In this second part, we look at what are 'perceived' to be the more modern drugs affecting music. However, while some of them may appear modern, or perhaps a 90s drug, the truth is that many of them have been affecting people for a long time.
Ever been to a rave? Don't bother. The music is terrible. In fact, it's so terrible that this blog refuses to post it here, because even Very Us Mumblings has certain standards which, although low, we will not go beneath. The truth is that the only reason to go to a rave is for the drugs and the possibility of having intercourse. The unfortunate thing that most people don't know is that the purpose of the drugs, namely ecstasy, is to fool your senses into thinking that you are having a good time, listening to good music and potentially going to have sex when for all objective purposes; you're not.
In fact, if there's one drug that has clearly not inspired any good music, it's ecstasy. Drugs may be the topic at hand, but this is a music blog and the music associated with this drug is so clearly terrible, so utterly bad that one wonders how long a person can take this drug and listen to the associated 'rave' music at the same time, before becoming measurably mentally inhibited.
The writers of this blog, having been to raves back in the 90s when they were supposed to be 'cool' (but they weren't), are almost certain, based on their own experience, that the reverse is the truth. The drug came along after the music, in response to having too many rave-goers say things like 'This music sucks and I can't stand it anymore!' to which this person was likely sold some ecstasy and told: 'Here, this will help.' (Such a synopsis would explain much, but still doesn't make raves or rave music any better. Suck it up and take a course in music or learn to play an instrument x-heads! Better yet, ditch the drugs and let someone else have the turntables!)
Unlike alcohol or marijuana, speed used to be legal but is unlikely to become so again in the near future. Of course, before 1980, the term 'speed' referred to prescription amphetamines like Benzedrine and other drug-brands which increased the heart-rate, gave people seemingly boundless energy, and were used to treat people with many different ailments, including nasal congestion, depression and obesity. However, the unintended state of euphoria that was induced by these drugs often created a dependency and addiction that later resulted in the medical world placing much stricter controls on their prescription and use.
Lemmy Kilmister was playing bass and singing for a psychedelic/progressive/space-rock band called Hawkwind when he was kicked out of the band for supposedly "doing the wrong drugs", mainly he'd switched from marijuana and psychedelics to amphetamines or 'speed' and this didn't fit with the rest of the band's vibe and sound. The last song that Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind was called 'Motorhead' and the lyrics of the song obviously refer to Lemmy himself as a speed user. There is, therefore, no question about this one band's drug of choice and the resulting effect on the music that they chose to play, as well as the effect that music had on other musicians.
Lemmy, of course, founded and is still the lead singer and bass-player of the band Motorhead, and Motorhead's sound, established in the mid to late 70s was, for all intents and purposes, the basis of modern heavy-metal and punk. Hundreds of bands emulated Motorhead's sound all during and through the late seventies and the entire decade of the eighties. Numerous bands, including Iron Maiden, Metallica and most of the speed metal, thrash metal and even several punk bands owed their sound to Motorhead's speed-induced driving rhythm. In fact, it could be argued that Motorhead, along with the speed that they consumed, was the main reason that Punk and Heavy Metal still sound so powerful through the decades until now.
Rather than becoming more accepted, speed is one of the drugs that is likely going to remain outside of what society deems as acceptable use. Currently, Dexedrine and other 'speed' from the 70s is highly controlled and prescribed in much smaller doses mostly for people diagnosed with very specific ailments like ADHD or narcolepsy. And with the modern, more potent version of speed, namely Crystal Meth being produced rather dangerously from a cacophony of products mixed in the basements of amateur chemists, the trustworthiness of such drugs is questionable and likely better avoided.
If there was ever a drug that did more to inspire songs that encouraged people to kick the habit rather than support the widespread use of the drug, then it's Cocaine. Cocaine has inspired hundreds if not thousands of songs, most of which suggest that it would likely be better not to do this drug. From Eric Clapton and JJ Cale's song titled simply: 'Cocaine' to Black Sabbath's 'Snowblind', there seems to be very little good to say about this drug, other than to have a 'party party party' and inspire songs which discourage its use.
David Bowie's Scary Monsters album and the song Ashes to Ashes is believed to tell his story of kicking the cocaine habit, even though its been suggested that his previous three albums were actually created and propelled by the drug and were responsible for creating his 'Thin White Duke' image. At the same time, it's well-known that Elton John was using cocaine heavily during the 70s, yet his writing reflects nothing on the subject of the drug itself (Rocketman?). Perhaps the drug was not able to have such a strong hold on Elton John's song collaborator and lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Stevie Nicks and most of the members of Fleetwood Mac have admitted to long-term cocaine addictions. Ike Turner, Sly Stone, Joe Perry and Steve Tyler from Aerosmith and the list goes on... and time and time again, we have heard about how the rock and rollers and even some of the Disco artists of the 70s have used cocaine in substantial amounts. You'd think that the 70s were the era of cocaine and that the drug must have disappeared or everyone quit during the 80s. However, that is obviously not the case. Despite creating some cool songs when it was first introduced into North America, the major difference with Cocaine back in the 70s was that it was only a problem if you happened to be Elton John... or Eric Clapton.... or David Bowie or Ozzy Osbourne. In other words, if you weren't a big-shot rock-star, or somehow making boatloads of money, then you really couldn't afford a cocaine addiction. In the 70s, coke was a rich-rockers drug and your average musicians wouldn't likely come into contact with it.
