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Top Five songs about addiction

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A continuing series. In no particular order, man.

Warren Zevon, Carmelita

The Kills, Monkey 23

Curtis Mayfield, Freddie’s Dead

Neil Young, Tonight’s the Night

Velvet Underground, Heroin

 

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  • Jordan

    most of the good ones have been called out already.

    for psych drugs: “bleed american” – jimmy eat world.

    for cough syrup: basically any dj screw.

    • Jordan

      oh also “the drugs don’t work” by the verve. Although that one is kinda sappy.

      • calling all toasters

        “The Drugs Don’t Work” is about Richard Ashcroft’s father dying of cancer. Sorry it’s not cool, but lots of people find it incredibly moving.

        • Ronan

          Really? ive misunderstood that for years.

        • Jordan

          really? well shit.

          I still like that song a bunch, but thanks for the correction.

  • Thlayli

    “Chinese Rocks”, the Heartbreakers

    “I Drink Alone”, George Thorogood

  • ThresherK (KadeKo)

    “Tonight, Tonight” by Genesis I always thought was about addiction. Haven’t read the wiki, just going on my instinct from the 80s.

    • You are correct. I’m not sure the band has officially confirmed this, but reading the lyrics makes it obvious anyway.

  • AstroBio

    Medicine – Modest Mouse (and mabye “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes. I can’t always decpiher Brock lyrics.)
    Cough Syrup / Pepper – Butthole Surfers
    Harold of the Rocks -Primus
    More (soundtrack) -Pink Floyd
    Don’t Let Go – Jerry Garcia Band

  • john fremont

    Black Sabbath – Hand of Doom
    Led Zeppelin – For Your Life

    Allison Moorer – Dying Breed

    Dying Breed
    Allison Moorer

    Lyrics
    I take a pint of whiskey
    And crack open it’s lid
    I drink the bottle empty
    Just like my poor daddy did
    I take after my family
    My fate’s the blood in me
    No one grows old in this household
    We are a dying breed
    I take a red and blue one
    From my Mama’s purse
    I wash ’em down with homemade wine
    To see what kicks in first
    I take after my family
    My fate’s the blood in me
    No one grows old in this household
    We are a dying breed
    I take another needle
    Black powder and a spoon
    I set my sights on heaven
    And shoot for the moon
    I take after my family
    My fate’s the blood in me
    No one grows old in this household
    We are a dying breed

    • Origami Isopod

      I was going to rec Moorer if no one else had. Amazing song.

  • N__B

    St. Teresa by Joan Osborne.

  • Jackdaw

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned any of these yet, but I read through all the comments and didn’t see ’em:

    Guns’N’Roses – Mr. Brownstone
    The La’s – There She Goes
    Steely Dan – Time Out of Mind
    Steely Dan – Doctor Wu (supposedly)

  • brodysattva

    All–Steely Dan edition:

    The Boston Rag
    Charlie Freak
    Dr. Wu
    Time Out of Mind
    Jack of Speed

    • Srsly Dad Y

      Good nym, bro.

      Also “Do It Again,” surprised to see no votes yet.

      • brodysattva

        Haha, thanks.

        I think someone did mention “Do It Again” upthread. I’d never pegged that one as an addiction song, so much as a song about general lowlifery. But maybe there’s backstory I’m unaware of.

  • rm

    All my picks for “top five” have been mentioned, I think.

    So, randomly —

    Dave Edmunds, “Crawling From the Wreckage” (addiction to reckless driving!)

    Arlo Guthrie, “Lightning Bar” (I don’t think he wrote it)

    John Lee Hooker, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” (a top five candidate)

    Joseph Arthur, “I Miss the Zoo”

  • LifeOntheFallLine

    Lynyrd Skynyrd: That Smell

    Gov’t Mule: Monkey Hill

    The Replacements: Dose of Thunder

    The Black Crowes: She Talks to Angels

    K’s Choice: Not an Addict

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      ooo, K’s Choice, good pick

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Oh, I can’t believe I forgot Suicide Solution by Ozzy Osbourne.

