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Thread: Why Do Musicians Take Drugs and Drink to Excess?

  1. #1
    Member BobM's Avatar
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    Why Do Musicians Take Drugs and Drink to Excess?

    Aside from the "creativity" theory, or the "excessive idle time" theory, or the "peer pressure" theory, or the "I'm playing in a bar all the time" theory, I think it's possible that the following could be true too.

    I think it is pretty simple. You work your ass off trying to be good, and innovative, and popular. Somehow you get a lucky break and you make it to the big time. Maybe you sell one big album, sometimes two, then your efforts are looked at as compromised because you are repeating your successful formula and not coming up with anything new. Or if you do go a different direction you lose the fans that made you into a star. Your producer is probably to blame for making you do what he says, but you take the personal hit.

    Then you are stuck playing free concerts at local community bandshells for the next 20-30 years, repeating the few songs that made you popular for an aging audience, in exactly the way they were recorded, because to play them any other way ostracizes the audience when they can't sing along.

    Playing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" for the 5,000 time, in exactly the same way each time would make me take drugs too.
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  2. #2
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Obviously, there's not one right answer.

    Sometimes it can be a lifestyle choice, "because they can", and perhaps because the lifestyle of a "rock star" is what appealed to that person growing up.

    Other times it can be for exactly why many people take drugs and drink - to escape and/or to cope.

    And the "excess" can often be attributed to - because they are addicted/hooked.
    WANTED: Sig-worthy quote.

  3. #3
    It's a lifestyle in many cases. You start off playing in bars till 2 in the morning, and you drink. And then you party after the bar closes. And then you wake up in the afternoon of the next day and start all over. You snort coke or take speed to keep an edge. You do downers to take the edge off. Repeat cycle daily. Simplistic, but that's one way of looking at it, and I've seen it happen.

    Or you can look at it from a psychological angle. How many artists, and not just rock stars, burned bright but burnt out quickly? And so many depressives and introverts striving through music to be heard. Hell, Nick Drake eventually was unable to even play on a stage. Or the extroverts that went off the deep end and never came back like Jim Morrison or Keith Moon. Or musicians like Peter Green and Syd Barrett who had psychological issues that were magnified by drug use.

    But the truth is, the majority of the "I'm forced to play at county fair band-shells and bowling alleys after playing in football stadiums" type of musician whose been around for 30-40 years has already beaten drug dependency. You're usually dead by then if you haven't stopped. And if you're wealthy enough, like David Crosby, you just buy a new liver.
    "And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."

    Occasional musical musings on https://darkelffile.blogspot.com/

  4. #4
    Why does anyone? Celebrities are just in the spotlight more so you hear about it.

    The lack of structure around being an artist tends to give people a little more freedom, but it isn't any different than your average college student. For every one that gets hooked, 10 tried it and turned out fine because they were able to put it in perspective. Celebrities are the same way.

  5. #5
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    I'm sure lots of artists don't use to excess and have learned to moderate their use. Not everyone follows the career trajectory the OP describes.

  6. #6
    Member StevegSr's Avatar
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    It's either an occupational hazard or a job perc, depending on the outcome.
    To be or not to be? That is the point. - Harry Nilsson.

  7. #7
    Sometimes the occasional drinking is a celebration over accomplishing the next step. So...a toast to our success. Some musicians are in "la la land" and the drinking escalates. And with all that discipline you applied to build up your skill ...it just goes right out the flippin door with drugs and drink. In my experiences ...musicians I traveled with on buses actually believed in this fantasy of everything being so completely different in life when they reached the top....or when they reached the corporate level...which doesn't make you as big as sliced bread, but you're working alongside famous people and you are in that circle. You're eating dinner with the band and the staff and in walks this comedian you've seen on T.V many times and he/she walks over to your table to say hello or even sit and eat with you....and you get all excited and think..."Wow, I am on the top" Now...this is the way you feel when you are young and in that circle and then you start seeing celebrities around you and it takes quite a while to get used to it. It's not like being age 40 and in walks Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman and you are feeling only half excited or might even recite "whoopy du" in your mind for your jaded soul. After about a year of this environment you start to realize that your life is still the same.


