How Rock n Roll Fell Out of Love with Drugs 

  How Rock n Roll Fell Out of Love with Drugs 

Posted by CN Staff on October 26, 2003 at 18:45:30 PT
By Alan Travis and Sally James Gregory 
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK 

Young musicians today are more likely than those of previous generations to decry the harm that drugs can cause, according to research in America. The study, based on an analysis of drug lyrics in English-language popular music since the 1960s, was last week highlighted as one of the few pieces of good news in the annual survey by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction, the EU's drugs agency.
The research, published by the University of Texas at Austin, explodes the conventional wisdom that popular music encourages teenagers to abuse drugs. The author, John Markert of Cumberland University, Tennessee, says that although there has always been a generally hostile attitude towards heroin and other hard drugs, teenage listeners today "are being exposed to more negative images of marijuana and LSD than older listeners". The research comes as MPs are preparing to vote on Wednesday to approve the reclassification of cannabis. Songs dealing with illegal drugs have always dotted popular music. In the 1930s, Fats Waller dreamed about a 5ft joint in Viper's Drag, and Harry "the Hipster" Gibson posed the question: "Who put the benzedrine in Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine?" But it was not until the 1960s that it became a constant theme. Mr Markert's study, Sing a Song of Drug Use-Abuse, is based on analysis of 784 songs since the 1960s that explicitly mention an illegal substance. It shows that while heroin and cocaine have largely been treated with hostility by musicians, their attitude towards cannabis and LSD has changed sharply over the years. Mr Markert found 100 songs with lyrics about heroin, more than half from the 1990s. But whether it is Lou Reed's "It's my wife, it's my life" from the song Heroin, Neil Young's "I watched the needle take another man" from The Needle and the Damage Done, or Pearl Jam's "It's my blood" from Blood, they demonstrate an increasingly hostile attitude in the 1990s. Nearly twice as many songs deal with cocaine and they are also generally negative. Some from the 1960s and 1970s such as "She don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine", from Eric Clapton's version of JJ Cale's Cocaine, and the Grateful Dead's "Drivin' that train, high on cocaine", are hardly negative. But by the 1990s the attitude is far more trenchant with rap music presenting cocaine, particularly crack, as a loser drug. Prince's 1990 New Power Generation is typical: "Cocaine was the thing that I took on ... I was headed 4 the kill, steal, destroy and die". But the research argues that there has been a much bigger shift in attitudes towards marijuana and LSD, and musicians use their hostility to drugs to attack the older generation. Mr Markert says that while Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze personified 1960s acid rock, four-fifths of the songs that explicitly mention LSD are post 1980 and overwhelmingly hostile. "Contemporary young people view LSD as the drug of older, screwed-up middle-aged people," he says. The majority of the songs in the sample are about cannabis and generally take a positive approach, although the more recent songs are more equivocal. Few 1960s songs explicitly mention marijuana, mainly because they would have been banned from radio. The veteran country singer Willie Nelson produced a platinum- selling album, Hempilation, in 1995 singing the praises of cannabis. In the 90s, several over 30s musicians, such as JJ Cale, Tom Petty and Sheryl Crow, released albums that lauded marijuana and were geared to an older, more marijuana accepting audience. They contrast sharply with the message from Biohazard's 1994 Failed Territory - "another neighbourhood gets destroyed by the drug deal" - which attacks the systemic problem associated with drug use and is shared by nearly half of the 1990s songs analysed by Mr Markert. "1990s music such as Biohazard's sees nothing good with dope. Drugs are bad; there is no equivocation, no okay drugs such as marijuana or LSD and many of them link cannabis to other drugs such as cocaine as a gateway drug."  How Rock n Roll Fell Out of Love with Drugs 1960s Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the seaAnd frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.  Peter, Paul and Mary, Puff The Magic Dragon, 1963 Everybody must get stoned  Bob Dylan, Rainy Day Women, 1966 One pill makes you larger And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you Don't do anything at all. Go ask Alice When she's 10 feet tall.  Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit, 1967 Picture yourself in a boat on a riverWith tangerine trees and marmalade skiesSomebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, A girl with kaleidoscope eyes  The Beatles, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, 1967 When I put a spike into my vein And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the sameWhen I'm rushing on my run And I feel just like Jesus' son And I guess that I just don't know  Velvet Underground and Nico, Heroin, 1967 1970s I hit the city and I lost my band I watched the needle take another man Gone. The damage done.  Neil Young, The Needle and the Damage Done, 1972If you wanna hang out, you gotta take her out, cocaineIf you wanna get down, get down on the ground, cocaine She's all right, She's all right, She's all right  Eric Clapton, Cocaine, 1977 1980s Pass the dutchie from the left hand side  Musical Youth, Pass the Dutchie, 1984 Your daddy works in porno Now that mommy's not aroundShe used to love her Heroin But now she's underground  Guns N' Roses, My Michelle, 1987 1990s But that's okay 'cos we're all sorted out for E's & wizzAnd tell me when the spaceship lands 'cos all this has just got to mean something  Pulp, Sorted for E's & Wizz, 1995 I'm on crackI'm doing lines all the timeJohn Belushi was a friend of mineCan't relate, I'm losin weightGrinding my jaw, breaking the lawStealing tens and twenties from my ma and pa  Dickies, I'm On Crack, 1995 Sun so bright that I'm nearly Blind Cool cos I'm wired and I'm out of my mind Warms the dope running down my spine But I don't care 'bout you and I've got nothing to do  Spiritualised, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating, 1997 You're living life fucked-up every single day And now I can't remember the last time you were straight You're a joke but no one's laughing any more White Town, Peek and Poke, 2000 Special Report: Drugs in Britain:,2759,178206,00.htmlSource: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Alan Travis and Sally James GregoryPublished: Monday, October 27, 2003Copyright: 2003 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Articles:Marijuana Mainstream: American as Mary Jane Loosens Up on Pot

