“The title track of Neil Young’s sixth studio album is completely concerned with heroin and the damage done, souls consumed, lives ended way too soon. It says 1975 on the cover (and it was actually recorded a couple of years earlier) but I didn’t find it until at least ten years after the fact, yet grimly perfect timing nevertheless, such is junkiedom — it never goes out of style. Which isn’t to say Tonight’s the Night is all one sustained dirge – the album that is. But that said, it never forgets what it’s about, always more shadow than light, always more nasty than nice.” (Philip Random)
“In which the Forgotten Rebels, straight outa Hamilton, Ontario, remind us (as some now dead guy once said) that junkies gonna junk and dabblers gonna dabble, except with heroin, sometimes the dabblers die anyway, but mostly they just wobble around (if they’re standing at all) like they’re working monster waves a mile from shore. Maybe it feels cool, but it mostly looks dumb. Seriously, the song’s supposed to be taking the piss, but as always with these things, some seem to take it as lifestyle advice. I guess nobody’s to blame but stupidity itself.” (Philip Random)
1969 ended badly for the Rolling Stones at a free concert in Northern California, a place called Altamont — a man murdered directly in front of the stage. But that was only after Brian Jones got booted from the band he’d founded, then drowned in his swimming pool, or was he murdered, too? And meanwhile, Keith Richard just kept slipping deeper and deeper into the fool’s kingdom known as heroin. And yet the Stones also found the time to record Let It Bleed that year, maybe their single greatest slab of vinyl, with Monkey Man a track that managed to not get played to death on commercial radio. Too bad, too ugly, too good.
Old England being the grimmest track found on the Waterboys‘ otherwise mostly uplifting 1985 masterpiece This is the Sea. Because what value empire when it’s children are giving up, choosing instead the kingdom inherent in refined opium? You can see it in their heroin eyes. The sun is most definitely setting. And just to make it clear he wasn’t messing around, main Waterboy Mike Scott would soon be relocating to Ireland with (again) almost entirely uplifting results.
“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)