Cover of the 1970 Swedish single
|Single by Steppenwolf|
|from the album Steppenwolf|
|B-side||"Your Wall's Too High"|
|Recorded||1967 at American Recording Co. Studio, Studio City, California|
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, acid rock, blues rock, hard rock|
|Steppenwolf singles chronology|
The lyrics of the song distinguish between a dealer in drugs such as marijuana—who "will sell you lots of sweet dreams"—and a pusher of hard drugs such as heroin—a "monster" who doesn't care "if you live or if you die".
The song was made popular when rock band Steppenwolf released the song on their 1968 album Steppenwolf. When performing the song publicly in the late 1960s, the repeated lyric "God Damn" was often controversial, most notoriously in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where City officials attempted to force the band to use a euphemism (such as "Gosh darn") rather than the actual lyric. Though the band promised not to sing the line, at John Kay's urging, the audience obliged by loudly filling in the offensive words at the appropriate places in the song.
Organist Goldy McJohn, who recorded the original Steppenwolf version, said the version that appears on Early Steppenwolf performed by "Sparrow" (pre-Steppenwolf moniker) in 1967 at the Matrix came about when singer John Kay and Jerry Edmonton were late for a performance:
- Nick and Mars and me started that long version of the Pusher. John and Jerry's flight was late one night at the Avalon Ballroom, so we started and then we perfected it at the "Arc" in Sausalito on New Year's Eve in 1966.
- Songwriter Hoyt Axton did not record "The Pusher" himself until he included it on his 1971 album, Joy to the World.
- Nina Simone included a soulful version of this song on her 1974 album, It Is Finished, and on the RCA "Novus Series 70" titled "Nina Simone ~~ The Blues. Originally recorded June 1971.
- The band Blind Melon covered the song on their 1996 album, Nico, using a completely different perspective, as double entendre about both religion and addiction.
- The band Cowboy Mouth covered the song for the soundtrack of the movie Half Baked.
- The band David & David covered the song live at the Roxy 12/17/1986.
- Neneh Cherry and Michael Stipe covered the song with different lyrics as Trout in Cherry's album Homebrew, released in 1992.
- This song appeared in the movie and soundtrack Easy Rider, along with Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild".
- In the movie Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino, the character played by Uma Thurman imitates the song's line "I said God damn!" while using cocaine.
- The song appears in the film Tropic Thunder.
- It was also used in the Top Gear limousine challenge when Richard Hammond showed his MGF-based limo.
- It was used during the Burma special of Top Gear.
- The song also appears during the final episode ("Return to Queens Boulevard") of the fifth season of HBO's TV series, Entourage.
- The song is featured in the user menu and opening scenes of the made-for-video 2012 movie Kill Speed, playing during credits as two drug dealers prepare to enter a meth-lab.