By John Sinclair
“Spring of 193I—we did call ourselves Vipers,
which could have been anybody from all walks of life
that smoked & respected gage. That was our cute little name
for marijuana, & it was a misdomeanor in those days.”
I was too young to know who Louis Armstrong was when I first started smoking marijuana. I read about it in On The Road when Jack Kerouac’s masterpiece was released in the fall of 1957 and later read Really The Blues by Mezz Mezzrow and Lady Sings The Blues by Billie Holiday, all of which watered my mouth for some weed, but it wasn’t until January 1962 that I found my first joint as a college student in my home town of Flint, Michigan.
That was 50 years ago when I embraced Viperism without reservation, and I’ve been a viper ever since. As a blues scholar and music lover I’ve researched the history and music of Viperism at some length, including its introduction into North American life by jazz musicians in the 1920s led by Louis Armstrong & Mezz Mezzrow and the many viper songs that were released on record during the 1920s and 30s by people from Fats Waller to the Harlem Hamfats, Willie Bryant and Sidney Bechet.
As an American citizen and weed smoker I’ve suffered prolonged assaults by the forces of law and order under the pretense of violations of the drug laws, including a total of three long years in prison for marijuana offenses and a lifetime of mental harassment by the powers that be.
As a student and activist of the marijuana laws I’ve successfully challenged the State of Michigan and had its statutes declared unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court. Later I was instrumental in the struggle to have marijuana decriminalized in Ann Arbor, Michigan some 40 years ago. Just this month I voted to legalize marijuana in the City of Detroit.
I continue to write about medical and recreational marijuana use and produce a monthly column called Free The Weed for the MMMReport in Michigan. And I write poems centered in the viperism reality and set them to music and perform and record them with a wide variety of musicians.
We always looked at pot
as more of a medicine than a dope.
But if we all get as old as Methuselah
our memories will always be
of lots of beauty & warmth
from gage. Mary Warner, honey,
you sure was good,
& I enjoyed you 'heep much'. But the price
7got a little too high to pay (law wise).
At first you was a 'misdomeanor'.
But as the years rolled on
you lost your misdo
& got meanor & meanor.
—420 Café, Amsterdam
November 23, 2012
“If You'se a Viper” was recorded with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers live on the air at WWOZ-FM on May 15, 2003, as the final segment of my final program as host and producer of the Wednesday New Orleans Music Show. As always, I had a cassette running of the entire show and happened to capture this rare moment of my vocalizing to the melody of the ancient viper song introduced by the Harlem Hamfats with Ms. Rozetta Howard. I gave the tape to Snow and he cleaned up the cassette enough to include our number together as the last cut on their album called Live on Frenchmen Street that came out after I’d left New Orleans for Amsterdam.
“Sendin' the Vipers” is the opening poem in my elongated work in verse called Viper Madness that was premiered at the 1998 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, where I served as High Priest for the festivities and rituals, with my band from New Orleans featuring James Andrews & Bill Lynn. I made this recording in November 2002 with the Dutch rappers and producers LangeFrans & Baas B for our album called KnockOut that was released in Amsterdam at the 2002 Cannabis Cup.
“Culture-Cide” is a cut from my album Beatnik Youth where the producer, Youth, set several sections of my lyrics for “It’s All Good” to music by Primal Scream, acting on this selection as the Beatnik Youth Orchestra, and augmented by a lengthy recitation contributed for the occasion by my friend Howard “Mr. Nice” Marks.
“Marked For Death” is excerpted from a recorded sermon by the Rev. Jack van Impe, issued on an LP subtitled Can America Survive? that was recorded at a church in Royal Oak, Michigan around 1969 or ’70. The evangelical preacher quotes at length from my works in his inimitable delivery without sparing the fire & brimstone.
“It's All Good” with LangeFrans & Baas B from 2002 is the closest thing I’ve had to a “hit” with my poems, and this severely shortened version of “It’s All Good” as heard on the next cut with Fluxedo Junction was optimistically subtitled “Radio Version.” I met LangsFrans when he was tending the hash bar at the 420 Café (then known as Café deKuil) and told me he was an aspiring rapper with his homeboy partner from Diemen called Baas B. The proprietor of the 420 Café, Michael Veling, had heard my band from New Orleans at the Cannabis Cup in 1998 and commissioned LangeFrans to make a recording of “It’s All Good” and other numbers at Frans’ studio in a garage in Diemen that could be issued on a CD with a couple of LF & BB’s numbers. LangeFrans & Baas B went on to become the biggest rap act in Holland with a string of hit records, but this one never saw the that particular light.
“Prayer for John Sinclair” is a track recorded by Allen Ginsberg on Halloween 1971 and donated to the Rainbow People’s Party for pressing as a 45 rpm single (coupled with “Free John Now” by the Up) on the Rainbow label and given away at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena at the University of Michigan on December 10, 1971, where the poet delivered a somewhat different version of the prayer (heard in the soundtrack to the unreleased Steve Gebhardt film called TEN FOR TWO: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally.) Three days later I was released on appeal bond from my 9-1/2-to-10-year prison sentence after serving 29 months..
“There'll Be Some Changes Made” is a section of my elongated work in verse called Viper Mad that was composed for and premiered at the 1998 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. The original recordings of the Viper Mad Suite made at the Melkweg didn’t turn out so well, and it took me 10 years to get the opportunity to record this work celebrating the lives & works of Louis Armstrong & Mezz Mezrow with R.J. Spangler’s Planet D Nonet in Detroit for release by No Cover Records on the album called Viper Madness. R.J. assembled the 9-piece Planet D in Mike Boulan’s basement in Oak Park and we cut the album in two sessions in 2009. The text is transcribed and cast into verse from Mezz Mezzrow’s epochal account in his book Really The Blues of getting turned on for the first time.
