Johnny Marr, True Faith, Trent Reznor and more . . .

By Maggie Serota 06/17/14

10 Greatest Recovery Songs and new categories devoted to music. Plus Comic Relief.


NEW// Johnny Marr

There seem to be two different kinds of sober musicians. One hand, you have your Steven Tylers and your Elton Johns. They are the kind of musician who used to be defined by their partying and using before getting clean and living an outspokenly sober life. It’s not uncommon for this type of rock star to have endured the odd overdose or near death experience before engaging in a rehab stint or public battle with addiction. 

Then there’s the kind of musician like Johnny Marr.


NEW// Singles: True Faith

I easily could have gone the rest of my life believing that “True Faith” was a song about the uncertainty about facing adulthood and abandoning the innocence of youth. It’s a common interpretation of a moody dance number that  contains lyrics like “When I was a very small boy/ Very small boys talked to me/Now that we've grown up together/They're afraid of what they see.”

However, in an interview in 1999, lyricist Bernard Sumner came clean about the song’s meaning, stating that it “ is about drug dependency. I don't touch smack but when I wrote that song I tried to imagine what it's like to be a smackhead and nothing else matters to you except that day's hit.” 

In fact, when he was originally writing the lyrics, the song contained the line “Now that we've grown up together/They're all taking drugs with me.'” However, producer Stephen Hague stepped in and warned that the explicit mention of drugs would keep the song off the radio, so the lyric was changed.  The song went on to be one of the band’s biggest hits and an instant classic, but it’s hard to say if keeping the lyrics would have changed the song’s trajectory.  


Before Sober: What Music Do You Associate With Bottoming Out?

We asked sober folks what music they still associate with their time drinking and/or bottoming out. Here’s what they came up with: 

“‘The Passenger,” Iggy Pop. I loved listening to that song while getting ready to go out. Usually already had a couple drinks in me. It would get me pumped and excited to be going out. Not so much at the bitter end of my drinking - not so exciting and not much going out either.” - B. 
“‘Romeo and the Lonely Girl’ by Thin Lizzy was my go-to drunk and ( let's be real) crying on the subway song.” - Heidi
  “‘Let Down"’ was always my drunk jam from [the Radiohead album] OK Computer. It's basically about hating being in bars but not being able to rise above it.” G. 

“I still have a hard time listening to Kurt Vile because during my bottom, he felt my pain.” - C. 

“So, I lived in the Lower East Side in 2001-2002, and I would get wasted every night and go home and lock myself in and lie on my futon mattress on the floor in my tiny room and listen to Spiritualized songs about being trapped in addiction. Despite that, there's a lot of hope for redemption in their music, besides the redemption in the music itself. I have a lot of emotions caught up in this band, which is why they are one of the few bands that can make me cry when I see them play.” - Steven Patrick

“So, remember in the early or mid-2000s when cell phones let you use real songs rather than ringtones and it was exciting.  I believe and I had downloaded “1,2 Step” by Ciara.  Well I was out of control with my drinking...after work[ing in a bar]  I was so fucked up and couldn't text or call anyone back for some reason and I remember that song playing on my phone over and over when i was at some methy crack apartment and everyone was worried about me and calling me until I finally just shut off the phone. I cringe when I hear that song which is thankfully not often. “ - Clint


Trent Reznor

In the early 90s, Trent Reznor became known for being the sole creative architect behind the band Nine Inch Nails. In 1990, Reznor first gained notoriety with the album Pretty Hate Machine, a record that flirted with an aggressive industrial influence made palatable by some solid synth-pop sensibilities. 


10 Former Stoner Musicians Who Quit Smoking Pot

These artists made no secret of their love for all things weed, but eventually had enough and attempted the drug-free life—with varying degrees of success.


Johnny Marr, Perfume Genius, Ghostface Killah... etc.

Johnny Marr

“I was just bored of it. It wasn’t really getting me anywhere. And I’m somebody who really likes to do different things. I see (not drinking) as a positive – it seems much more radical a lifestyle than being a regular rock ’n’ roller. That seems very boring to me. Somewhat of a cliché.” - Johnny Marr 

Perfume Genius

“Bars are a very different place when you’re sober, I don’t know how I spent 37 hours at a time in there. They’re boring as shit.” -  Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius

Ghostface Killah

“Then, writing music, you start getting stuck, forgetting what you were going to say, you losing lines (rhymes). I had to "Chuck Chillout" on that. (laughs). I ain’t gonna front. Sometimes, it opens that closed door for a second, then after that everything starts coming into my head where I can’t stay focused. I had to leave it alone." - Ghostface Killah, on why he quit smoking weed.

Richard Thompson

"By 1970, we were a two crates of Newcastle Brown kind of band. But then I stopped drinking in 1974. I saw a fork in the road and I thought, 'I'm not going down that one.'"- Richard Thompson, reminiscing about his time in Fairport Convention.


“I am proud of that shit. I will profess it to everybody. I like to lead by example. People are inspired by it,” - rapper Eligh, on getting sober.

