Drugs are a horribly destructive force. They drain bank accounts and ruin families and lives. They destabilize governments, encourage organized crime, and also gave lots of fuel to that annoying guy in your dorm room who kept thinking he was saying profound philosophical things but was really just being a jackass.
But we will say this: musicians generally tend to work better when they’re high. Don’t believe us? Look what happened when these five legends quit using the hard stuff…
1. Elton John
Pre-Sobriety: “Rocket Man”, “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Bitch Is Back,” “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”
Post-Sobriety: “The Lion King” soundtrack, “Candle In The Wind” turned into a shameless cry for attention after Lady Di bought it, kissing Eminem.
It’s not cool to admit you listen to Elton John, but, for about twenty years, Elton John did two things extremely well: snort cocaine and put out some of the greatest singles of the ’70s. It did terrible things to his health and his fashion sense, but musically, it’s miraculous in of itself that he put out so many awesome songs in a decade famous for disco and prog rock.
Then he stopped doing drugs, and things seemed OK at first: “I’m Still Standing,” and “Crocodile Rock” were both pretty great. But then, things rapidly went to hell. He went from being a musician that you weren’t ashamed to have on your iPod to putting out music even adult contemporary stations would alphabetize under “P” for pussy. Has he put out an album even your mom has cared about since Diana hit the wall?
So…for his own good…start back up with the coke, Sir Elton. What’s the worst that could happen, aside from making music people can stand again?
Pre-Sobriety: “Walk this Way,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Big Ten-Inch Record,” “Dream On”
Post-Sobriety: We’re pretty sure their last five albums are the same album, just in a different package.
Also one has a harmonica that comes with it.
Aerosmith is one of the greatest bands ever, if for no other reason than they covered a song that was basically a three-minute long dick joke and turned it into a mainstream hit. They pretty much created hard rock and sold millions of albums. Then…well…then the drugs kind of screwed them up.
That said, and as bad as it got for them, at this point, they probably need drugs if for no other reason than to make any of their songs sound different from the others. True, living in the past has made them offensively rich as fifty-year-olds shell out triple figures for nosebleed tickets. On the other hand, when Nickelback steals your bit, only they’re crappy, and stay more culturally relevant, there’s a real problem.
Also, it would be a gentle mercy to Steven Tyler. How do you be a judge on American Idol without being stoned out of your mind? Especially when an episode is dedicated to strip-mining your back catalogue?
3. Motley Crue
Pre-Sobriety: “Dr. Feelgood,” “Shout At the Devil,” “Smokin’ In the Boys Room,” “Girls Girls Girls”
Post-Sobriety: Ummmmm…Tommy Lee and Vince Neil both released sex tapes?
We’ll make a special exception for Nikki Sixx: considering his drug experiences, we’ll let him off the hook. Once you do enough heroin to stop your heart, get revived, and keep doing heroin, your sobriety is too hard-won to let go. But the rest of the band, not so much. No, Tommy Lee, not even your hepatitis is an excuse.
They’ve actually been fairly successful since they reunited in 2004, at least on the Mainstream Rock charts…which is a bit like saying every time they play a state fair they sell it out. But just compare any of their hits from the recent past to any of their ’80s successes, and you’ll notice they’re…kind of awful.
We guess it’s hard to sing about the rock n’ roll lifestyle when you have to concern yourself with sticking to your doctor recommended aspirin regimen and eating enough fiber to keep yourself regular, but still, come on guys. Bring back the ’80s excess.
4. Paul McCartney
Pre-Sobriety: “Back In The USSR,” “Get Back,” “Helter Skelter,” “Paperback Writer,” “Live and Let Die”
Post-Sobriety: “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” all the sugary crap the Beatles produced before they discovered acid, Wings, Linda McCartney allowed near a microphone
Granted, Paul was always the wuss of the Beatles, but he and Lennon made a great team: Lennon cut down the sugar, while Paul cut down Lennon’s self-righteous whining. When Paul was allowed to write on his own, we got songs like “Yesterday,” which is the single most covered song of all time and probably one of the worst songs the Beatles ever put out.
Once they split up, Lennon became the kind of hippie everybody wants to punch in the face, only with a billion dollars, which makes “Imagine” the biggest passive-aggressive douche move of all time.
McCartney became…well…famous for being that Beatle who puts out albums everybody buys but nobody listens to.
Still, there’s definitely a slide that becomes more pronounced over time. Partially that’s because he apparently is unable to marry a woman who isn’t completely insane, we’re guessing, and also that Wings sucked, but we’ve also got to chalk that up to his taking drugs, because he did turn out a few songs worth listening to while Lennon was off smelling his own farts.
Pre-Sobriety: The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP
Post-Sobriety: Relapse, Recovery
Part of Eminem’s appeal is that as a human being, he’s a goddamn train wreck. Fighting with his mother, writing songs about wanting to murder his ex, mocking the Insane Clown Posse…this is why we listen to him. Not to hear him whine about how much his life sucks.
Part of the problem is that his drug habit is incredibly wussy. Snoop allegedly drops $1000 a day on weed, many rappers are rumored to smoke crack, and Eminem is addicted to…prescription drugs. Yes, it’s a serious problem…but Eminem does the same drugs as that guy selling you insurance and the housewife in front of you in Taco Bell. It’s not even white trash, and hearing him whine about it makes it even wimpier. He might as well have just titled his last few albums White People Problems.
On the other hand, anything off of “Recovery” is still better than the entirety of 50 Cent’s catalog, so there’s that.