The adage “sex, drugs and rock & roll” can best be used describe the music scene in the Seventies, an era where all genres were fueled by everything from alcohol and marijuana to cocaine and Quaaludes. The third installment of 1973: Shaping the Culture, a new video series from Rolling Stone presented by HBO’s new show Vinyl, delves into the influence – both creative and destructive – drugs had on the music scene.
“Music is affected by the drugs you take, which is completely accurate,” journalist Legs McNeil says. “When you’re taking cocaine and drinking, you’re doing something, when you’re doing heroin … There’s definitely different vibes to different music. Which is why the Grateful Dead suck so much. Wrong drugs, yeah.” Writer Fran Lebowitz adds, “We thought these things were good for you. Drugs, good for you. Like orange juice. What could be better for you than drugs?”
However, while drugs influenced the music of the Seventies, it didn’t come without a catastrophic cost as artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all passed away from drug use, and New York City’s punk scene on a whole was decimated by heroin.
“The artists of that time used everything for their palate, their palate of creativity. And drugs were part of that palate,” Can’t Find My Way Home writer Martin Torgoff says. “Look at an artist like Lou Reed: Were drugs enabling him to do what he did? He would’ve said definitely not, because I’ve discussed it with him. He said the only thing he ever got out of drugs was an addiction. But the fact is he got a lot of material out of it too. And I think that’s the case of a lot of artists.”
“Drugs don’t affect your creativity so much as when you get too much in them, they’ll take it all away,” the Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. says. “They’ll add, they’ll open certain things, but as soon as they open, they’ll also close them.”