    “Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker.
    Suicide is slow with liquor.
    Take a bottle, drown your sorrows
    Then it floods away tomorrows.”

    If you have a long memory for the music hysteria of the 80s, Ozzy was sued by the parents of a teen who killed himself after allegedly listening to this song.

  • rm

    Rickie Lee Jones, “The Magazine” (named after a brand of heroin), and arguably “Danny’s All-Star Joint”

  • creature

    ‘Waiting for The Man’ Lou Reed
    ‘The Devil Came From Kansas’ Procol Harum
    ‘I’ve Got You in My Blood’ Average White Band
    ‘Snowblind Friend’ Steppenwolf
    ‘The Pusher’ Steppenwolf

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      I prefer “Waiting for the man” to “Heroin”
      Also, isn’t Willie Dixon “Spoonful” about heroin?

  • Camilla Highwater

    “One Plus One” by Beyoncé.

    Oh, you said AddiCtion. Strike that.

  • Anna in PDX

    There is also the entire album “Tennessee Pusher” by Old Crow Medicine Show

  • Srsly Dad Y

    Does “Sunday Morning Coming Down” count as being about alcoholism?

    • PeteW

      I’d say yes. Great song.

    • rm

      It is the song about alcoholism.

    • Dagmar

      The beer I had for breakfast tasted good
      So I had one more for dessert.

  • PeteW

    Is it possible I went through all these comments and didn’t see Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmVAWKfJ4Go&feature=youtu.be

    • rm

      The comments get broken up into multiple pages. You gotta click “older comments” to get back to the start.

  • Fats Durston

    Unmentioned so far, I think:

    “Too High,” Stevie Wonder
    “If You Want Me To Stay,” Sly & the Family Stone
    “Yellow Pills,” 20/20
    “Drunk & Stoned,” Faux Jean
    “The Dope Pusher,” Bill Cosby (not really a song)

    • Fats Durston

      Or maybe:

      “I Guess They Ought To Name A Drink After You,” John Prine
      “Downer,” Randy California
      “Dr. Robert,” Beatles
      “Too Much Seconal,” Johnny Winter
      “Pills,” New York Dolls

  • louislouis

    Love – Signed D.C.

    Charlatans – Codeine

    Marvin Gaye – Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Skies)

    • ΧΤΠΔ

      “Love” is a good song, but I only know of its existence because the Wu-Tang Clan used it for “Hellz Wind Staff.”

      I regret nothing.

  • petesh

    Before They Make Me Run
    Comin’ Down Again
    Sister Morphine
    Connection
    Mother’s Little Helper

    All by the Stones, and mostly by their chief researcher

  • ringtail

    Tove Lo – Habits (stay high)

    Although I’m not sure it’s more about heartache or substance abuse or both.

  • joel hanes

    Bonnie Raitt, The Glow

    FTW

  • joel hanes

    The Who, “Magic Bus”

    • Ahuitzotl

      wait … that wasnt about public transport?

  • McMike

    In terms of people who looked their killer in the eyes, and wrote a song about it, it begins and ends with Townes and Lowell.

    Sanitarium Blues.

    The folks – they just can’t take no more
    Throw you in the back seat, slam the door
    No stoppin’ as down the road you go
    Got no time to lose

    Gigantic one-way gate ahead
    You’re thinkin’, man, I’d as soon be dead
    They decided to give you life instead
    The sanitarium blues

    China White.

    I said blow away, blow away
    This cruel reality
    And keep me from its storm
    Suspicion has crept in, and ruined my life
    I’m messed up, and hassled, and worn

    Well its pure indignation
    Just another sensation
    And I’d like to knock on that door
    But the boy he keeps on callin’ for more

    Yes and my sweet China White
    She ain’t here tonight
    And love has robbed me blind

    • McMike

      I forgot Martin Sexton’s “Can’t Stop Thinking About You.” A very soulful dual-addiction piece (first a woman and then booze, in that order).

      Lovin’ you was sort of like lovin’ a fifth of the finest bourbon/
      Was it your quality or high quantity that’s put me in the shape I’m in

      And also Kelly Joe Phelps wonderfully evocative “Clementine”, and in a lovely equal-opportunity twist on the trope, the booze addiction here is a woman’s, caused by the betrayal by a man.