    People around you are giving you gifts, offering you drugs, and stroking your ego..taking pics of you, interviewing you, and you are important..but your life didn't change. You are still depressed about your personal issues and unhappy over personal disappointment. And that's when my friends began drinking and taking drugs on the road . They were letdown because they spent the whole of their life convincing themselves what it was going to be like and found out that it wasn't that different. That's how I ended up witnessing them commit suicide ..because of their unhappiness. Chewing gum has flavor when you put it in your mouth. Eventually it loses that flavor becoming like a bit of mulch. When that happens, that's nature's way of saying bite the big one. When you eat a fantastic meal....later there is always an end product. Well...when that happens , that's nature's way of saying F-you. And that's just life. Got to get used to disappointment before you become successful in music ...otherwise you'll never feel happy within yourself and it will be next to impossible for you to enjoy any happiness that success CAN give you. That is why my musician friends did themselves in. Very sad and I still feel responsible for their deaths. I lost three good friends on the road because of this garbage. They treated their life like garbage because of unfulfilled expectations and towering high ideals. I wish I could have helped them. I wish I could have taken the responsibility of putting an end to their drugs and drinking. Instead I just sat there in my little esoteric world listening to Univers Zero on the bus...instead of reaching out to help someone.
    Last edited by Enid; 08-02-2016 at 01:36 PM.

  8. #8
    because they can never match the talent that is Blue Vino...
    "Alienated-so alien I go!"

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Rune Blackwings View Post
    because they can never match the talent that is Blue Vino...
    It went right over my head..lol!

  10. #10
    It's ridiculously ridiculous...but sometimes I tear up over the memory of that. Reason being that they had their whole life ahead of them. Great, solid, skilled, diverse players with personal issues. Being successful in music isn't just going to wipe away your personal issues. I assume because they were young they felt this way. The memory of that just makes me sad..now that I am old and realize that I should have helped them. But in the real world the music business experiences are like that. You are left with feelings of helplessness and dark sadness. Remembering their stories on the bus and having laughs with them. Then one day they are gone. I wonder how Chrissy Hynde felt .......if she had that reaction later in life. Her guitarist and bassist were very young .

    Behind the scenes is always a sad life

  11. #11
    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enid View Post
    After about a year of this environment you start to realize that your life is still the same. People around you are giving you gifts, offering you drugs, and stroking your ego..taking pics of you, interviewing you, and you are important..but your life didn't change. You are still depressed about your personal issues and unhappy over personal disappointment. And that's when my friends began drinking and taking drugs on the road . They were letdown because they spent the whole of their life convincing themselves what it was going to be like and found out that it wasn't that different.
    How long can you stand
    Tightening up
    Avoiding the fight
    Avoiding the truth
    Tighten the smile
    Tighten the lie
    Will you get what you want
    To be cursed with your dreams
    I hope for your sake
    Something gets in the way

    How long can you stand
    Living under the lens
    The kiss of success
    The ensuing, all consuming, mess

    Message of love
    They arrive everyday
    People you touch
    Wasting away
    People you don't know
    Give you no choice

    And you're sick to your stomach
    At the sound of your voice
    And the shape of your face
    And the sound of your name
    They send you pictures of yourself
    It's someone you don't know
    And they call you a genius
    Cause you're easier to sell
    But the fire in your belly
    That gave you the songs
    Is suddenly gone
    And you feel like a fake
    Is that what you want?
    I hope for your sake
    You've got what it takes
    You've got what it takes
    To be spoilt to death.
    "If you want to see the true nature of humanity, just look at the internet."

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  12. #12
    Bruce Berry was a working man
    He used to load that Econoline van.
    A sparkle was in his eye
    But his life was in his hands.

    Well, late at night
    when the people were gone
    He used to pick up my guitar
    And sing a song in a shaky voice
    That was real as the day was long.

    Tonight's the night, yes it is,
    tonight's the night
    Tonight's the night, yes it is,
    tonight's the night.

    Early in the mornin'
    at the break of day
    He used to sleep
    until the afternoon.
    If you never heard him sing
    I guess you won't too soon.

