I’m having some make out withdrawal symptoms. It’s been ten days since the last show I attended, and I’ve noticed that I’m not sleeping very well. The night before last, despite being physically exhausted, I couldn’t get to sleep without a couple of Benadryl. Last night, I filled my evening with some good clean fun – and a little of the dirty kind – and I was able to get to sleep. But I woke up so often throughout the night that I wondered if I was ever really slumbering. This got me thinking about addiction.
During one of my nocturnal catnaps, I half-wondered if my sleeplessness was related at all to the lack of live music in my life. Is it possible, I asked myself, to become so physically or psychologically dependent on the Denver music scene that I needed a fix of live music to maintain my normal circadian rhythms? Of course, though I’m not a big drinker, an injection of Denver music is usually accompanied by a couple of beers, so I started to fret about this being exacerbated by some kind of mild alcohol withdrawal issue. Frankly, this scared the hell out of me.
Of course, once I emerged from my irrational hypnagogic cocoon, I realized that I’m probably going through a minor and temporary bout of insomnia that will likely resolve itself if I don’t make too big a deal out of it. But I couldn’t shake how intimately connected music and alcohol are in my mind. And this got me thinking about some of the talented musicians I know in this town and their relationships with drugs of all sorts – alcohol, nicotine, THC, et al.
There’s always been an intimate relationship between rock-n-roll and substance abuse. Even the gruesome tales of that relationship gone sour – Bon Scott, Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin, Layne Staley – have only served to romanticize and deepen the role that drugs play in the music world.
Of course, tobacco and alcohol companies aren’t blind to the romanticism. Jack Daniels, Jägermeister, Camel and the rest of Satan’s workshop sponsor musical events, tours, and live music venues – making sure that they’ve dragged every last tortured soul into their lair of self-medication.
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Now, I’m no straight-edge moralizer, but I’m listening to Minor Threat and cracking my fourth beer as I write this, and I can’t help wondering if there’s a conspiracy at work. So many of the brilliant songwriters and musicians I know in our scene are so fucked up so often that it’s a wonder they’re able to function at all. Cigarettes are de rigueur, and beer, whiskey and pot are as much a part of preparing for a show as tuning and rehearsing.
Recently, I shared a bottle of expensive bourbon with a brilliant musician who, moments earlier, had told me he was giving up drinking. Another talented player I know got sober this year, against all odds, and has found little to no support among his scenester friends.
I don’t blame the alcohol and tobacco companies. It’s their nature to seek customers. And I don’t blame the clubs who have drug-sponsored events. It’s a difficult business, and you can only make so much at the door. But what’s going on here? I know that some of the most creative musicians I know are depressives who struggle every day, but I hate to see talented people killed – or numbed and neutered – by these blunt, imprecise nervous system hijackers.
By all means, let’s smoke, drink, rock and make out – but can we please prioritize those activities and keep our collective eyes on the prize? Above all, let’s rock. Everything else can wait. -- Eryc Eyl