A Look at the Myth of Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll
AC/DC took the highway to hell before the brothers Young put the bottle down. Every member of Motley Crue – easily the most infamous 80s outfit – is clean after decades of antics outlined in detail in The Dirt and bassist Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries. The Crue has arguably made its best music in the time since Sixx, the band’s lead songwriter, got sober. The opposite can be said about Metallica records in the decade-plus since lead singer James Hetfield dried up, but the L.A. four-pack is perhaps more entertaining and energetic than ever on stage.
Eddie Van Halen, The Who, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, Aerosmith (most of the time) and The Rolling Stones (kinda sorta) can also be included among the revered and recovered rockers in the Top-100. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses could no doubt be counted among this class but, unfortunately, none of these bands exist in original form.
It goes without saying that the recovered list is made up of some of the world’s favorite bands – rockers whose music is certified, celebrated and canonized. What would a hockey fight or football game be without some AC/DC Thunder Struck blaring in the background? Sad. How about a NASCAR race missing a side of Metallica’s Fuel? Slow. Or a UFC champ’s prizefight entrance less the Chili Peppers’ Give It Away? Soft. The soundtrack to the entertainment element of our lives has, like it or not, been written by ex drunks, junkies and fiends.
I enjoy bobbing my head to that fact. When the alternative is to hang it and mourn the loss of yet another great rocker taken years before his or her time, lauding the sobriety of one-time gnarly characters is cause for celebration. Most of the recovered artists listed above, I’m sure, would have followed in the path of Hendrix, Joplin, Mercury et al had it not been for getting that devilish monkey of addiction off their backs.
And so, it seems, rockers have their pick of two paths: success and sobriety or drugs and death. The high road or the back alley. Rockers, though genuine in the realm of trade and no doubt opportunity, are no exception to the rule that regulates all addicts – get clean or face a sad fate. Death, jails and institutions, they say, are where addicts spend their days if they don’t get clean. While some rock stars do go to jail or wind up in institutions ranging from Betty Ford to Shutter Island, most that don’t kick the habit end up pushing daisies. Sad, sure. But true.
The lie machine will continue to sell the dream of sex, drugs and rock n roll. But, in truth, that lie died sometime in the mid-90s when the final nail went in the coffin of grunge rock with Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Black Sabbath lived it, Motley Crue lived it, Nirvana lived it. The rest that have claimed it since are faking the funk, bouncing back and forth between bad and ballad in a sad balancing act of chaos and conformity.
And still, that great discord between what is, and what is perceived to be, continues to be stretched by the powers that be, for profit no doubt. Whether it’s politics, media or music, the line between fact and fiction will continue to be eroded in the name of capitalism and consumerism. Why mess with a good thing? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Let it be, let it be. Any number of clichés can help to illustrate why rock has changed so much in both sound and in regard to the comport of its composers over the last 50 years, but so little in the eyes of a public that still holds that artists should live up to a myriad of stereotypes, most including some form of alcoholism or drug addiction.
Nowadays, acts like Arcade Fire rule the day. But, admittedly, bands like Buckcherry still hold sway. Delusions of drug and rock fantasies have not been put away, even though the vast majority of bands at the top of the heap are relatively clean rockers. The reason for the divide is evidenced when looking at other genres. In a music world where country stars are raised in the city and gangster rappers have never stepped foot in the projects, anything is possible. Or so the lie machine would have you believe.
Remi L. Roy, founder of Martyr Magazine, last wrote about holding doctors responsible for prescription drug deaths.