Kim Deal

“When I was drinking, it was like, go to the bar for eight hours or get the 12-pack at the house. It was exactly the same thing over and over again every day — it was the most boring thing. If it was really fun and exciting, I would still do it.” - Kim Deal of The Pixies/The Breeders

Ian McKaye

"[In the '70s] pretty much what I saw were just people getting high. In high school, I loved all my friends, but so many of them were just partying. It was disappointing that that was the only form of rebellion that they could come up with, which was self-destruction." - Ian MacKaye.

Jason Isbell


"I'm not a big AA guy, but I'll go every once in a while. They do tell you that going out and helping other people really helps you a lot. It seems like a simple thing to say, but it's really true.” - Jason Isbell 


Jon Wurster

Before playing in bands himself, Jon Wurster booked shows for the Philadelphia punk institution The Dead Milkmen in Wurster’s hometown of Harleysville, Pennsylvania. After high school, Wurster moved down to North Carolina and eventually joined indie rock institution Superchunk as the drummer. In addition to playing with Superchunk for over 20 years, Wurster began drumming for another indie rock institution, The Mountain Goats. He also regularly tours with the legendary Bob Mould.  When he’s not touring with one of his regular bands, he’s also a well sought out talent, having performed or recorded with the likes of Katy Perry, Ben Gibbard, Aimee Mann and A.C. Newman. 


What Music Did You Discovery in Sobriety?

The Fix Music Editor Maggie Serota asked some sober people if there was any particular artist or type of music that they discovered while in sobriety. Here is what they had to say:

“I didn't really discover an artist per se, but I got super into pop again. Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, etc. music that wasn't ‘cool’ (hip - like the scene I kind of equated to being fucked up), and learned to have fun with music again.” - Anne 
  “I discovered Danielson Famile through the Low Times podcast. I'd take long summer walks in the forest with my dog listening to Danielson squeak about love and family and faith, and with him singing in my ears while lumbering through the state forests among the deer and snakes and wild turkey (no, not Wild Turkey)...” - Dave
  “Anything involving David Banner because his music makes me happy unconditionally, and it never stirs up old feelings. Just numbs me right up.” - Ashley
  “I started listening to the Grateful Dead in my first six months sober.I went to school with many lovers of the Dead, and though we got high together a lot, I tended to go back to my dorm and listen to the Cocteau Twins when they busted out the 1978 bootlegs. I was shocked to discover that, without a drop of any substance in my body, I had gotten obsessed with this band I had disdained.” - Mike


Six Druggy Songs Used in Commercials

Given the sex and drugs that often go hand and hand with rock n’ roll, it’s not like advertisers have a plethora of clean and family friendly songs to choose from when looking to find a soundtrack to a car or shampoo commercial. One way to get around that is to just edit out the offending lyrics when looking to add a little mood to a spot for a cruise line or a Disney trailer. Another alternative is to bypass the lyrics entirely and use the deceptively jaunty melody or the opening guitar riff.  


The 10 Greatest Songs About Recovery

From Jane's Addiction to Metallica, these bands have penned and performed spectacular—if not always positive—songs about overcoming heroin, alcohol, and everything in between. 


Sia Furler

The Australian singer and songwriter began her career performing on the Adelaide jazz circuit before moving to London, sang back-up for Jamiroquai and signed her first deal as a solo artist, performing under the singular name Sia.  


10 (More) of the Greatest Songs About Recovery

We gave our picks for the 10 greatest songs about recovery back in 2012 and you’ve given us plenty of feedback since. Here is our second take on the subject, from the iconic to the obscure. 


Jim Reid, Bob Mould, Kendrick Lamar

Jim Reid of Jesus and Mary Chain

“I'm not saying I'll never drink again but what happened was I hit rock bottom, the thing that everybody talks about. You get to the point where you have to make a decision - do you want this life or do you want that life? I chose sobriety, wife and children, all that stuff, but it was kind of ‘Let's see how it goes, I'll not drink for a year and if I can do that, I'm in charge.’ I did that then a year became two years, then it just became ‘Let's see how it goes.’”Jim Reid

Bob Mould

"Once we throw away that romantic notion of the candle burning in the wine bottle and sitting there over a scotch and soda and pouring over our misery like no one will understand, then you’re able to move on with life and grow up."Bob Mould

Ben Gibbard

"You spend hours alone, only with your thoughts, and you torture yourself. It's a tendency of many writers to temper the self-destructive act of writing with other self-destructive acts. I certainly was one of those people for a long time." - Ben Gibbard, on quitting drinking. 

Kendrick Lamar

“I tried, but it never gave me the stimulation I needed because I think so fucking much.” - Kendrick Lamar on if he ever tried drinking or drugs.


Northern Arms

Northern Arms is a 10-piece band helmed by singer and songwriter Keith Richard Pierce. According to a recent City Paper profile, Pierce met musical partner Eric Bandel about 14 years ago when they were both surprised to learn that they were dating the same woman. Under any other circumstances. this might be the start of a bitter rivalry, but instead Bandel became intrigued by Pierce’s songwriting and the two became fast friends. Although they tried to collaborate musically, their self-destructive tendencies got in the way of getting a band off the ground. However, both men eventually got sober and found themselves back in Philly ready to make a real go at putting together a band. 


Top Ten Addiction Songs

Who can really name the best songs about addiction? We can. Or at least we can give you our completely biased and in no way thorough Top 10 list. 


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