For how much longer are we going to mix up drugs and genius?
I was reading the Pete Doherty feature in The Observer detailing the sad death of talented young film maker Robin Whitehead and the seedy, dark underbelly of druggy rock n roll excess.
It’s a dark tale of drugs and the desperate lifestyle of Pete Doherty – the man who has managed to completely obliterate his talent with drug lore. When he dies people will forget that he was actually a talented songwriter and will talk about the junkie excess like it’s a fascinating world.
There can’t be many people left in this country who have not taken drugs. Even some of the people running the country snort coke and you can’t get any less rock n roll than that. This weird myth that genius is somehow entwined with drugs seems to drag on for ever. There is this ongoing belief in the shamanic power of the powder when all you can see is teeth grinding, coked up media types in London with puff powder confidence and musicians cranking up in grotty bedsits.
There are bands who think rock n roll is copying the moves from the latest Rolling Stones biog. I’ve seen it, bands of grown men who start taking drugs because they believe it makes them cooler. It can also the be the loner who drifts into a whole mountain of problems. Instead of helping out society does this schizophrenic thing of criminalising and then celebrating the junkie. A confusing set of signals that helps no-one.
Of course there can be interesting moments on drugs but as a lifestyle choice it’s pretty dull and the bumbling junkie and their grubby hangers on are hardly the world’s most thrilling people. The Doherty story is now a tragedy; a tale of wasted young lives and sickness, because junkiedom is an illness, a can’t cope mechanism with an added lifestyle.
They are not to be celebrated for their sickness just their talent.
Taking drugs is your choice but like the New York bands waving needles in the faces of the young British punks telling them to take hard drugs in 1977 there is this pathetic swagger around them. It doesn’t make you better/more interesting/more talented/sexy/more shamanic/more bohemian if you are off your head – it just makes you a dribbling bore until you somehow create something else new.
I am not anti drugs. I believe they should be legalised. And I also believe it’s time the mystique was kicked into touch. This fascination with junkies is bizarre. What’s so interesting about musicians who take drugs? I’m interested in Doherty’s art not his chemicals. I can find you five smackheads asleep in my life stinking of piss, rotting away – they take loads of drugs and they can’t write a song between them!
There are no happy endings in rock n roll and this story just gets darker and darker.