost anticlimactic, except that it's so outrageous a song and filled with such irreverent conceits that it carries listeners to the end successfully.
01. "I'm a Runaway" - 3:39
02. "Everybody's Smoking Marijuana" - 4:06
03. "F Is Not a Dirty Word" - 3:12
04. "The Hippie from New York City" - 3:01
05. "McDonald's Farm" - 3:13
06. "The Ballad of New York City/John Lennon • Yoko Ono" - 3:19
07. "The Ballad of Bob Dylan" - 4:12
08. "The Chicago Conspiracy" - 3:47
09. "The Hip Generation" - 1:50
10. "I'm Gonna Start Another Riot" - 2:37
11. "The Birth Control Blues" - 4:48
12. "The Pope Smokes Dope" - 2:15
13. "Amerika" with Yoko Ono – 4:15
14. "How Did You Meet David Peel?" interview with John Lennon – 2:07
15. "Everybody's Smokin'" (Remix) – 7:41
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