Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll: These three things that have co-existed in the world of rock music since the days of the hard-living jazz and blues pioneers. The counter-culture revolution of the 1960s spawned some of the most popular rock bands and musicians of all-time, and drugs were a prevalent theme in much of the music produced during this time. In the decades since, popular music has continued to reflect the ever-changing drug culture. Here is a list of 15 of the most popular drug-inspired rock songs of the past few decades.
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, 1967.
White Rabbit captured the free spirit of the 1960s, in which drugs were considered vessels to a deeper understanding of the world around us. The song alludes to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland as an escape through drugs, specifically acid.
Notable lyric: "One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small."
Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, 1967.
Rolling Stone named it the #2 greatest guitar song of all time, and common speculation says that the song chronicles Hendrix's use of marijuana and LSD. Interestingly, although a well-known drug user, Hendrix denied the interpretation, claiming he wrote it about a dream in which he was walking under the sea.
Notable lyric: "Purple haze, all around. Don't know if I'm comin' up or down."
Heroin by Velvet Underground, 1967.
Velvet Underground had a well-known tendency to explore the seedier aspects of society, and made no attempt to mask the subject of their 1967 hit Heroin, which detailed the power and numbness associated with the using the drug.
Notable lyric: "Cause when the smack begins to flow, then I really don't care anymore."
Jumpin' Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, 1968.
Guitarist Keith Richards and the rest of the Stones were no strangers to the drug scene. Jumpin' Jack Flash is a reference to heroin use, and, according to front-man Mick Jagger, "a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things."
Notable lyric: "I'm jumpin' jack flash, it's a gas! gas! gas!"
The Pusher by Steppenwolf, 1968.
Featured in the late 1960's landmark drug film Easy Rider, Steppenwolf's hit depicts the "pusher," or drug dealer, as a criminal after nothing but the money.
Notable lyric: "Oh, but the pusher is a monster. Good God, he's not a natural man."
Fire and Rain by James Taylor, 1969.
Written in part from drug rehab at age 20, Fire and Rain portrays Taylor's personal highs and lows, including his recovery from a heroin addiction.
Notable lyric: "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend..."
Casey Jones by The Grateful Dead , 1970.
While based loosely on a character featured in the 1902 Ballad of Casey Jones, band front-man Jerry Garcia cites a different interpretation: "I always thought it's a pretty good musical picture of what cocaine is like."
Notable lyric: "Driving that train, high on cocaine."
That Smell by Lynrd Skynrd, 1977.
After guitarist Gary Rossington was involved in an accident under the influence of drugs and alcohol, band members wrote That Smell to express the dangers of the descent into drugs.
Notable lyric: "There's too much coke...and there's too much smoke."
Hotel California by The Eagles, 1977.
Don Henley called it "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles." While the song carries with it a wide range of interpretations, there are noticeable drug references sprinkled throughout.
Notable lyric: "Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air..."
Running to Stand Still by U2, 1987.
Off the band's popular Joshua Tree album, this song paints a picture of the heroin epidemic that swept through the poverty-stricken flats of Dublin, specifically the Ballymun Flats area, during the 1980s.
Notable lyric: "Suffer the needle chill, She's running to stand still."
Mr. Brownstone by Guns n' Roses, 1987.
Singer Axl Rose preaches the power of heroin over an addict, and in particular the experiences of the band members as they made their start on Hollywood Boulevard. Off the mega-popular 80's rock albumAppetite for Destruction.
Notable lyric: "I used to do a little, but the little wouldn't do, so the little got more and more."
Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1992.
Lead singer Anthony Kiedis openly admits his battle with heroin, and Under the Bridge chronicles his struggles as a drug addict in Los Angeles.
Notable lyric: "Under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood."
Morning Glory by Oasis, 1995.
Morning Glory tackles the subject of a powerful cocaine addiction and its ramifications on the user. According to songwriter and singer Noel Gallagher, he originally titled the song Blue.
Notable lyric: "All your dreams are made, when you're chained to (your) mirror with (your) razor blade."
Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind, 1997.
Despite its catchy and breezy sound, Semi-Charmed Life personifies a drug user's decent into the world of crystal meth. Band member Stephen Jackson likened the song's "bright and shiny" guitar riff to the feeling of taking speed.
Notable lyric: "Smiling in the pictures you would take, doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break."
Black Balloon by The Goo Goo Dolls, 1998.
Black Balloon characterizes a girl dying from a heroin addiction, and the lover trying to save her. Some speculate that bassist Robby Takac's wife was the inspiration for the song, but this remains unconfirmed.
Notable lyric: "Baby's black balloon makes her fly. I almost fell into that hole in your life."
Sep 15, 2011
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