    'Cause people let me tell you
    It sent a chill
    up and down my spine
    When I picked up the telephone
    And heard that he'd died
    out on the mainline.
    "And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."

    Occasional musical musings on https://darkelffile.blogspot.com/

  13. #13
    They do it for the same reason the non-musicians do: because it's the only way anyone can cope with being treated like total dren by 90% of the figments of a deranged imagination one meets on any given day.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    Then you are stuck playing free concerts at local community bandshells for the next 20-30 years, repeating the few songs that made you popular for an aging audience, in exactly the way they were recorded, because to play them any other way ostracizes the audience when they can't sing along.

    Playing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" for the 5,000 time, in exactly the same way each time would make me take drugs too.
    Well, apart from the fact that, as far as I know, Tony Orlando stopped doing cocaine back in the 70's (when he was still more or less popular), your argument doesn't take into account all the musicians who didn't get to "play (insert title of classic song) 5,000 times". I mean, what about Tommy Bolin?! You're going to tell me having to play Smoke On The Water and Highway Star for a single tour pushed him over the edge?!

    And what about the musicians who didn't play the songs exactly the same as the record, who still did drugs? I mean, what about Jerry Garcia? Or Keith Richards? Or Rory Gallagher?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    They do it for the same reason the non-musicians do: because it's the only way anyone can cope with being treated like total dren by 90% of the figments of a deranged imagination one meets on any given day.
    lol! true

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    I'm sure lots of artists don't use to excess and have learned to moderate their use. Not everyone follows the career trajectory the OP describes.
    And that's because they are smart enough to know that it will, (over time), destroy their ability to play an instrument with preciseness and furthermore crumble the aggressive and polished technique they present on the instrument. Forget it...they are opposites with the exception of certain individuals that can naturally tolerate it....however, if they don't stop taking drugs ..eventually their playing ability will decrease and by being tolerant decrease over time.

  17. #17
    Oh No! Bass Solo! klothos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    Why Do Musicians Take Drugs and Drink to Excess?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    Aside from the "creativity" theory, or the "excessive idle time" theory, or the "peer pressure" theory, or the "I'm playing in a bar all the time" theory, I think it's possible that the following could be true too.

    I think it is pretty simple. You work your ass off trying to be good, and innovative, and popular. Somehow you get a lucky break and you make it to the big time. Maybe you sell one big album, sometimes two, then your efforts are looked at as compromised because you are repeating your successful formula and not coming up with anything new. Or if you do go a different direction you lose the fans that made you into a star. Your producer is probably to blame for making you do what he says, but you take the personal hit.

    Then you are stuck playing free concerts at local community bandshells for the next 20-30 years, repeating the few songs that made you popular for an aging audience, in exactly the way they were recorded, because to play them any other way ostracizes the audience when they can't sing along.

    Playing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" for the 5,000 time, in exactly the same way each time would make me take drugs too.

    the answer really is: they all don't.....the ones that don't do nothing for the media; the ones that do are a goldmine of media fodder.....its also a career that allows the individual to never completely grow-up.....and for us not-famous folks: Its the only job I can think of that I'm allowed to drink while at work (at least for those gigs that allow it)

  18. #18
    It pushes musicians over the edge being in the position to repeat the same songs over and over on a world tour. It's just a fact and a very logical one..but the music business associates itself with other businesses. The drug business, prostitution, organized crime. The idea of a musician doing drugs, sleeping with groupies, and playing Rock n' Roll is moronic. The perception of society , (in many generations), assuming that this all HAS to be connected to musicians of every kind is moronic. They are completely , nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand totally dismissive of the years of devotion, practice, and discipline that goes into mastering an instrument and that's moronic. They turn their backs on ART by assuming that musicians shouldn't marry into their families unless they find another career. An abundance of Rock musicians, Jazz musicians, Folk musicians and Blues musicians over decades have indulged in drugs and sexual promiscuity , giving the role of a musician in general to society as being a rebellious and dangerous character. I get a laugh out of Spinal Tap and Rob Reiner did a good job..but I think that what is truly moronic would be how that commercial image was completely cemented into a huge population of people's minds to be the truth.

