Drugs, sex and rock ’n’ roll are not subjects I claim to be an expert on, but I do have varying amounts of experience with each of them.
In 2009, I went on the road with a touring band and played music for a living. I managed to gain some firsthand experience in the world of live music and the drama that accompanies it.
I’ll preface this by giving a bit of history and noting that sex and drugs pre-date rock ’n’ roll when it comes to music. Going back through the history of music in North America, whether you look to early jazz, blues or country, the subject of drugs and sex can be found quite easily; the 1938 song “Wacky Dust” by Ella Fitzgerald is one of the earliest examples I was able to find. This covers a little bit of the history but not the reasons as to why these subjects are usually mentioned together. Since there is no “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll institute” to explain this, I’ll have to rely a bit on my own personal experiences and observations.
When I was on the road, I spent time with guys who had played music professionally for 20-plus years; I saw and felt the effects of being isolated from friends and family for extended periods of time. It’s strange rolling into a town and not knowing anyone; you usually get invited to after parties when you’re finished playing for the night, and when you don’t know anyone there, drugs and alcohol make for a great social lubricant.
I would see guys from other bands who essentially put the rock ’n’ roll aspect in the backseat and let the sex and drugs aspect take centre stage; I suppose it was a “can you blame them?” sort of situation.
The effects of their lifestyle were evident — the most obvious side effect being poverty. And I’m sure I don’t need to explain the effects of prolonged drug use. The sex portion was a little bizarre at times too.
I can remember one town where a certain female caller — we’ll call her Ms. X — came to our room looking for the bass player of the band, as they had a bit of history together. The bass player was fast asleep in his room and uninterested in his visitor. He told us to let Ms. X know he was out and unavailable. The drummer capitalized on this situation and began “working his magic” on Ms. X.
This was unfortunate for me because I was seated on the couch attempting to watch Jeopardy! directly adjacent to the kitchen table where this was transpiring. After only a few minutes of working his magic on Ms. X, she began working her magic on him — if you catch my drift. I took an overwhelming interest in the game show contestants, and mercifully they moved things to the bedroom shortly thereafter.
I don’t really know if sex and drugs make rock ’n’ roll more entertaining — think drug aficionado Iggy Pop versus straight-laced Henry Rollins — or if rock ’n’ roll makes sex and drugs more appealing, and not to mention readily available. In my estimation it’s a bit of both. The point is moot either way; the marriage of sex and drugs to music, whether it is rock ’n’ roll or some other genre, isn’t headed for a divorce any time soon.