Sublime played their first gig in Long Beach on July 4, 1988, and this year the group would have been 25.
A new live album, 3 Ring Circus: Live at the Palace – October 21, 1995, marks the occasion, growing the reggae-punk act's posthumous catalogue to Pac-like proportions.
Though the original incarnation of the band hasn't existed since Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996, they are still an integral part of people's everyday lives, especially those who live in the surf, skate, and punk communities.
We suspect that, to some, their music is a reminder of a time when beach culture wasn't burdened by yuppie consumerism; to others it's a soundtrack to bong-rip and kick-flip to while playing hooky.
But to get a deeper sense of why Sublime's music endures, we talked to people from all walks of life who have been touched by their songs, from fellow musicians to surfers. Some of the best are below. Bonus, at the bottom of the post, new songs, and a video, and a letter Nowell wrote to Jean-Christophe Kay of The Toyes.
See also: 40oz. to Freedom Is 20 Years Old
Taylor Ramirez, co-owner of Vulture Vintage, Hermosa Beach punk aficionado
My first memory of really being into Sublime was when I was 16. My dad was teaching me how to drive a stick-shift. He got me this brand-new 1964 red bug. I grabbed one of the CDs in it and it was Sublime's Robbin' the Hood. I remember playing that CD over and over in that car. It's just a good highlight of life, remembering those times in that car with that album.
That's always been one of my favorite albums. Before that I had heard “Caress Me Down” and “Santeria” and all that, but I didn't really fall in love with them until that album. Hearing “New Realization” and “Romeo,” those became some of my favorite songs of all time.
Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid
We met Brad and all the guys from Sublime when we were 15, 16 years old. Those guys took us under their wing… That might have been '94… Brad and Miguel [Happoldt] had invited us up to this place called the Foothill Tavern in Long Beach. It was an old punk rock biker bar, just a place where we would play shows. After the gig Brad came up to me and Kyle and asked if we wanted to make a record on [his label] Skunk Records.
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Our first couple records were off of Skunk. Brad and Miguel gave us a hand when we were kids, showed us some of the ropes. Showed us some of the do's and don't's of life on the road and what it's like in the music world. We were just little kids trying to figure it out, looking up going “holy shit” at the guy that we grew up listening to and idolized. It was such a cool thing to happen to a couple kids from Ocean Beach.
Sublime endures because of the way, lyrically, that Brad would make you feel. People can relate so much to that Southern California culture that he spit out. It was refreshing because it was new. Just like Nirvana helped change from the hair-metal stage into the grunge rock of the '90s, Sublime did the same thing, changing the whole grunge sound… When you're a musician like that it's timeless, it'll last forever.
Sonny McCollom, manager of E.T. Surf, Hermosa Beach
Sublime is something we play all the time in the shop. To this day it's one of those things you listen to like Led Zeppelin that never gets old. Basically to us it's like surf and roots culture. They bridged a gap that wasn't there before, something like what Pennywise did. They mixed music into the surf community and created a kind of bond that hadn't been there since the old days.
Besides NOFX, Pennywise and a lot of the old school hardcore punk, that was what surfers were listening to. That was the other thing: the mellower California vibe. Something to help you identify with Southern California and the surf scene.
Excerpts of a letter written by Bradley Nowell to Jean-Christophe Kay of The Toyes, who wrote Sublime's hit “Smoke Two Joints.” (Nowell's original spelling is intact.)
“It's been over a decade since I first heard your song “Smoke 2 Joints” on K-ROQ in L.A. I dug the tune but then they stoped playin' it so I've only heard it once or twice since then. We jammed the tune when Sublime hooked up in 88. I had to fake it cuz I barely remembered how it went. In the studio, we fucked w/ it and dropped some turntables on there & just generally faked it!…I was wondering if you and your brother still play live or if you are in other bands and if you still jam “reggae”. Mabey we could rock out together next time we are up in Oregan… I'm looking forward to sharing some of that super Oregan green w/y'all. Sorry this letter got so long, I'm stoned to the bone at the moment. The main thing I wanted to say was thanx for being cool too about the…cover we did on 40 oz. Everybody else that we covered, or in some instances sampled, demanded mass cash or, as w/”RAW HIDE”, said we strait up can't use their shit and must take it off the album or else face some funky law suit. I get the feeling that most of this publishing shit is handled by some fucker in a suit and air conditioned office. I doubt the musicians ever even know what's up. Kinda makes ya wanna just go burn the fern, eh vern? Got any? Musicians gotta stick togeather and stick it to the corporate pig useless shitbag fucks who can all suck my ass.”
3 Ring Circus: Live at the Palace drops June 18th. Listen to exclusive tracks below, and see a video from the performance:
See also: 40oz. to Freedom Is 20 Years Old