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Comment #19 posted by Dankhank on October 27, 2003 at 10:23:32 PT:
reefer songs you the mp3 sample page of the meanest junkyard metal band in SW OK.Listen to Hemp World Nation. It's as demanding as all their music.Hey, for giggles sign the guestbook and say hi from CN.In any case, here is a new band that demands the leaf.Peace to all who resist
Lots o Links
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Comment #18 posted by rchandar on October 27, 2003 at 09:05:06 PT:
rock and roll
i'm going to have to go with the commentors. after studying popular music since i first picked it up in the early 80s as a teenager, i come to the invariable conclusion that rock bands lose some of their grit, some of their edge, and some of their prophetic extension to the young people who idolize them, when they start to espouse anti-drug attitudes or platforms.i don't know. they try to tell kids to refrain from sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco. what are kids at high school going to crow about, that they jacked off five times yesterday? teenagers want adult-level seriousness and ideas in their life, and (unfortunately) a kid who over-idolizes "safe" values--their parents, religion, school etc etc--are perceived by both society and peers as invariably weak;then they have to cover it up with something else. you do not put your life on hold; it's real at any age, period. people who quit drugs don't do so before some impact on the soul and the psyche has been registered, where you mature because of the changes in self-perception. and many, MANY people who never use drugs have a relatively stunted sense of the world, unless other forums of real seriousness have been part of their lives. it is not my responsibility as an adult to tell you what to think. it IS my responsibility to provide you with enough information to get you started. rock musicians make a very important pitch to young people that school, money, and religion aren't the only ways of discovering truth and living life. and turn that damn football game off; when the hell did any of them ever give a s#$t about you?               --rchandar
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on October 27, 2003 at 09:02:24 PT
Related Article
Cypress Hill Sets 6th Smoke Out:
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on October 27, 2003 at 08:43:51 PT
No Problem.
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Comment #15 posted by Dankhank on October 27, 2003 at 08:41:59 PT:

double post
help FOM I medicated and posted twice, please remove offending second post.SO, I have "met" another Clutch fan. My friend Logan is a fearless fan.  He left a double CD of Clutch the last time he was by and I like it. Send me the titles of all the reefer songs you know. I will collect them and get them out. It's some of what I do to resist.
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Comment #13 posted by Dankhank on October 27, 2003 at 08:27:44 PT:

Reefer Songs
Ben Harper ...
I stopped reading as soon as I read your challenge, alas, google does indeed make it easy, these days.I'll accept a prize, I'll send one back.I burn two CDs with an alarming degree of regularity ... the CRL, I owe some in here a copy, my computer crashed and I lost addresses.The other is "My" reefer disc. I collect reefer songs and make discs. Everyone likes them. I have the songs E mentions less the Dead song. I always thought the Dead were West-Coast overrated. In the east we listened to the Allman Bros. That's some SERIOUS music. Thanks for the Ben Harper Song, I'm getting it now. Aside to the RIAA ... fuggoff.I'm gonna make a new one, Ben will likely be on it.This article is crap. I agree with the assessment that the authors are trying to invent something.I have it ...Peace to all who resist
Hemp N Stuff
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Comment #12 posted by goneposthole on October 27, 2003 at 07:16:15 PT

even tobacco
An old song on a 78 rpm record was entitled 'Smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette' and an even more interesting title that appeared on a 78 rpm record, 'Hitler lives'. Another song from the 20's and 30's was called 'Slap her down again, Pa'. "Slap her down again, Pa. Slap her down again. We don't want our neighbors talkin' about our kin. Oh, how they slapped my sister Betsy. When she got down, she couldn't get up again."Offensive and unsavory songs have been around for a long time. Rock and Roll and hip hop songs don't have a corner on the market and are not alone.
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Comment #11 posted by Dark Star on October 27, 2003 at 06:42:14 PT

I agree that this article was poorly researched. I suspect that they have not even recognized the subtext of many lyrics. Drug songs have an incredibly long history extending even beyond the 1930's Viper Songs and Greek rembetika music.The problem today is censorship. If your new release has explicit drug-oriented lyrics, it doesn't get sold at Wal-Mart. They are new arbiters of American morality.
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on October 27, 2003 at 06:25:14 PT