    As such that is brought on as a judgment. From my perspective, I didn't create that world and that is not my world to live in...and additionally it is humanly possible for a skilled musician to travel the road for 30 years and try drugs only once or not at all. Society is so extreme that it's comfortably assumed that this stupid lifestyle is engaged by every musician. That's an insult within itself that comes from a easily accepted "back in the woods" attitude due to conditioning through upbringing. Kids who are raised in an environment to completely trust the news media and believe that what is ever posted on a plastic billboard is honesty. The child becomes conditioned to believe that every time he/she sees a musician they think of drugs or sex and that becomes the flippin' end of the concept which COULD be honestly observed from many other points & views...but because their parents denied them the opportunity to giving the subject more thought because of THEIR selfish point of view, these kids will grow up raising their children to believe the same. That's how the abundance of generations built the on going theory...which is only half true. It's just total disrespect.

  19. #19
    Geriatric Anomaly progeezer's Avatar
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    The number of bands over the years that have imploded because of different alcohol & drug proclivities between the members is I would guess in the thousands.

    I've been in Madison since 1971, and before that was always an east coast guy (NYC & then Maine). The reason I first came here was related directly to the above sentence.

    I was in a cover band in Maine, and the drummer was from Madison. The band were not angels. Weed & psychedelics were used abundantly.

    When the guitarist started using heroin, the drummer (still a close friend to this day & a trauma doc in LA) came to me and told me he was quitting the band the next day & going back to Madison and did I want to come with him & start a band here. I had no responsibilities to keep me in Maine & said, "what the hell, why not, since I'm sure as f**k not going keep playing with ------".

    So here I am 45 years later, with 5 kids, 3 grand-kids and still singing.

    YMM definitely V, but for me, there is cannabis (benign), and then there is alcohol and the myriad of all the other drugs (easily malignant if not careful).
    "My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician, and to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference"

    President Harry S. Truman

  20. #20
    I remember in the early 70's listening to Gentle Giant's Octopus and getting this reaction from people....."Do people that write this kind of music...are they on drugs?" "Are they on drugs?" or....."This is really weird" Yeah right, it's soooo weird ....you know?, "Counterpoint"...that's really weird. I asked them..."Well...do you think you could take hard drugs and play Counterpoint?" "Do you think you could take Acid every week or take or sleeping pills and stay precise and in time with the members of Gentle Giant?" All I would get was the "deer in the headlight" look. Another one....."That Frank Zappa guy, look at his picture!" "Are you going to try and tell me that he is not on drugs?" I replied: "Yes ..I am actually going to tell you that he is not on drugs" ......."Because he isn't" "And he has fired several musicians for that reason" "He has a track record for that ...so go check it out." C'mon...what are we talking about here? There are thousands of Classical musicians that never took drugs and there are many Progressive Rock musicians who refused to take drugs..so that theory is only half true. People who shoved this theory in my face for decades ...I just had to stop talking to them or nod my head and say..."Oh yeah, you are right, ...that's right...all musicians are stoners" and just walk away with disinterest.

    Then I had the other side of the fence to deal with: "Well...what's so bad about doing drugs?" "Chill out and try it...you might like it" This is called "Ignorant Stupidity". Ignorant stupidity is defined by ignoring the evidence. Something that is very obvious and a real fact is dismissed in favor of some bogus theory that revolves around a huge population of musicians making a stupid mistake and taking drugs. But in the meantime..people who assume this have no idea about the complexity of music and the devotion it requires to play it accurately. Where do drugs fall into place with that? Drugs work against that in the long run. It doesn't make a bit of sense. "Here..take these downers and hit the stage to play the Birds Of Fire album. Yeah right...and my mother was a werewolf. It's moronic in many aspects. It never works out from any angle. A musician in the 70's takes speed before going on stage to play "Close To The Edge", then he runs out of his supply on Friday night but still has to perform it on Saturday. The come down is like going straight to Hell and now he's on stage playing "Close To The Edge" and he is just awful. He can't play the parts accurately, he's making mistakes all over the place, he's not getting any signals from the band, he doesn't remember where the breaks are, ....drugs? really??? His position is moronic.

