10 Musicians Recount Their Wild Drug Stories
The musicians who recorded your favorite albums were really, really high on drugs. It’s considered a feat when a professional musician manages to do his job without getting high. But you might not realize just how crazy your favorite musician’s drug habits really were. Some of the stories from the world of rock ‘n roll are so crazy, it’s a miracle that any of these people are still alive.
10. John Lennon Got High And Told The Beatles He Was Jesus Christ
One day in 1968, John Lennon, high out of his mind on LSD, called an emergency meeting of The Beatles. He seemed so worked up about it that the band was sure it was a crisis. They rushed over as soon as they could and, first thing the next morning, gathered together in Apple Records boardroom.
“I’ve got something very important to tell you,” John Lennon announced, standing before his bandmates in the boardroom. “I am Jesus Christ. I have come back again. This is my thing.”
The band was barely even surprised. The only response came from Ringo, who just sighed and said, “Right. Meeting adjourned, let’s go have some lunch.”
Lennon went with them, but he didn’t give up on his vision. While they were out eating, a fan came over and gushed over them, amazed that he was meeting John Lennon in person.
“Actually,” Lennon corrected him, “I’m Jesus Christ.”
“I still liked your last record,” the fan said.
He might’ve been high, but Lennon was more productive than ever. He had to be, he believed. He told one friend, “They’re going to kill me, you know. But I’ve got at least four years to go, so I’ve got to do stuff.”
That night, he called up an artist he’d just met named Yoko Ono and invited her over. The two spent the night together, falling in love and recording their first album, Two Virgins.
9. Elvis Got A Narcotics Badge So He Could Travel With Drugs
There’s a famous photograph of Elvis Presley shaking hands with Richard Nixon in the White House. It’s a baffling picture with an even crazier story. Elvis, during that meeting, told Nixon, “I’m on your side.” He claimed he’d been studying drug culture and communist brainwashing. Drug abusers and The Beatles, the two agreed, were spreading an anti-American spirit across the country.
It’s hard to imagine one of the biggest figures in rock ‘n roll being so strongly against drugs—mostly because he wasn’t. Elvis, at this point, was already heavily addicted to prescription drugs. He was at the White House because he wanted to do more drugs.
Elvis wanted a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge. His wife, Priscilla Presley, explained, “With the federal narcotic badge, he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”
After telling Nixon his worried about drug cultures, Elvis asked the Nixon for a badge. Nixon promised he’d get him one, and Elvis, surprised that his plan had worked, got so excited that he hugged the president.
A few years later, Elvis, with his Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge still on him, died of an overdose.
8. Willie Nelson Rushed Into A Burning Building To Save A Pound Of Weed
In 1969, before he was a superstar, Willie Nelson’s house caught fire. A friend called him and told him what was happening, and Willie rushed home as quickly as he could. It wasn’t so much that he was worried about his property—he had a pound of weed in there, and he didn’t want to be found out.
The house was completely in flames when he got there, but Willie Nelson bravely rushed into save his marijuana. “I wasn’t being brave running in there to get my dope,” he later said. “I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.”
He passed the drugs off to a friend who helped him hide it before the firemen got in. He managed to save his guitar, as well—but hundreds of demo tapes were lost in the fire.
Afterward, though, Nelson took the fire as a sign from God and moved to Texas, where his career really took off. A few years later, he was famous enough that he barely had to hide his pot habit. And, in 1977, Willie Nelson climbed up to the top of the White House with Crosby, Stills, Nash and President Jimmy Carter. Four musicians and a president smoked a joint on the roof while Secret Service guarded them.
7. Scientists Studied Ozzy Osbourne’s Body To See How He Is Still Alive
Ozzy Osbourne has done so many drugs that scientists have looked at his DNA to figure out how he could have survived taking so much cocaine. Even Ozzy himself has admitted that, by all logic, he should be dead, saying: “There really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive.”
His DNA, the scientists said, had “several hundred thousand variants that have never been seen by scientists” and that they were pretty sure were keeping him alive. One of those variants is Neanderthal genes, making Ozzy one of the few people alive with Neanderthal in his blood.
It’s let him live an almost impossible life. For two straight years in the ‘70s, Ozzy took acid every day. And he’s done enough drugs to make Motley Crue uncomfortable.
Nikki Sixx has told a story about going on tour with Ozzy. The group was doing cocaine at a hotel pool when Nikki announced that’d they’d snorted the entire stash. With the cocaine gone, Ozzy grabbed a straw and snorted up a line of ants.
When asked, Ozzy didn’t deny Nikki’s story. He just said, “I don’t remember the shows, to be honest with you.”
6. Jimi Hendrix Was So Stoned He Didn’t Know He Got Kidnapped
Few people did as many drugs as Jimi Hendrix. His life was full of moments that never would have happened sober.
He never would have become a musician without them. Before he was a star, Hendrix was in the military. He got kicked out, though, partly because of drugs—his commanding officer caught him in the latrine, smoking pot and masturbating on duty.
