“Presence is the good Led Zeppelin heroin album (as my friend Mark once put it), the mostly sh** one being In Through The Out Door (Jimmy Page being too f***ed up to care). Either way, the Zeppelin’s days of full-on world dominance and glory were slipping past them by 1976, which didn’t exactly stop them from laying down some of the evilest blues mankind has ever known. Even if, in this case, it was a song about taking personal responsibility for the mess you’re in, which, when you think about it, is very mature behavior.” (Philip Random)
Gram Parsons was dead before the world ever heard his final album, Grievous Angel. Which made In My Hour Of Darkness, its final song (completely concerned with people who had died before their time) all too relevant, particularly the part where he sings his own eulogy: he was just a country boy his simple songs confess – and the music he had in him so very few possess. Who says there’s no such thing as ghosts? And angels, because that’s Emmylou Harris singing backup.
Marianne Faithfull from Broken English, one of the best albums of 1979 (or any other year for that matter). “This song made no sense to me at first. I thought she was saying she felt ‘good’. Why so gloomy then? Was it some twisted junkie thing I needed heroin in my veins to figure out? Then I finally bought the album and read the title, and there it was: guilt. Which suddenly made all kinds of sense. And reminds me of sage wisdom c/o old friend Jill. Guilt is easy to avoid. Just don’t do that thing that you know you’ll end up feeling guilty about. Words to live by.” (Philip Random)
Neil Young, reluctant rock star, still smarting from the heroin deaths of two good friends, sits on a vague beach on a vague day and plucks his banjo, waxing skeptically (if not cynically) about the nature of the game he’s playing. Apparently they were imbibing a lot of strong hemp product during the recording of this album. You’d never know.
“In which the Spacemen 3 sing the somnambulant praises of being so f***ing high, you may as well be hanging with God’s own son. Found on their first album and a bunch of other places, it’s rumoured to be completely concerned with heroin. But don’t be fooled, kids. Heroin’s a liar. Ain’t no heaven on earth.” (Philip Random)
“The Gun Club were punk badasses out of L.A. who did much of the dirty work of rescuing the blues way back when, releasing them back into the swamp where they belong, or as I remember someone shouting in my ear in the late ’70s sometime, ‘Punk killed the blues, and a good thing too.’ But good things never die, do they? They just mutate, reinvent, re-emerge, with 1981’s Fire Of Love all the evidence required: the full-on rush of punk and the muck of the bayou (that crossroad where the real stuff never dies), maybe put it at the service of some dangerous poetry about a girl so heavy, she’s like heroin – never misses the vein. Hell yeah.” (Philip Random)
In which Jim Carroll (former teenage heroin poet eventually made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio) forms a band and makes good on an album of raw urban angst best exemplified by this epic chunk of dark glory. Because we’ve all been there with the daylight fading, the shadows laying their claim. Let the strange times roll.
In which Keith Richard stumbles through a reggae classic that no white man has any business even touching and actually delivers something halfway worthy, maybe because of all the heroin related calamity he’d recently endured in Toronto. Found on the b-side of Run Rudolph Run, a 1978 Christmas single that went nowhere.
Neil Young weighs in with an important public service announcement, which was recorded in 1973 on the heels of various deaths in and around the band (Crazy Horse), but not released until 1975 because everybody was just too bummed out. When it doubt, counsels Mr. Young, get stoned and go for a long drive that gets you reflecting on a recent past that seems much further away than it really is. That’s what the rear view’s for.