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Monday, July 23, 2007

An Uncomfortable Truth and an Unanswered Question

A couple of weeks ago I read the Anthony Keidis biography titled Scar Tissue. For any of you who haven't read it yet, I encourage you to do so, as it traces Anthony's anything but ordinary childhood and adolescence up through to his life right now. I found it very interesting, especially his intimate involvement in the organically grown LA punk scene of the late 70's.

I had been aware for a long time that Anthony had had "some" involvement with heroin, and I certainly knew that the Chili Peppers original guitarist Hillel Slovak had died from an overdose. My impression had always been that he had experimented or dabbled a bit like so many other artistic/performing personalities. What I was not prepared for was to discover the length, breadth and intensity of his drug problems. I won't go into all the details of his chemical romance, but let's just say, HOW THE HELL IS THIS GUY STILL ALIVE?

It turns out Anthony has been a hard core addict for the majority of his life. He has apparently been clean for the last seven years, but for most of the 80's and 90's, you'd have had a better chance of finding him with a needle in his arm than a microphone is his hand. Fortunately for the world he's got the constitution of Rasputin, just like Iggy Pop. Drugs seem to have had little physical long term impact on them. Few have been so fortunate.

For the longest time I had a naive belief that the punks, new wavers and alternative bands that I have come to love and admire were far less drugged than the corporate, hard rock dinosaurs they had sent to cultural extinction. I seem to remember reading or hearing back in the late 70's that the punks didn't do hard drugs, that's what all those old bands did. Maybe a line of coke at a party, or an upper offered by a groupie, that's pretty tame, right? And of course a bit of drinking, because that's legal anyway, but after all, it's rock and roll, right? We didn't expect our proto-heroes to be the Osmonds, right? After all, being alternative meant you didn't do all that stupid stuff, because you were smarter and cooler. Ha ha.

Well it turns out that many of my music heroes are/were a serious bunch of dope heads. Dee Dee Ramone? Major druggie. Iggy Pop? big league dopie. Kurt Cobain? Heroin victim. Anthony Keidis? heroin, cocaine, uppers, downers, pot, alcohol, anything available, all the time, for 30 years. This is a potentially long list, but it is safe to say that it would be easier to list the bands and artists who never had or developed some problem with drugs. It turned out the punk and alternative circles could be just as debaucherous and destructive as the classic rock scene, and all too often were. At least the haircuts were better.

I clung to this naivete for far too long. Only after reading Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, We Got the Neutron Bomb and now Scar Tissue was I no longer able to ignore what had been obvious. I guess I new the truth long before but wasn't comfortable facing it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I, Stiffy Biceptz has never so much as even tried any drug, other than alcohol. I liked feeling that I had more in common with these folks. Apparently not as much as I would have liked. I guess I have little connection at all other than liking the music. I'm looking more Osmond all the time and I don't like it.

And the more you look, the more it seems like everyone involved in the performing arts has had some brush with substance abuse issues. The old blues masters drank sterno and other god forsaken liquids. Event the great composers of the previous centuries were smoking or snorting or drinking something exotic. Hollywood? Same old pattern.

So why should this be?

Part I of II


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