Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll is a modern variation of Wine, women and song. In the 20th century, particularly in Western usage, the expression "sex, drugs and rock and roll" often is used to signify essentially the same thing. The terms correspond to women, wine and song with edgier and updated vices. The term came to prominence in the sixties as rock and roll music, opulent and intensely public lifestyles, as well as libertine morals championed by hippies, came into the mainstream.
The rock and roll lifestyle was popularly associated with sex and drugs. Many of rock and roll's early stars (as well as their jazz and blues counterparts) were known as hard-drinking, hard-living characters. During the 1960s a decadent lifestyle of many stars became more publicly known, aided by the growth of the underground rock press which documented such excesses, often in exploitative fashion. Musicians had always attracted attention from the opposite sex; groupies (girls who followed musicians) spent time with and often did sexual favors for band members, appeared in the 1960s. While some rock groups eschewed such attention in favor of long-term relationships, other groups and artists did little to discourage it, and many tales (both true and exaggerated) of sexual escapades became part of rock music legacy during the heyday of the rock era. As the heyday was over rock lost a lot of its connection with sex while Rap, R&B and later on Pop have far more sexual content in there songs than rock and have also took over the idea of artists being sex symbols.
Drugs were often a big part of the rock music lifestyle. In the 1960s, psychedelic music arose; some musicians encouraged and intended listeners of psychedelic music to be under the influence of LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs as enhancements to the listening experience. Jerry Garcia of the rock band Grateful Dead said "For some people, taking LSD and going to Grateful Dead show functions like a rite of passage.... we don't have a product to sell; but we do have a mechanism that works."
The popularity and promotion of recreational drug use by musicians may have influenced use of drugs and the perception of acceptability of drug use among the youth of the period. When the Beatles, once marketed as clean-cut youths, started publicly acknowledging using Cannabis, many fans followed. Journalist Al Aronowitz wrote "...whatever the Beatles did was acceptable, especially for young people. Pretty soon everybody was smoking it, and it seemed to be all right." The relationship of rock music to the hippie and counterculture movements, which espoused use of marijuana and other drugs, is complex and intertwined, and it is not always clear in which direction influence flowed. What is clear is that by the end of the 1960s, drugs and rock music were part of a common youth scene and that both some rock musicians and some rock fans were experimenting with many types of drugs.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s however, much of the rock and roll cachet associated with drug use dissipated as rock music suffered a series of drug-related deaths, including the 27 Club member deaths of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. Although some amount of drug use remained common among rock musicians, a greater respect for the dangers of drug consumption was observed, and many anti-drug songs became part of the rock lexicon, notably "The Needle and the Damage Done" by Neil Young (1972).
Many rock musicians, including John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Steven Tyler, Scott Weiland, Ozzy Osbourne and others, have acknowledged battling addictions to many substances including cocaine and heroin; many of these have successfully undergone drug rehabilitation programs, but others have died. In the early 1980s, along with the rise of the band Minor Threat, the straight edge lifestyle became popular, especially with young adults. The straight edge philosophy of abstinence from recreational drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sex became associated with hardcore punk music through the years, and both remain popular with youth today. Many rock stars who suffered from drugs and quit or those who were close to drug abusers that died have supported rehabs and have raised awareness about the danger of drugs.
The lessons of the excesses of the earlier eras were sometimes ignored; some early punk rock was vociferous about promoting the abuse of drugs. Late 1970s acts such as The Stranglers, The Psychedelic Furs, and The Only Ones reflected their use of heroin in their lyrics in a fashion that sometimes seemed to cross over into advocacy. Later bands such as Guns N' Roses, Jane's Addiction, Primal Scream and Ministry movement of the 1980s were associated with a resurgence in abuse of heroin and other hard drugs. During the early 90s and even before so, Christian influences came into play as many Christian bands and older musicians who became born again frowned upon the rock 'n' roll life style of the 60s and 70s. More recently, it has mainly been rap and hip hop, (and a few electronica) acts which have been glamorizing and promoting drug use in songs. Although only a few current rock acts like The Libertines and Brian Jonestown Massacre have been as well. However, the lifestyle of most rock stars nowadays falls within the social norm. An example of this trend would be the formerly drug-abusing Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have since cleaned up their act. Several teenagers today look to rock as an alternative to the offensive lyrics and values of gangsta rap and hip hop.