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

By Maggie Serota 06/30/14

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 


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.

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. 

However, for those of us familiar with the songs outside of the context of a 30-second ad, it can be a little surreal to hear a song that dark side of heroin addiction paired with a cheerful endorsement of an all-inclusive family vacation package. 

Here are six songs about drugs have been used to sell far more wholesome products. 

“Lust for Life”  Iggy Pop

Madison Avenue loves the hell out of this song, as famously parodied by this Onion article. In this case, there’s something particularly perverse about watching wholesome couples and families recount their favorite vacation moments over a song that makes allusions to William S. Burroughs, a dead heroin dealer and Iggy Pop’s drug fueled sexual escapades. 

“Heroin” The Velvet Underground

In this Nissan Xterra ad, an outdoorsy, fresh-faced young couple drive their SUV out to the desert to get a little fresh air and engage in some rock climbing. Naturally, the ad execs chose the opening riffs to Lou Reed’s ode to heroin to close out the ad because that’s a drug that’s conducive to strenuous activity. No wonder the commercial ends before the lyrics can kick in and Reed can exclaim “Heroin will be the death of me.” 

“There She Goes”  Sixpence None The Richer covering The La’s

“There She Goes” is a prime example of the long-standing rock tradition of writing songs about drugs that are thinly veiled as songs about infatuation. In this case, it’s widely believed that the song is actually about enigmatic songwriter Lee Mavers’ rumored heroin addiction. That being said, maybe it wasn’t the best choice for a women’s health product such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control pills. Although, we will admit that leaving in the lyric “Pulsing through my veins” was a pretty bold move. 

“Semi-Charmed Life”  Third Eye Blind

When putting together the trailer for Disney’s The Tigger Movie, we’re sure that the people in charge of choosing the music could have found a bouncy, upbeat guitar riff from a song that didn’t explicitly mention “doing bumps up my nose” or reference crystal meth by name. 

“Diamonds and Guns” The Transplants

This bouncy piano line is the kind of nice upbeat melody perfect for hawking Garnier Fructis shampoo. However, all the braggadocio of the gangster lifestyle that goes hand in hand with the drug trade and lyrics like “Heroin, heroin, it's all gone/Smoked it all up, and now you got none” don’t really sell the aesthetic of shiny hair. 

“Kickstart My Heart” Motley Crue

Initially, it makes sense that Kia would choose a rocking song with “kickstart” in the title to advertise a car. However, the “kickstart” that Motley Crue is referencing is the two shots of adrenaline administered to bassist Nikki Sixx’s heart after he flatlined from a heroin overdose in 1987. We’re hard-pressed to think of another song from a Super Bowl ad that draws from the firsthand experience of a band member spending a few minutes technically dead from heroin.


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Maggie Serota is a staff writer at Spin. She has contributed to Glamour, NBC News, Esquire, Rolling Stone,BuzzFeed, and many other publications and outlets.  You can find Maggie on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.