      She is inside there, behind the wall
      Sexing a bottle of brandy… she will sex it all
      Finger light like a lover should
      Lips drawn tight as though she could
      Suffer all those men with eyes that bleed inside their head
      Who murder souls in every bed

  • rm

    Tom Lehrer, “The Old Dope Peddler”

  • rm

    “Soldier’s Joy”

    and . . .

    Temperance songs! “Father, Dear Father, Come Home With Me Now”

    Or “The Drunkard’s Doom”:

    His little son stood by his side
    And to his father said,
    ‘Dear father, mother lies sick at home,
    And sister cries for bread.’

    He rose, he staggered to the bar
    As oft he done before.
    He to the landlord whispering said,
    ‘O, give me one glass more.’

    He raised the glass with trembling hand
    And drank the poison bowl.
    He drank while wife and children starved
    And ruined his poor soul.

  • altofront

    Tobias Hume, “Tobacco Is Like Love” (ca. 1605)

  • Kurzleg

    Doing this from my phone so not sure if “Else” by Built To Spill has been offered. “Your needs consume you forever” is pretty bleak, and I assume it refers to addiction.

  • Gareth

    “Fast Car”, by Tracy Chapman.

    • ΧΤΠΔ

      “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow,” Nice & Smooth

  • kvs

    Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iAYhQsQhSY

    The best part is it’s been used to advertise non-Long Island iced tea.

    I’m gonna need someone to help me
    I’m gonna need somebody’s hand
    I’m gonna need someone to hold me down
    I’m gonna need someone to care
    I’m gonna writhe and shake my body
    I’ll start pulling out my hair
    I’m going to cover myself with
    The ashes of you and nobody’s gonna give a damn

    Son of a bitch
    Give me a drink
    One more night
    This can’t be me
    Son of a bitch
    If I can’t get clean
    I’m gonna drink my life away

    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh

    Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back
    Seventeen more will bury me
    Can somebody please just tie me down
    Or somebody give me a goddamn drink

    Son of a bitch
    Give me a drink
    One more night
    This can’t be me
    Son of a bitch
    If I can’t get clean
    I’m gonna drink my life away

    Mhm, mhm
    Mhm, mhm, mhm, mhm
    Mhm, mhm
    Mhm, mhm, mhm, mhm

    My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
    My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
    My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
    My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me

    Son of a bitch
    Give me a drink
    One more night
    This can’t be me
    Son of a bitch
    If I can’t get clean
    I’m gonna drink my life away

    Son of a bitch
    Give me a drink
    Son of a bitch
    This can’t be me
    Son of a bitch
    If I can’t get clean
    I’m gonna drink my life away

    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh

    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh

  • The Bottle – Gil Scott Heron

    Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young

  • Freind of the Devil – Greatful Dead
    Sweat Leaf -Black Sabbath

  • bender

    Mainline Prosperity Blues Richard Farina

    Guilty Randy Newman

    You Ain’t Going Nowhere Bob Dylan

  • CDT

    Black Eyed Susan-Paul Westerberg
    Dying All Young-Chuck Prophet

  • Dagmar

    Neil Young – The Needle and the Damage Done

  • Richard

    I Drink – Mary Gauthier

  • pluky

    Good Morning, Heartache — Billie Holliday

  • I be Frank

    Perfect Day – Lou Reed
    Sister Morphine – Rolling Stones

    The line “sweet sister cocaine come lay your cool cool hand across my head” always struck me as uhh wrong.

    Perfect Day is a beautiful song right up to the moment you realize what it is about.

  • Poicephalus

    From the VPRO session, Jackson Browne’s Cocaine Blues.
    https://archive.org/details/wz1976-12-08.sbeok.flac16

  • tallmutha

    What, no James Brown, “King Heroin”?

    Also, I don’t believe “Perfect Day” is about heroin. It’s about what it sounds like, the desperation and self-loathing felt by someone on the needy end of an asymmetrical love affair. Nobody ever thought it was about heroin until it was used brilliantly in Trainspotting.

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