“Music’s great and all that, but it’s not as good as mushrooms,” is a quote you’d be forgiven for attributing to a Woodstock-attending Homer Simpson. Instead, it’s a line from Noel Gallagher about his teenage years, during which he was far more interested in the six hour trip he got from mushrooms than the pleasure of listening to a three minute pop song.
Drugs and creativity go hand in hand. You have to be truly off your tits on something to consider synching Dark Side of the Moon up to The Wizard of Oz. Although, that creativity is on the onus of the listener – keyboardist Richard Wright claims no drugs were used in Pink Floyd by the time their most influential albums were being written.
Plenty of other bands from that era and beyond are well known for their dabbling with all kinds of substances though. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones (how the fuck is Mick Jagger still alive?) are all known for, and legendary for, their more experimental phases. The hair scene of the late ‘80s spat out bands like Guns N’ Roses, members of which have been proclaimed dead numerous times due to overdoses and alcoholic binges. Metallica made a whole movie about James Hetfield’s rehabilitation.
Is it all really necessary? Every band listed is truly iconic. You name them, H&M will have made a t-shirt of them.
I’m as close to straight edge as it comes without being 100% there. I’m a commitment phobe; every couple of months or so I’ll have a glass of red wine at some to-do just to keep me from changing my vice relationship status. One of these days I’ll settle down and commit to Irn Bru and Red Kola fully, and I feel it will be soon.
So where am I in this? The glorification of excess leaves me feeling a bit like the nerd in any American TV show. Music videos are all about pushing yourself to the edge – Metallica’s cover of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ has alcohol being poured in every second scene at some adolescent-male-fantasy house party. There has to be an alternative.
I don’t want to even type the words ‘straight edge’. I can hear the future-eye-rolls from my current-point-in-time of writing. It was a scene that became militant, holier-than-thou, and for what? The reason alcohol and drug-free representation was needed was because people like me felt that the cool kids were the ones holding red solo cups and going to extremes some people did not want to partake in. Coming along and saying “No, we’re better than you” meant the scene became equally as unpleasant.
But things are better now. There are more than a handful of modern rockers all identifying as straight edge without being pricks about it. The new lead singer of Arch Enemy, Alissa White-Gluz, is one of ’em and she is one badass motherfucker. Chad Gilbert, founder of New Found Glory, is still rocking that substance-free living. Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell of The Wonder Years, who have released some of the best albums of the last few years, writes literary genius whilst being as sober as a maths exam. Hell, wrestler-who-it’s-cool-to-like CM Punk has a Pepsi logo tattoo to emphasise his straight edge lifestyle.
And so, it bothers me that Noel Gallagher continues the stereotype of linking creativity to drug use. Music has done everything for me – saved me, changed me, and watched me grow. I don’t want it to have to come with a line of cocaine and a speedball; I want to turn the music up loud, bang my head, and feel alive without this still being a part of the conversation. Undoubtedly many of my favourite artists drink alcohol, smoke weed, whatever, and that’s fine – Mastodon quietly smoking a joint while traversing astral planes writing Crack the Skye is very different to Noel Gallagher hyping how great drugs were when he was younger.
I am all for doing whatever you please. I am not going to say “If it weren’t for drugs, we would still have so many icons with us today! Won’t someone please think of the children!?” Rather, I am fed up with the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” culture. It belongs in a bygone age when music videos involved Motley Crue throwing bills at strippers. Punk rock was about doing whatever the fuck you wanted to do, and a few years later everyone was trying to impress everyone else, trying to outdo the other.
We need new noise, sang Dennis Lyxzén, straight edge lead singer of Refused. The homogenised mentality of drugs and music going together is fuckin’ dead. The shape of punk to come will not be found in an “artist” who cares more for the substances than the substance.
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]