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Music / Sublime

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Love is what I got, it's within my reach
And the Sublime style's still straight from Long Beach

"Because you're down with the band that they call Sublime, right?"
Romeo off Second Hand Smoke

Sublime was an American ska band from Long Beach, California that consisted of the late Bradley Nowell on lead vocals and guitar, Eric Wilson on bass guitar and sometimes keyboards, and Floyd "Bud" Gaugh on the drums. A few of their friends also appeared on multiple albums in various capacities: Dr. Todd Foreman, the saxophonist; "Field" Marshall Goodman (also known as Ras MG) providing DJ duties, occasional rap solos, and filled in as drummer during Bud Gaugh's stint in rehab; Kelly Vargas, who also filled in on drums while Bud was unavailable; and Opie Ortiz, who not only sang on various albums, but was the band's favorite tattooist, and behind most of the artwork on their albums. Oh, and Lou Dog, Bradley's beloved Dalmatian, who frequently joined the band on stage.

Known for their combination of laid-back surfer attitude and punk mentality, Sublime is very hard to pin down. Any song can be a delightful mash-up of punk, hip-hop, and reggae, with lyrics that make you laugh even as you think, "Did he really just say that?" before switching to sobering reality about drug use, life in the ghetto, and sexually transmitted diseases. Although they became popular as a part of the Third Wave of Ska and often toured with Ska Punk bands, Sublime only released a handful of actual Ska Punk songs, and were more influenced by reggae than ska music.

The band started in 1988, when Bradley came home on Spring Break and jammed with Eric and Bud for a week in Eric’s soundproof garage. The band would get back together that summer and start playing bars, clubs, parties, and BBQ's. That summer also saw the infamous "Riot on the Peninsula", where a concert got out of control while Sublime was playing, culminating in police being called in to stop the show and clear out the crowd.

The band would continue to record, drink, tour, drink, cause serious mayhem, and drink on the West Coast for the next several years. They even started their own record label, Skunk Records, to distribute their albums, which they famously did out of the trunks of their cars.

The band eventually gained serious recognition on the original Warped Tour in 1995. They were kicked off the tour due to bad behavior. Bud Gaugh was arrested for drug possession twice on tour, all three were pretty much constantly drunk, and the band once started a mud-slinging fight with their audience, but the final straw was when Lou Dog bit two fans. They were invited back to finish the tour after missing several shows.

Sublime had only three full studio albums — 40oz. to Freedom, Robbin’ the Hood, and Sublime — before Bradley Nowell fatally overdosed on heroin. Their third, final, and most successful album was released less than two months after Bradley’s death and eventually went five times Platinum in America. It may even be reasonably argued that, were it not for Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, Sublime might very well be remembered as the album that defined the '90s. At the very least, it's somewhere on the list.

Following Nowell's overdose, Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson attempted to keep the sound alive, touring with various friends and musicians who worked with Sublime as the Long Beach Dub Allstars, and eventually Wilson alone with the Long Beach Short Bus, which only released one album.

The band seemed over until December 2009, when Eric and Bud reunited with new lead singer Rome Ramirez. The new trio was well received by most fans and various members of Bradley Nowell's family. The main objection was due to the fact that the name "Sublime" was copyrighted only under Brad Nowell's name, leaving it the property of his estate (read: his widow). This might also result in some conflict over rights to profits turned from sales of merchandise. After a little legal haggling the band was redubbed Sublime with Rome.

Notable songs recorded by Sublime include "Date Rape", "Badfish", "What I Got", "Santeria", "Wrong Way", and "Doin' Time".

Studio discography:

  • 40oz. to Freedom (1992)
  • Robbin' the Hood (1994)
  • Sublime (1996)

Tropin' is what I got:

