The world of rock and roll is intrinsically linked to that of excessive drug use. In some of the oldest stories in music history, including some of the most iconic names in the business, a relationship to drug use has been an ever-present—both in creative and tragic circumstances.
During the 1980s, after two decades of a building a counterculture movement and the ‘free love’ approach to society, those in power attempted to crack down on the rising amount of people habitually using narcotics. After Nancy Reagan’s famous ‘Just Say No’ crusade, some of rock and roll’s biggest names joined in the effort to turn the world against drugs.
In a movement called ‘Rock Against Drugs’, the likes of Steve Jones, Bon Jovi, Vince Neil, Gene Simmons and, of course, the former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed put out a series of trippy public service announcements to dissuade the kids from turning to drugs. Largely cheesy in their delivery, ex-Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones can be seen polishing his motorcycle before stating: “A good friend of mine, Sid Vicious, died from drugs,” he says. “I nearly died from drugs. Drugs suck.”
The clips ran relentlessly across platforms such as MTV and caused quite the stir and, admittedly, became widely ridiculed. Comedian Sam Kinison commented, “Rock Against Drugs. What a name. Somebody was high when they came up with that title. It’s like Christians Against Christ.” Bill Hicks, taking things a little further, added: “And these other musicians today who don’t do drugs, in fact speak out against them, boy, do they suck!”
But when Lou Reed speaks, we listen: “Drugs. I stopped. You shouldn’t start,” he says, stoically.
See the clip, below.