But with the invention of uncut, unrefined cocaine (AKA: crack) in the late 80s, along with the pipe that allowed someone to smoke the drug instead of snorting it, suddenly every low-class but aggressive thief could buy their way into a coke addiction with the help of a few B&Es. The musical change came in the 90s, when it was indie and underground punk and rap artists that started singing and writing songs about cocaine. Of course, that doesn't mean that your more successful musicians are no longer susceptible to the effects of this drug.
It would seem that whatever creativity may be inspired by cocaine, the output is short-lived and complete within as short a time-frame as a song might last. A quick listen to songs about cocaine inevitably seems to repeat the same message over and over in a way that doesn't seem to happen with other drug-inspired songs. It is possible that whatever creative stimulation is provided by the drug, that there is no spiritual or universally human insights gained from the use of cocaine in the same way that the psychedelics and marijuana might seem to generate. There is no aggressiveness attached as there is with speed, there is no moodiness and melancholy as suggested by emotional songs about drinking alcohol. Perhaps, despite its highly addictive nature and it's tendency to inspire paranoia, there really isn't that much to say or sing about this drug other than it gets you unbelievably high and drains your bank account at the same time. As mentioned before, if you don't have that much money in the bank, then your song either becomes very short or involves some sort of crime.
What can be said about Heroin? Well, no one currently contributing to Very Us Mumblings has ever tried the drug and to encourage someone to do so would be both unethical and criminal. Moreover, the aforementioned Lemmy Kilmister has stated that the one drug that he has avoided over the years is, indeed, Heroin and anyone who might be using Heroin. Suffice it to say: if Lemmy says a drug is too dangerous to screw with, you can feel quite justified when running away from it at full speed.
Though far less obvious from the lyrics, the song 'Dumb' by Nirvana would seem that it had to have been inspired by Heroin use. The low, drowsy-sounding tones but insistence on a state of happiness would only seem to represent the effects of the drug upon the songwriter, and Kurt Cobain was well known to have used Heroin.
Heroin often seems like a new drug to those who experiment with such things, or it may be perceived to be a "badass rocker" drug from 90s or perhaps the 70s, but it is in fact one of the oldest of synthesized drugs, made by the same company that developed Aspirin and around about the same time period. Derived directly from the opium poppy, the drug was developed way back in 1874. The name 'Heroin' is not street slang, but was actually the commercial brand name that it was sold under before the drug was discontinued in 1913 and then banned in 1924.
The original Bayer-brand 'Heroin' was marketed as an effective pain-reliever and cough-suppressant. It was originally prescribed for those suffering pneumonia, tuberculosis and whooping cough. Not only did it make patients feel better and relieve their pain and their cough, but these patients also forgot about the next several hours of their day, as well as most of the external world around them because they were feeling so euphoric and high that they didn't care. Basically Heroin had all the same effects as injecting someone with morphine, but achieved high potency with a lower dose. However, the human body is quickly desensitized to the drug and further use requires larger doses to achieve the same effect helping to create an addiction problem. At the same time, one of the main problems with the use of Heroin is that withdrawal from the drug often leads to a state of severe depression, and it's believed that it was this depression due to withdrawal which led to Kurt Cobain taking his own life back in 1994.
When it comes to drugs and their effect on music, Heroin is one that we all would be better off without. Period. No matter what other drugs may be glorified, demonized, over-prescribed or even legalized and no matter what good music may seem to have come of it, Heroin has probably taken the lives of far more artists than it could ever inspire. And while this blog may joke about the occasional joint or shot of tequila, Heroin is one drug that we sincerely hope does not affect the future of music, for its use seems invariably linked with death, death and more death and yet more death
Etcetera: Perhaps it's too soon to say what sort of effect that they will have on music, but the writers at Very Us Mumblings are fully aware that there are all sorts of other drugs on the market. Some of these drugs are legal, some aren't, and some are prescription drugs that were rushed to market because they proved only slightly more effective than a placebo. They are already affecting people's behaviour even if it has not got around to affecting our music yet. Prozac, Xanax and numerous anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills have been used for several years now, while oxycodone and other painkillers may be almost as addictive as the codeine and morphine that they were supposed to replace. And let's not forget that incredible breakthrough commonly known as Viagra that may yet have an effect on our music, culture and perhaps our progeny. So this blog reserves the right to return to this subject in the future. In the meantime we at Very Us Mumblings (disclaimer!) would like to ask you, our readers, to maintain your health of mind and body by only using legally acquired drugs that have been proven effective over a long period of both time and trial, only to treat the appropriate ailments, in the proper doses, as directed on the label or prescribed by a physician or M.D.