Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll… Why?

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Article about the Music Scene and its ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll’ Lifestyle
Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll… Why? | Athens News.

by Dimitra Tsangari , Marie Zaharaki 7 Aug 2011
MYSTERY and romance have always surrounded musicians. The way they dress, the way they behave, the dark excitement that seems to surround them – it’s what sets them apart. It is, after all, the musician who pushes the boundaries of society, hinting at a hidden hedonistic reality surrounding gigs, and captures the interest of people the world over. “Sex, drugs and rock and roll” is, it seems, more than just a phrase. To some artists, it appears to be the only way to really experience life, no matter the consequences.

Following the death in July of Grammy Award-winning British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse at just 27, the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse – in this case fatal – have, sadly, reared their ugly head once more. The loss of Winehouse is all the more tragic as it seems it was not an excessive lifestyle that directly led to her demise but her efforts to free herself from it.
Naturally, Winehouse is not the first artist to fall foul of the dark side of fame. Talented individuals of all ages, not just musicians, have proven casualties of their own success. And substance use has been intimately entwined with the lifestyles of creative people long before it became mainstream in the 1960s and then popularised as a trend in the 80s and 90s.
For creative types, however, it frequently turns out to be a catch 22. The money and apparent freedom that come with success often provide easier access to both drugs and the inevitable entourage of hangers-on and groupies. As Aide Oherein, a 25-year-old music lover based in London, tells the Athens News, “When people have a lot of money and no real concept of responsibility, I guess boredom takes over.”
Taboo but mainstream
Substance abuse is a cross-genre phenomenon. It was not only popular with the jazz musicians of the 1920s in the US but also Greek rebetiko musicians. Albeit taboo, it existed among musicians in the 1950s and became tolerable as the Beatles visibly used – and sang about – marijuana and LSD in the 1960s. It is undeniable, however, that revolutionary musical norms were developed at the time, elevating the respective artists to legendary status.
“Maybe it is just something to do with the creative side of the brain; someone who is very creative is predisposed to drug taking,” observes Katie Smith, a marketing executive and former PR consultant for Leeds-based bands. “I have often seen many of my very creative and musically gifted friends drawn to cannabis and hallucinogens, taking them frequently.”
And there is also the theory that a musician’s personal downfall actually forestalls their musical one. Nobody knows what the quality of Kurt Cobain’s music would be today had he been around longer but – as with other members of the so-called 27 Club (like Winehouse, Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Cobain died at 27) – his music is cherished precisely because it ended so abruptly. He simply did not have time to sell out.
“You read lies that drugs made people like Hendrix, Marley, Charlie Parker better musicians,” says Aeddan Williams, a 22-year-old-jazz musician. “It’s part of the ‘troubled genius’ stories, fighting against their vices. It was the music that made them great though, not the drugs.”
It could be said that the inspiration was ever-present and the drugs did nothing but hasten their downfall. “There are many examples of great musicians making great music who’ve abstained from the lifestyle. Frank Zappa is a notable one. He used to call people on drugs ‘assholes in action’,” adds Williams.
A helping hand
Whether or not there is any truth in the heightened creativity theory, the scene surrounding the music industry persistently draws in musicians, some of whom succumb to its well-established bad habits.
Unlike other art forms, music and musicians entertain within a broader scope of social activities, which encourages and necessitates human interaction both between the audience and within the music industry itself in order to thrive and spread.
Considering that continuous late nights and a party atmosphere are obligatory, it’s little wonder many musicians turn to the substances easily available to them as a helping hand – either to escape or stay in top form.
“Usually before going on stage to perform I’ll have a pint or two, and usually limit the drinking until after performing to keep sharp while playing … Most of the time you’ll be kept hanging around by the venue, so you need to find something to do,” explains Williams.
Musicians do what they can while the world watches on. For fans a gig is a unique experience, whereas the artist might see it as just one in a long series of demanding performances. What might appear to the fan as an exciting lifestyle is sometimes nothing more than a smokescreen.
“It should be more about the music and less about the lifestyle. We frown at heroin addicts on the street but if they’re on the stage with a guitar, for some reason we see a different person. It’s strange,” says Williams.
Athens News 7/Aug/2011 page 22

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