Hopefully I will have better articles to pick from this week. It's always hard to find good articles over the weekend.
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Comment #9 posted by BlakNo1 on October 27, 2003 at 06:08:48 PT:

Obviously Alan + Sally don't get out much.As an 80's-90's metal listener, I can guarrantee you, Biohazzard fans smoke pot!I can also say with assurance, today's kids DO NOT view LSD in that fashion at all. They munch just as many, if not more, sheets than their predecessors did.I think whoever decides what articles are posted here needs to do a better job proofreading for coherence, because this article just doesn't do a good job of making its point at all. It reads like anti-drug propaganda.
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Comment #8 posted by 13th step on October 26, 2003 at 22:49:12 PT

As I read this...
A song by the band Clutch was playing:
"Willie Nelson"lyrics:
 Blackjack booted demons
Have surrounded my home
Got dogs and 'copters
and keep ringing my phone
Well I don't know if I'm coming or going
If it's them or me
Oh, but one things for certain
Willie Nelson only smokes the killer weed
Now they're breaking my windows
Banging on my doors
Got me down and hog-tied
Rifling through my drawers
Boss demon tells me
Oh how he would like to kill me
Wait a minute tough guy
My disease does that for free
Well I don't know if I'm coming or going
If it's them or me
Oh, but one things for certain
Willie Nelson only smokes the killer weed
Well I don't know if I'm coming or going
If it's them or me
Oh, but one things for certain
Willie Nelson only smokes the greenest green
Well I don't know if I'm coming or going
If it's them or me
Oh, but one things for certain
Willie Nelson only smokes the killer weed is just one of many. Great stuff.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on October 26, 2003 at 22:04:18 PT

Is Ben Harper right? I cheated. I used Google! No prize for me.
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Comment #6 posted by pokesmotter on October 26, 2003 at 21:29:54 PT:

drugs live on
rock and roll has by no means turned from drugs. for example, the bands i enjoy are pretty much all about drug use. some choose to sing about it and others do not. if someone can name the band who sings this lyric i will give them a prize:oh the gift from the earth
and what's from the earth is of the greatest worth
so before you knock it
try it first
and you'll see its a blessing and its not a curse
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Comment #5 posted by E_Johnson on October 26, 2003 at 21:06:36 PT

I know how they made this work
They must have deliberately ignored all hip hop and reggae and so on.Rock isn't a very lively scene right now, the potheads are all doing hip hop which is still a living art form.The Stroke and so on -- retro. Nothing new in rock right now.The new stuff is in hip hop and try to find a hip hop artist who doesn't brag about smoking Chocolate or Jack Herer.
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Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on October 26, 2003 at 20:53:12 PT

This is very badly researched and wrong
This sounds like a couple of postmodernist culture critic geeks trying to earn a prize for writing cool hip antidrug pop culture articles.They didn't bother to do much research here at all. Perhaps they had these "facts" handed to them by an anti-drug oprganization and were invited to write an article using them.There have been pro-pot and anti-heroin, coke and speed songs that were popular in American culture since way back in the twenties.Even in the Jazz Age people sang about how good reefer was and how bad all the other drugs were. Cocaine, speed and heroin were bad, reefer was good. That was the experience people had, and witnessed, and they sang about it all.In the sixties, Steppenwolf sang "God damn the pusher man"God damn, God damn, GOD damn the pusher man. Not just once damned but damned over and over again.They did that while admitting that weed was good. It was the other stuff that was bad.Canned Heat smoked a lot of weed but warned people about Amphetamine Annie, and told their listeners SPEED KILLS which was a very familiar motto back in the sixties.The Grateful Dead wrote "Whatever happened to Sweet Jane, she's lost all her sparkle, you know she isn't the same, living on reds, vitamine C and cocaine, all a friend can say is ain't it a shame."The Grateful Dead were clearly telling their listeners what their listeners were also experiencing -- cocaine and barbiturates had bad effects on people.This article is very poorly researched.Modern music since the Jazz Age has carried the same information about drugs all the time -- more or less accurate information, far more so than what the governments have been spewing and rewarding journalists for helping them spew.
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on October 26, 2003 at 20:39:04 PT

Russian prisoners sing for their freedom
One of those "only in Russia" stories:
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on October 26, 2003 at 19:33:00 PT

I'm glad you don't get this article either. I really like some of these songs. Like Needle and The Damage Done. It's a song that tells what it can be like when shooting drugs. I always felt it was an anti drug song but done in a good way that people might believe. I'm at a loss.
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Comment #1 posted by AlvinCool on October 26, 2003 at 19:21:40 PT

I don't get it
I don't understand where they are going with this. I have some friends in their early to late twenties. The younger ones party like there is no tomorrow, just like myself and my friends did at that age. The older ones are starting to settle down, just like we did at that age. Frankly, I don't see much has changed. With the exception of spending our childrens Social Security on nothing. Good thing we can start working with their kids money. 
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