They have been the fuel of popular music since the gitgo and they remain the divining rod of sound. Hank Williams was a drunk who OD’d on pills at twenty-nine. Louise Armstrong was a pothead. Jimi a junkie, Lemmy’s on a bottle of black jack a day, Johnny Rotten a speed freak, Miles Davis a junkie, John Coltrane a junkie, Costello a coke head, Lennon did the lot: booze to speed to pot to acid to heroin to coke. Lest we forget, Michael Jackson died of an overdose.
It would be easier to mention who didn’t take drugs. That would be Donnie Osmond.
So whatever anyone tells you drugs help the creative process.
Can they kill you? Sure they can and they do but so can most things. Many of our greats were nailed by drugs but all of them will eventually die anyway.
The Halloweening of the USA is a joke. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” was less than useful -it’s like taking people to a fairground and telling em not to use the rides: if you have never taken drugs everything they say about em is true. They make you feel better and then they make you feel worse but to deny they make you feel better is ridiculous and a lie. Shooting up junk won’t make you Miles Davis but when you nod out it can make you Walter Muir at least.
Between the outlaw waiting for the man to the ritual of injestion, it is a cool netherworld on the outside of everything and if you can’t control it junk, really any drug, really anything it’ll fuck you up big time. But so what? So you die… next? Or so you live? It doesn’t kill EVERYONE, not even nearly. Jagger’s still cookin’, so is Keef, all those Halls and Oates and Beegees were major coke offenders and they’re still alive (welly except for the kid brother). Itcan kill but that’s not the same as saying it will. It’s a blast and for some rock stars it unleashes their muse. Even Dylan snorted smack.
Drugs will kill ya two ways, one accidentally and two over time. When you’re messing with smack and don’t know how pure your junk is you can OD like that: Johnny Thunders went that way. Or it can accumulate in your body over years: pace MJ, or you can off yourself with it like Sid Vicious… many ways to die on drugs.
But many ways to live as well. I’d take myself as a typical drug abuser. Started off on hashish, moved to booze, speed, marijuana, coke, heroin, -all the smaller players as well, and I never really stopped, I just woke up and discovered I hadn’t done any heavy drugs in a decade. Among the many reasons is that my social habits had changed… I stopped going out all night.
And that’s one of the tricks, use drugs and don’t let drugs use you. Twenty-three year old Iman doing crystal myth with various (Johhny Thunders not Tom Petty’s) Heartbreakers at CBGB’s past five in the morning is cool, fitty-three year old Iman doing crystal meth in the rest room at the Blarney Stone not so much.
Which leads me to the second topic. It’s sad to say but drug abuse, like talent is finite. It dies away. The older you get the more you repeat yourself. Let’s say a good band can make it into their forties as a recording and maybe as late as their seventies as a live artist. But everybody seems to hit it up mid-twenties to mid-thirties and then begin the decline. It is about as sad as professional athletes being old at forty. In other words, it isn’t sad at all, it just it is is.
The optimum ages for drugs and alcohol (and sex) is fifteen to thirty. After that it is very much a case of what were once vices are now habits. There is an “x factor” to all this of course: people become addicted. Not everybody but if you happen to become addicted you’re fucked. My brother in law Richard’s best friend David worked for the MTA and he had a bad drinking problem. David’s union sent him to rehab, once, twice, three times but he couldn’t sober up and he was fired. His wife, who really loved him, left him, and after failing to remain sober during sleepovers he lost joint custody of his son. One morning David’s father woke up to find David dead in an armchair, a bottle of whiskey on the floor. He was thirty-six years old.
Nobody is ever gonna convince me that that is what David wanted. He would’ve stopped but he couldn’t.
It’s a tragedy but so what?
People are free to kill themselves as they choose… people are free to die and they will most certainly do so.
So some teens will die from drugs and some teens will die from alcohol. Drugs (all drugs) should be legalized for people over the age of eighteen. And alcohol should be legalized for people over the age of eighteen. Either you’re an adult at eighteen or you’re not an adult at eighteen, you can’t be both. If you can marry, if you can go to war, if you can leave your home, if you can vote, if you can drive a car, why can’t you get drunk? Might kids die if they drive drunk? Yes, they might die. That’s a shame but it’s not for the government to interfere. A wise man once said he who gives up freedom for security will soon discover he has neither. You can’t protect people from their actions, you can’t protect eighteen year old kids in such away. You can’t send soldiers off to Afghanistan give em a rifle and goggles and tell em they can’t buy a beer when they get back to the States.
One other thing, nobody is or should be taking the blindest bit of notice to the draconian drinking laws which means you are criminalizing millions of teenagers and, by causing them to break a ridiculous law, making em disrespect the law of the land (alcohol is a gateway law).
OK, one more thing. As a guy who spent some of the best nights of his life in nightclubs I am here to tell you it was a blast and anybody who tells you drugs aren’t fun, drugs don’t make the best rock bands that much harder, is lying. It’s a young kids gig but if it was good enough for you why shouldn’t it be good enough for this whole generation as they watch their future mortgaged away? When I go to the Mercury Lounge and see all these college kids having a blast it makes me smile, it makes me happy to see em happy. Life is short, pay your money, take your chances, make it out alive if you can.
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