  • Ate His Gun: More like "force-fed his gun", as the singer of "Santeria" would still love to shove his new .45 "straight down Sancho's throat".
    Believe me when I say that I got something for his punk ass
  • The Band Minus the Face: The surviving members restarted the band in 2009 and rebranded themselves as "Sublime with Rome" in 2010. They continue to record and perform despite bassist Eric Wilson being the only original member left.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Chica Me Tipo" and "Caress Me Down"
  • Black Comedy: Nowell got the idea for "Date Rape" from an acquaintance who used the song's refrain as a joke. The song's narrative, in turn, is played out very tongue-in-cheek.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Mentioned by name in "What I Got".
  • Byronic Hero:The narrator of "Wrong Way" has the best intentions, but easily gives in to his urges and takes advantage of Annie while urging her to elope with him, probably leaving her (or rather, her leaving him) in a worst position than he found her in.
  • Canine Companion: Lou Dog to Bradley. Bradley wrote a song "Lou Dog Went to the Moon". When Louie was stolen, Bradley was inconsolable... he laid on his couch for about a week and cried. He sang "Lou Dog Went to the Moon" into his answering machine and finished the message begging for any information on his dog.
    • There are several songs that mention Louie Dog, including: "Doin' Time", "Garden Grove"/"Garbage Grove", and "What I Got". They even covered Bad Brains' "I Love I Jah" as "I Love My Dog".
    • Bradley missed Lou Dog so much during the first Warped Tour that he had him flown in for the East Coast tour dates.
    • After Bradley died, Lou Dog more or less became the Face of the Band and appeared in all their subsequent music videos. When Louie Dog died several years after Nowell, the family buried a vial of his ashes at Nowell's grave, and scattered the rest at the same surf spot they scattered Bradley's. To this day, Sublime with Rome sells Lou Dog shirts at concerts.
  • Cover Version: They have covered Bad Religion's "We're Only Gonna Die", as well as "Jailhouse" by Bob Marley and "Smoke Two Joints" by The Toyes .
  • A Deadly Affair: "Santeria" is about someone threatening to kill the man who stole his ex-girlfriend. And still harboring those intentions after getting himself a new girlfriend.
  • Five-Finger Discount: "April 29, 1992" is a fictional first-person account of looting during the Rodney King riots.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: "Santeria" includes some Chicano slang: "Sancho" is slang for a man who steals another man's girlfriend, and "heina" is a term for one's girlfriend, based on the Spanish word for "queen", "reina".
  • Generation Xerox: In 2012 Bradley's son Jakob turned up on YouTube playing a cover of one of his dad's songs, and performed another Sublime cover with members of Sublime With Rome the following year.
  • Genre Shift:
    • "Seed" oscillates between hardcore punk and a calmer reggae style.
    • "STP" does the same thing, and adds a slow jazzy interlude and an aggressive ska beat.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Three of them (Greatest Hits, a budget compilation apart of the 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection series and Gold, a two-disc compilation). For a band who only released three studio albums.
    • The song "Greatest Hits" from Robbin' the Hood, despite not being a hit itself, was featured on the latter two compilations perpetually as an in-joke to this. The song's lyrics concern Bradley listening to the greatest hits of Sublime's sister band The Ziggens, who oddly did not release an actual greatest hits album until years after Bradley's death.
  • Heavy Meta: Many of the songs mention how much the band loves to play their Reggae/ska/punk fusion.
  • Intercourse with You: Of the blatant variety, "Slow Ride", "Chick on My Tip", "Chica Me Tipo", "Caress Me Down" and "Seed".
  • Jerkass to One: "Doin Time" has a line suggesting his girlfriend acts lovingly to everyone else but is a nasty bitch to him, although said line could also be interpreted as meaning she cheats on him a lot in addition to being abusive.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In "Date Rape," the creep is convicted, sentenced, and Prison Raped.
    Well I can't take pity on a man of his kind,
    Even though he now takes it in the behind.
  • List Song: Played with on 40oz. to Freedom. The band had producer Michael 'Miguel' Happoldt read off their thanks list for the album set to their "Thanx Dub".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "What I Got (Reprise)", "STP", "Wrong Way", "Same In The End"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Not quite as much as some ska punk bands, but it's certainly there.
    • Notably the song "Wrong Way". It's a funky, upbeat song about a young girl forced into prostitution by her "seven horny brothers" and alcoholic father.
    • "Burritos" is a fast-paced, happy ska tune about being bored.
    • "40 Oz. to Freedom" , which is about how some people need alcohol to feel better about themselves and life in general.
    • "Santeria" sounds like a lovely romantic reggae ballad. The lyrics tell of a jealous ex-boyfriend who is planning to take revenge on the man who stole his girlfriend, gangsta style.
  • Motormouth: Nowell could rip through a verse pretty quickly, but the duet "Saw Red" with Gwen Stefani is a great example for both singers.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Doin' Time", "Let's Go Get Stoned", "New Thrash", "Pool Shark"
    • Subverted with "STP". Nope, it's not about the oil or Stone Temple Pilots, but it stands for "Secret Tweeker Pad" (which is mentioned near the end of the song).
    • Some early versions of "Doin' Time" actually include the title in place of "summer time." They changed it after they received the rights to the lyrics (because they 'borrowed' it).
  • Ode to Intoxication: Much of their work, including "Smoke Two Joints", "Legalize It", and "Get Ready".
  • Prison Rape: Happens to the rapist at the end of "Date Rape", who gets "butt-raped by a large inmate" (played by porn star Ron Jeremy in the music video) while the guards ignore his cries for help. Bradley can't bring himself to feel sorry for the guy given what he did to wind up in prison.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Lots of lines on "Date Rape" do this, starting with "That's. When. Things. Got. Out. Of. Control!"
  • Rock-Star Song: "Garden Grove"
  • Rockumentary:
    • Stories, Tales, Lies, and Exaggerations. Produced following Nowell's death. Showed clips from live shows and stories about the band from members, friends, family members, and other bands who toured with Sublime.
    • There was also a Behind The Music episode devoted to Sublime.
  • Sampling: Sublime LOVED sampling. Most songs feature at least a little something 'borrowed' from somebody else. Brad Nowell even sang about it in the ironically-titled "New Song," and mused on the possibility of it being done to him someday. It did.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their most famous, and the last complete album recorded before Bradley Nowell's death. It was actually supposed to be called Killin' It, but the title was changed after Bradley died. All subsequent albums (barring the Greatest Hits obviously) had previously unfinished tracks, bootlegs, and/or remixes.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: The band really lived it up in the 1990s. Stories include drummer Bud Gaugh missing shows due to being arrested on the way to the show, Bradley Nowell pawning the band's equipment right before shows for drugs, and getting kicked off the original Warped Tour ''for bad behavior''.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 40 Oz. To Freedom has a song devoted to the BDP kingpin, KRS-One.
    • Don't Push contains references to numerous artists, among them being Bob Marley and Pink Floyd.
  • The Stoner: They pepper plenty of references to marijuana in numerous songs. Coincidentally, Don't Push has a run time for 4:20.
  • Studio Chatter: Can be heard on many songs.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "89 Vision" from the bootleg Pure Anus.
  • Textless Album Cover: Played with on the self-titled album. It's a picture of Bradley Nowell's back, where he had had the word "Sublime" tattooed across his shoulders.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Wrong Way", "Pool Shark (Acoustic)"
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: The whole of "What Happened".
    Wake up in the morning, clock says half past one
    I have no sunglasses as I step into the sun
    There's no recollection of the evil things I've done
    My head feels like I must have had some fun