“Chant of the Weed” (It's All Good—Original Text) is the final section of the Viper Mad Suite set by the Planet D Nonet to the original arrangement by Don Redman of his composition “Chant of the Weed.” The text is the original version of “It’s All Good.”
“It's All Good” (Cannabis Cup Version) was expanded from the original text (as above) after I came back to America from the Cannabis Cup and did a bit of thinking about the disparities between the American War On Drugs and the sensible cannabis policy established in The Netherlands some 30 years earlier. Part of the new text was adapted from an interview I made with my friend Giorgio Gomelsky that was transcribed by my daughter Celia. This long version was recorded in a little studio on Long island with Scott Kuchler and his electronic ensemble called Fluxedo Junction. When I got to Detroit I asked Jeff Grand to add the guitar track.
“How High Ya Get” is a song recorded by a guy in Detroit called Pat in the Hat with my close friend and drummer Martin “Little Tino” Gross producing and releasing the song on his Funky D label. In his song Pat uses certain of my verses from ”It’s All Good” that he used to chant back at me from the floor of the late lamented Music Menu bar while I performed the poem onstage with Tino and Jeff Grand and our band, the Motor City Blues Scholars.
“I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You” is another section of the Viper Mad Suite, recorded in Cincinnati around 2001 with Ed Moss & His Hot 5 in a session produced by Steve Gebhardt as part of the soundtrack for his film TWENTY TO LOFE: The Life & Times of John Sinclair. Our version of “Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” with this splendid ensemble closes the film.
“Ain't Nobody's Bizness“ (Just Say Yes) is the next closest thing to a “hit” I’ve ever enjoyed—at least an underground sensation ifnot in any way a sales leader for Patrick Boissel’s Alive Records in Los Angeles, where this original recording of the number was made in 1996 with my homies Wayne Kramer, Charles Moore and Ralph “Buzzy” Jones for our album called Full Circle.
In closing I’d like to thank my partner Steve The Fly for the conception of this album and his pal Chu for contributing the cover design on the usual short notice. Fly and I had been discussing the idea of digital-only releases of my productions and decided to make this album to coincide with the 2012 Cannabis Cup release of John Sinclair Seeds at a party sponsored by Ceres Seeds at the Akhnaton in Amsterdam on November 19, 2012 to celebrate Ceres’ entry of my Viper strain in the Cup.
PRODUCED BY JOHN SINCLAIR
 “If You'se a Viper” with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers was recorded live on the air at WWOZ-FM, May 15, 2003, and included on the Jazz Vipers CD called Live on Frenchmen Street. Produced by the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.
 “Sendin' the Vipers” with LangeFrans & Baas B, recorded at D-Men Studios, Diemen, Netherlands, November 2002, and issued on the CD KnockOut.. Produced by LangeFrans & Baas B.
 “Culture-Cide” with the Beatnik Youth Orchestra and Howard Marks, recorded in London 2012 for the album Beatnik Youth. Recitation by John Sinclair (“It’s All Good” excerpts) and Howard Marks. Produced by Youth.
 “Marked For Death” from a sermon circa 1969-70 by Rev. Jack Van Impe, Royal Oak MI, excerpted from the Rev. Jack Van Impe LP Marked For Death: Can America Survive?
 “It's All Good” (Radio Mix) with LangeFrans & Baas B, recorded at D-Men Studios, Diemen, Netherlands, November 2002, and issued on the CD KnockOut.. Edited by John Sinclair. Produced by LangeFrans & Baas B.
 “Prayer for John Sinclair” was composed, recited, recorded & produced by Allen Ginsberg in New York City on October 31, 1971 for issue on the Rainbow Records 45 issued at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor MI on December 13, 1971.
 “There'll Be Some Changes Made” with the Planet D Nonet: R.J. Spangler, drums; James O’Donnell, trumpet; Ken Ferry, trumpet; Tony Buccilli, trombone; Justin Jozwiak, alto saxophone & clarinet; Jim Holden, tenor saxophone; Joshua James, baritone saxophone & clarinet; David Gadd, piano; Bill MacLeod, acoustic bass. Recorded April 12 & 19, 2010 by Mike Boulan at Straight Ahead Studio, Oak Park MI, for release on the No Cover Records album Viper Madness.
 “Chant of the Weed” with the Planet D Nonet: R.J. Spangler, drums; James O’Donnell, trumpet; Ken Ferry, trumpet; Tony Buccilli, trombone; Justin Jozwiak, alto saxophone & clarinet; Jim Holden, tenor saxophone; Joshua James, baritone saxophone & clarinet; David Gadd, piano; Bill MacLeod, acoustic bass. Recorded April 12 & 19, 2010 by Mike Boulan at Straight Ahead Studio, Oak Park MI, for release on the No Cover Records album Viper Madness.
 “It's All Good” (Cannabis Cup Version) recorded with Scott Kuchler & Fluxedo Junction at a studio on Long island in 2001. Jeff Grand guitar part added in Detroit. Released as the CD It’s All Good by Fluxedo Records.
 “How High Ya Get” by Pat in The Hat & the Blue Funk on Funky D Records. Produced by Tino Gross.
 “I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You” recorded in Cincinnati with Ed Moss & His Hot 5 around 2001. Produced by Steve Gebhardt. Previously unissued.
 “Ain't Nobody's Bizness“ (Just Say Yes) recorded in Los Angeles, August 1996 with Wayne Kramer guitar; Charles Moore, trumpet; Craig Stuart and and Ralph “Buzzy” Jones, tenor saxophones; Paul Ill, bass; Michael Voelker, drums for Alive Records CD Full Circle. Produced by John Sinclair & Wayne Kramer. Executive Producer: Patrick Boissel.