  21. #21
    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enid View Post

    As such that is brought on as a judgment. From my perspective, I didn't create that world and that is not my world to live in...and additionally it is humanly possible for a skilled musician to travel the road for 30 years and try drugs only once or not at all. Society is so extreme that it's comfortably assumed that this stupid lifestyle is engaged by every musician. That's an insult within itself that comes from a easily accepted "back in the woods" attitude due to conditioning through upbringing. Kids who are raised in an environment to completely trust the news media and believe that what is ever posted on a plastic billboard is honesty. The child becomes conditioned to believe that every time he/she sees a musician they think of drugs or sex and that becomes the flippin' end of the concept which COULD be honestly observed from many other points & views...but because their parents denied them the opportunity to giving the subject more thought because of THEIR selfish point of view, these kids will grow up raising their children to believe the same. That's how the abundance of generations built the on going theory...which is only half true. It's just total disrespect.

    Fwiw, I don't think society looks down on the Rock musician. I think the life of the Rock Star is still generally envied as a hedonistic ideal. Not by everyone, but there isn't a single thing that everyone agrees on anyway. In fact "Rock Star" has become a catch phrase for any person who becomes a celebrity and achieves notoriety in their given field, so I think it's still generally held up as a positive thing.
    "If you want to see the true nature of humanity, just look at the internet."

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  22. #22
    Member Rick Robson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enid View Post
    ... There are thousands of Classical musicians that never took drugs ...
    The Classical musicians submitted themselves to hard music training, what is just impossible to a drug addicted.
    "Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth. ". Ludwig van Beethoven

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by moecurlythanu View Post
    Fwiw, I don't think society looks down on the Rock musician. I think the life of the Rock Star is still generally envied as a hedonistic ideal. Not by everyone, but there isn't a single thing that everyone agrees on anyway. In fact "Rock Star" has become a catch phrase for any person who becomes a celebrity and achieves notoriety in their given field, so I think it's still generally held up as a positive thing.
    I believe that can be true...but not in my case. I figure...I traveled for 30 some years and met only a few people with that attitude. Most "upper middle class" people and the "wealthy" seemed to have the same ideology about life. Life had value if you came out of the right vagina. If you had a music career, that appeared to be counter productive to the concept. If you were a musician with wealthy parents...then you had a chance of being accepted .

  24. #24
    Occipital Provocatee Plasmatopia's Avatar
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    So what about the guy (or gal) turning a screwdriver day in and day out as part of their job building the same item over and over mindlessly...do they get a free pass on drug use because they're tired of doing the same thing?

    Sorry, but I've never had much sympathy for the "I refuse to play Mustang Sally ever again" crowd (and that's a pretty big crowd). At least you have a choice and/or a job. Yeah, life is tough, lol.
    Just sitting at home rocking back and forth and jealously caressing my invisible collection of theoretical assets.

  25. #25
    A walk down memory lane: A club owner asks the band to step into his office after the show. The fact that everyone in the band was young and curious as to what he wanted made my skin crawl. The fact that he knew we were young and nave made my skin crawl. We are seated and he sits behind his desk putting out 6 long lines of powdered "Crank" , (some kind of street term), and offer's us the drug for free. "Here, this is for you guys for doing such a great job"...he says. I turned it down which people reacted to that as if I brought Satan into a church full of Christians and that's no F-en lie...The nerve of these people is beyond me. Again this was that immediate assumption of my M.O. I never refused to play "Mustang Sally" ...just "Free Bird'..but nevertheless..I would play anything to make decent money back then. It was the drugs that disturbed me and I was treated like a freak because I didn't want to take them. I mean...have I missed something? Does being a musician come with a book of instructions? Is their a chapter on drug consumption? Is it a requirement? You might think so after what I've observed. Excuse me but I think that's the most ignorant thing I've ever heard and I really don't care if it's cemented into society or a "so called" way of life and I'm suppose to get used to it....it's just complete garbage. It has nothing to do with being a good player. It's just a distraction and amounts to nothing.

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