Not many things in this world garner an emotional response more than drugs. Whether chemically or politically the subject certainly stirs up emotions. On one hand drugs are a potion to spiritual enlightenment and different realms of consciousness and enjoyment. On the other hand drugs can be the most devastating substance in human society. Turning people to shells of themselves and turning others into corpses. People will steel and betray for synthetic highs. However the mind altering affects can bring about beauty in the arts. The inspiration has helped shape the sound of music as evident by these songs.
- Drug Dealer – Macklemore, Feat Adriana Deboo
Somewhere along the line in North America the pharmaceutical industry thought it would be a good idea to administer and push opioids. Of course the false security of being supplied these drugs by doctors gave people the care free attitude to addiction. Abuse of these painkillers lead to many users switching to more hard core drugs such as heroin (Moghe, S 2016). Suddenly heroin addiction wasn’t just for the poor, as much of the middle class was sucked into its deadly grasp.
The song is a two pronged attack of importance. On one hand it warns of the dangers of prescription painkillers. On the other it exposes the pharmaceutical industry for trading health for wealth by freely administering harmful drugs. The song points out the irresponsibility of the music industry in their glorification of drug use.
I wanna forge a prescription, cause doctor I need some more of it
When Morphine and heroine is more viewer budget
I said I’d never use a needle, but sure, fuck it
I’m caught up, I’m on one, I’m nauseous
No options, exhausted
- Baltimore Love Thing – 50 cent
This song is a darkly depressing love ballad. 50 cents takes on the character of heroin and spills his love and devotion to his drug addicted muse to a sickly sweet backdrop. The contrast of the romantic backdrop and the grim reality of addiction, between this chemically star-crossed love affair is haunting, yet beautiful. The song gets it’s name in response to a heroin epidemic in Maryland Baltimore (Songfacts).
Girl, I’m missin’ you, come and see me soon
Tie your arm up, put that lighter under that spoon
Now put that needle to ya arm princess, stick it in
Relapse! You’re back bitch! Don’t ever try that again!
- Blinded By The Light – The Streets
This song is a grimly realistic account of a drug fuelled night out. The jittery backing instrumentals perfectly reflects the ecstasy enabled paranoia, lamented by British rapper Mike Skinner. A night of ecstasy in excess amongst the prying eyes of bouncers under a sky of disco lights. Skinner vividly sums of this experience. The beating heart, the affinity for music, tingling stomach and expertly portrays the raspy inhales of breaths.
Sure my belly’s tingling a bit, summat’s happening I’m sure.
And I’m thinkin’…
(Lights are blinding my eyes)
Maybe I shouldn’t have done the second one, I feel all fidgety and warm…
(People pushin’ by, then walkin’ off into the night)
Whoa, everything in the room is spinning, I think I’m going to fall down,
My heart’s beating too quick, I’m fucking tripping out.
- I’m Waiting For The Man – Velvet Underground
From the song title you can most likely guess what the song is about. The narrator tells a tale of a drug addict on his travels to Harlem to meet his drug dealer (Geoghegan K, 2013). Every addict knows the monotonous act of travelling and waiting for the fix which this song expresses gleefully. The song carries an oddly enchanting rhythm for what seems like a harrowing experience.
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, 125
Feeling sick and dirty, more dead than alive
I’m waiting for my man
- Golden Brown – The Stranglers
One of the gems of the 80s, Golden Brown is a transportive piece of musical beauty. A half celebration of the synthetic beauty of heroin and half a celebration of the natural beauty of a lady love. The instrumentals are a golden treacle of psychedelic sound that hypnotise the ears.
Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my might she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown
This song perfectly accompanied the film – Snatch:
- Heroin – Velvet Underground
A powerfully charged song about the experience of taking heroin. The rush, the deathly feeling and the escape from the intricacies of life’s problems. The sensible among us may never dare to take such a soul sucking pharmaceutical. However the allure of the unknown is always there and this song gives a glimpse into the mystical unknown.
Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don’t care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
And everybody putting everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds
- White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
This song was very much reflective of the San Francisco hippie vibe of the 60’s. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s tales of Alice in wonderland, it is expectantly entrancing in its psychedelic melodies. The song deliciously encompasses the era’s love for mind bending psychedelics.
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall
- The Needle And The Damage Done – Neil Young
A grim and gorgeous song about the horrors of heroin. Neil young describes the all to real experience of losing friends to addiction. Young was witness to the sex drugs and rock and roll scene of the 70s. This drug laden decade took the lives of some of the greatest musicians to ever live including; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison (Rolling Stone 2016). This short yet powerful song brings this experience to life, from the perspective of an industry witness.
I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun
- Needle of Death – Bert Jansch
Needle of death is a thing of beauty. However, as the name would suggest it exposes the grim reality of addiction. As opposed to many other songs about heroin this steers well clear of glorification. Even though the reasons are given for the addiction, the song prefers to focus on the deterioration of the soul rather than the thrill of the buzz. Of losing everything, family, friends, dreams and life.
Your troubled young life
Had made you turn
To a needle of death
One grain of pure white snow
Dissolved in blood spread quickly to your brain
In peace your mind withdraws
Your death’s so near your soul can’t feel no pain
- Perfect Day – Lou Reed
Perhaps the greatest drug song of all time featured in perhaps the greatest drug based film of all time – Trainspotting. The beautifully grey melody and harsh vocals of Lou reed perfectly encompass the harsh brutality and beauty of heroin. The funeral esc backdrop conflicts with the obliterative effects of heroin and its ability to cleanse the mind. The lyrics haunt you like the impending come down, warning of the fleeting nature of the high and the horrors of the hangover lurking in the background.
The seen in Trainspotting perfectly reflects this also. The beauty of the experience even close to death. Gladly sinking into the dangers of the abyss.
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else