Country Joe's Place

The Banana Affair

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The electric Country Joe and The Fish band played in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, many times starting about 1967 and ending in 1969. We mostly as I remember it played at the Kitsilano Theater in the Kitsilano District. That was where most of the hippies lived. They had an underground newspaper called the Georgia Straight named after a body of water. I remember some of the local bands, Painted Ship and United Empire Loyalists.

Chicken told me on a plane ride up to Canada that he had figured out that banana peels could get you high. He said that the peelings had the same stuff as marijuana in them. This was not true at all. The banana does have something in it, tryptophan I think, that does produce a mild feeling of calmness and relaxation. Maybe Gary had read about that, I donít know. But he said if we dried out the peelings and scrapped off the white stuff and rolled it up and smoked it, it would get us high. We were living on peanut butter and banana sandwiches at the time and just throwing the peelings away, so this seemed like a good idea.

After the plane landed and we got to the theater and the roadies were loading in the equipment we went into the Psychedelic Shop across the street and told Linda about the banana thing and asked if we could use the oven in the back room to dry out the banana peels. She said sure. So we went up on the corner to the little mom and pop store and got a bunch of bananas and brought them back into the back room. We peeled the bananas, ate the bananas and put the peelings in the oven at a very low temperature, so as not to destroy the THC in the banana peels. Then we went across the street to the theater to do our sound check.

The stage crew told us, "You see that water jar over there on the side of the stage? We just dissolved a bunch of LSD in it. If you want some during the night just help yourself." So we went over and took a few sips off the water jar. Then we did our sound check. Then we went back across the street over to the Psychedelic Shop into the back room to see how the banana peels were doing.

Well they were much too damp to smoke so we just sat around talking until the roadies came and told us it was time for our first set. So we went across the street to the Kitsilano Theater. Went up on stage. Took another couple of sips from the water jar and played our first set. Then we went back across the street and into the back room again to check on the banana peels. We decided that they were dry enough to smoke, so we scrapped off a bunch of that white stuff. We went up front in the shop and asked Linda for some rolling papers. Got em. Came back into the back room and rolled up a bunch of banana joints.

We lit them up and started smoking them looking at each other and asking, "are you getting high?" "I donít know how about you?". We must have smoked about twenty of those banana joints. Then the roadies came and told us it was time for the last set. So we stopped smoking and went across the street and into the theater to play our set. But before we started we took a few more sips from the water jar.

That night for our last set we started with "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" but just could not seem to stop playing it. We played a forty-five minute version of that song that night to our amazement. After the set we ran across the street to the Psychedelic Shop and into the back room and started smoking those banana joints saying, "Man this shit really works, I am so high I canít believe it."

So after we packed up the equipment we went to some parties in Vancouver that night told people "bananas get you high." They thought we were crazy.Ö

We went back home to Berkeley and right away played a concert at California Hall in San Francisco that was a benefit for NORMAL, the campaign to legalize marijuana in California. We passed out 500 banana joints to the audience that night and told them, "Itís banana, it gets you high."

Next day I went up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley with a pipe filled with banana yuck and made my friends smoke it. I told them all, "ITíS BANANA, IT GETS YOU HIGH"

The next morning I went to the Co-Op to get our breakfast and there were no bananas in the banana bin. So I went over to Safeway and there were no bananas there. You could not get a banana in Berkeley that day. On the way home I saw a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle with a three inch headline that said,

BANANA TURN ON, NEW HIPPY CRAZE
Then we forgot about it.

Three months later I was reading in the Chronicle and way in the back I saw a small headline that said,

DEA SMOKES BANANA JOINT
It seems that the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington DC had a joint smoking machine and they puffed a banana joint through it and found it did nothing. It came out zero. Then I remembered the jar of LSD water?!

So I took the paper over to Chickenís house and told him, "You told us banana gets you high but the DEA smoked banana and it does nothing. It was all that psychedelic water we drank that night that got us high." He said, "Forget about that. I figured out last night, if you smoke a cigarette through a bell pepper it gets you really stoned." Those were desperate days.

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 26, 1967

Was it all a hippie hoax?

A laboratory apparaus "smoked" dried banana peels for more than three weeks and never did get high, the Food and Drug Administration reported today.

"The Bureau of Science has made an analysis of the smoke obtained from several recipes for dried banana peel and concentrated banana juice," the FDA said. "There were no detectable quantitieg of known hallucinogens in these materials."

The FDA began the laboratory test after its Bureau of Drug Abuse Control received reports that dried scrapings from banana peels were being smoked for their hallucinogenic effect.

The FDA's "smoklng machine" consisted of a series of tubes and retorts which trapped the smoke. The chemical components of the smoke were examined by ultraviolet and infrared spectrophotometric procedures.

Small amounts of known hallucinogens were introduced during some tests to determine whather the substances could be detected in the smoke. The added hallucinogens were recovered and identified. But none was found in the tests of banana peels alone.

And "Donovan," as a generation of flower-children knew him ... did not get away without telling your own Swamp correspondent "a true story'' on the side. It was Country Joe McDonald, Donovan confessed, who had tried smoking bananas.

Donovan, who brought out the Mellow Yellow album on Columbia Records in 1967, said he had not known until several years ago that McDonald, best known as front man in Country Joe and the Fish, was only somewhat miffed about his fellow singer's success with the banana-bliss song because he himself had tried smoking peels before that jingle came out.

Mark Silva in the Chicago Tribune, March 29, 2007

See Joe rap about bananas on YouTube.

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