Drugs are part of life. They’re also part of rock ‘n’ roll, and sometimes a big part of it – as we avid rock listeners no doubt know. But this article does not discuss the fate of drug use in rock, nor the effects of alcohol or narcotics on the well-being and livelihoods of rock stars.
These are just rock songs written under the influence of such substances.
And not just any rock songs, but alternative rock songs, in particular. One can already find a lot of conjectures about drug use that played in classic rock and heavy metal. Let’s go ahead and largely exclude grunge as well, since the influence of drugs is well-honed there as well.
What about the lesser-told substance stories in rock? Did you know Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo once conducted a trippy little experiment himself and doubled the dose of drugs? Or that lo-fi titans Guided by voices would have spent most of a six-figure recording budget on beer?
And there’s more. Because, no offense to Guns N’ Roses and their ilk, not all drug rock stories are glitzy excesses and cigarette butts.
However, at Loudwire, we do not intend to glorify drug abuse or addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is now available through Addiction and Mental Health Services. To speak to someone, call 1-800-622-HELP (1-800-622-4357) or text 1-800-487-4889.
Scroll below to see if you know every junkie alternative rock song.
Weezer, ‘Hash Pipe’ (Substances: Ritalin + Tequila)
‘Weezer’ (The Green Album, 2001)
When “Hash Pipe” appeared in 2001 as Weezer’s first single in five years, some were surprised by the suggestive new content from the kings of nerd rock. The song, which portrays a Hollywood sex worker, was composed by bandleader Rivers Cuomo on a narcotic and alcoholic bender specifically for songwriting. Maybe that’s why he wanted Ozzy to sing.
Cuomo said NPR in 2009 of the process, “The first step was to take a Ritalin pill. The second step was to take three shots of tequila. The third step was to go out into the garden, sit on a chair. The fourth step was to to close your eyes and imagine the song. And that’s how I wrote ‘Hash Pipe.'”
Oasis, ‘Supersonic’ (Substance: Cocaine)
“Certainly Maybe” (1994)
Oasis liked cocaine and they liked to write songs about it. Guitarist Noel Gallagher said Britpop stars wrote many tunes in the 90s poking fun at grime. He chose 1994’s “Supersonic” as a highlight.
“I wrote songs about coke and it was complete gibberish and it was amazing,” Gallagher told the Irish Independent in 2019. “”Supersonic”, for example. Then I wrote shit like a lot of Standing on the shoulder of giants  where I had nothing to say. And I was literally trying to make the words rhyme.”
U2, ‘Crumbs From Your Table’ (Alcohol)
“How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (2004)
Who knew U2 was still in bars in 2004? Singer bono said he and guitarist The Edge wrote How to dismantle an atomic bomb‘s “Crumbs From Your Table” after a night of drinking as the sun rose.
“I’m not a late night person, but Edge is like an owl,” the singer reportedly said in 2006 U2 by U2. “He didn’t want to go to bed and we ended up picking up the guitar and singing, to our faces, one of those times when two homies don’t talk sense but they do it at the same time and then, finally, it coagulates kind of in a thought and out came this beautiful song.”
Disturbed, ‘Fire It Up’ (Cannabis)
Disturbed singer David Draiman got high on marijuana and wrote a song about his love for her, Immortalized“Fire It Up”, featuring the alternative metal act. So this one doubles as being both written on and for drugs.
“You know what? Ninety-five percent of the songs I’ve written in my life, I’ve written them while I was high,” Draiman told Loudwire in 2015. “I’ll have a very skeletal musical idea in my head, and then I turn one on, go in the shower, and let the steam build up. … It helps me relax and I can see the gaps.
Beastie Boys, ‘Fight For Your Right’ (Alcohol)
‘License to Ill’ (1986)
The Beastie Boys’ breakout anthem, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”, was intended as a parody of the drunken mob it later symbolized. Satire has been missed by many, including, one might say, its composers – the Beasties got drunk writing it.
“It was the summer of 1986, we wrote it in about five minutes,” Mike D recalled, according to Far Out Magazine. “We were at the Palladium with [producer] Rick Rubin, drinking vodka and grapefruit juice, and ‘Fight for Your Right’ was written.”
Muse, ‘Plug In Baby’ (Psilocybin Mushrooms)
“Origin of Symmetry” (2001)
In the middle of Muse’s sound bomb Origin of symmetry is a dystopian drug story. And in a quote attributed to conductor Matt Bellamy which is still debated about Muse message boardsthe singer clarified that his debut single, “Plug In Baby,” was created by the rockers while high on mushrooms.
Undoubtedly, the forked guitar figure that drives the song makes much more sense if it stems from drug-induced delirium. Bellamy would have explained“When we recorded ‘Plug In Baby’, we were completely crazy about mushrooms. There was this big field next to the recording studio, full of magic mushrooms. So we ate them all.”
Elliott Smith, ‘St. Ides Heaven’ (Methamphetamine)
‘Elliot Smith’ (1995)
TO TEAR APART Elliot Smith. Although the singer-songwriter abstained before his untimely death at 34, his catalog is full of beautiful, heartbreaking songs about drug use. And while some of the others may have more cache, “St. Ides Heaven” – certainly the only non-hip-hop song in ode to the brand of malt liquor – is one of the best.
Without irony in his voice, Smith subtly sings from a first-person perspective, “It’s alright / When I walk around here drunk every night / With an open canister of 7-Eleven… High in amphetamines.” (For more punk with your meth, see Green Day’s 1995 single “Geek Stink Breath.”)
Guided by voices, ‘A Salty Salute’ (Alcohol)
“Alien Lanes” (1995)
Basement Artists Guided by voices have a reputation for being the biggest drinkers of indie rock. It comes with the territory when you blow a record $100,000 beer lead, like the legend holds. That is why Extraterrestrial ways does it sound like that?
Well, it sounds like that because it was recorded on a 4-track cassette, and it was apparently a consequence of the beer-soaked budget. But, really, that was the whole Guided by Voices shtick. Opener “A Salty Salute” greets the other drunks at the bar: “Proud Brothers / Don’t Worry,” singer Robert Pollard blurred waves. “The bus will take you there again… The club is open.”
The Brian Jonestown Massacre, “Going to Hell” (heroine)
“Strung Out in Heaven” (1998)
It’s no secret that The Brian Jonestown Massacre conductor Anton Newcombe was plagued by heroin addiction while doing Threaded in paradise – you just have to ask The Dandy Warhols. But did that contribute to the Massacre’s seemingly singular blow to mainstream success going up in smoke?
Their 1998 album, released on the now defunct TVT Records, did little to raise the band’s profile. Yet psychedelic rockers continue to this day with Newcombe at the forefront. tenseMatt Hollywood’s musical foil is long gone. The listener can always decide if the heroine is outdated.
Superdrag, ‘She’s a Holy Grail’ (Psychedelics)
‘Head Trip in Every Key’ (1998)
SuperdragThe 1998 album is called Head Trip in every key; it opens with a song called “I’m Expanding My Mind”. So you probably already have a pretty good idea of where the heads of the band were when they did it.
And while the concept of the album is clear, Superdrag singer John Davis emphatically asserted that it was stumbling balls when he wrote the hazy deep cut “She’s a Holy Grail.”
In the distorted, drawling love song, a shimmering piano gradually goes out of tune, reflecting a drug descent. Don’t bring Superdrag downman.