After living the army, Hendrix became a rock star, and his drug addictions got bigger. At one point, in the late 1960s, that drug problem got him kidnapped. He was walking down the streets looking for dope and met a group of boys who promised they had some at their house. Hendrix went with them, but when he got there they locked them in a room and called his manager demanding ransom money.
Hendrix’s manager, though, sent a mob enforced named Joe Roberts after them anyway. Roberts scared the kids into letting Hendrix go and then gave them, in his words, “a beating they would never forget.”
Hendrix, though, didn’t seem phased. Roberts said, “Jimi was so stoned, he probably didn’t even know he was ever kidnapped.”
5. Keith Moon Passed Out On Stage, So A Kid In The Audience Finished The Set
In San Francisco in 1973, Keith Moon got ready for a set by washing down a fistful of horse tranquilizers with some brandy. Then he got on a stage in front of an audience and did his best.
When the tranquilizers kicked in, though, Moon struggled to keep up with the rest of the band. He lagged behind them, sluggishly tapping the drums, until, in the middle of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” he fell asleep on stage.
The group dragged him off the stage while Pete Townshend sheepishly told the audience, “We’re just gonna revive our drummer by punching him in the stomach.”
They tried bringing Moon back out, but he couldn’t do it. With Moon out cold, Townshend asked the audience, “Can anyone play the drums? We need someone good.” A 19-year-old boy in the audience named Scott Halpin took them up on the offer. They brought the teenage boy up on stage, and he played drums for the rest of the set.
Keith Moon died of an overdose a few years later. A plaque in his memory was put up, reading, “There is no substitute”—but, as Scott Halpin proved, you could pretty well replace him with a random teenager in the audience.
4. Flavor Flav Spent $2,600 On Cocaine A Day
Flavor Flav has always been an odd presence in Public Enemy. In such a politically active group, a man who jumps around with fake breasts and a gigantic clock around his neck tends to stand out. It’s hard to fit him into the idea of a group that boasts, “You won’t see Public Enemy with no 40s and no blunts putting anything in our bodies that’ll be detrimental to our existence.”
Flavor Flav broke that rule in a big way. At the height of his addiction, Flav has said, he was spending $2,600 per day on cocaine. That habit continued over six years, costing him $5.7 million in cocaine purchases.
It definitely affected his behavior. In 1993, high out of his mind, Flavor Flav pulled out his gun and started shooting at his neighbor. He ended up in the Betty Ford Clinic, getting treated for crack addiction.
The group’s leader Chuck D, though, says Flavor was so crazy that he couldn’t tell when he was high. “If the guy’s always crazy, you don’t know when he’s up, when he’s down,” he told a reporter. “All I knew was that—dude, you crazy, and you need to show up on time.”
During his crack years, Flavor Flav came late so often that group member Professor Griff got fed up and kicked him in the chest. Chuck D, in Griff’s defense, said, “He could only take so much.”
3. Slash Thought The Predator Was Trying To Kill Him
Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Slash has done so many drugs that his heart has stopped working. At the age of 35, doctors told him that he had six days to live. They only managed to keep him alive by putting a defibrillator in his chest.
Slash toned down the drugs after that—but beforehand, he’d been a major abuser. Even on the very moment Guns ‘N Roses got signed, he blew almost his whole advance on drugs.
His craziest moment, though, came after a heroin binge in the early ‘90s. Slash became convinced that a monster that looked like the Predator was chasing him with machine guns and harpoons. Convinced that it was going to kill him, he ran naked through an Arizona golf resort, then punched through a hotel’s glass door and broke in.
Once inside, he grabbed a maid and used her as a shield while he made his way over to the lawnmower. Then Slash, bloody and naked, ducked behind the lawnmower, sure that the Predator couldn’t get him there.
When the police arrived, Slash was still too high to know what was real. He rushed up to them, thanked them for coming, and explained that an alien predator was trying to kill him.
2. A Red Hot Chili Peppers Song Has A Line That Is Only There To Bribe A Drug Dealer
When the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded their album Freaky Styley, they enlisted the help of legendary funk musician George Clinton and a mountain of cocaine. There were drugs everywhere in the studio—so much that, when Anthony Kiedis tried to spend two weeks sober to record his vocals, he described it as “deciding to be celibate when you’re living in a brothel.”
That cocaine, though, had to be paid for, and George Clinton ran out of money fast. His drug dealer, a man named Louie, kept showing up and threatening him. Clinton blew him off until Louie showed up with henchmen. “George, I’m serious, many, you’re going to have to make good before I can give you anything else,” Louie told him. “I didn’t bring these guys for show, and if they have to hurt somebody . . . ”
Clinton didn’t have any money, but he offered Louie a part on the album instead. The band let Louie record the line “Look at that turtle go, bro” at the start of the song “Yertle The Turtle,” and it kept Louie happy enough that he kept the group supplied until the album was done.
1. David Bowie Doesn’t Remember Recording station To Station
Station to Station is one of David Bowie’s most popular albums—and he doesn’t remember a thing about recording it. “I remember working with Earl on the guitar sounds,” Bowie has said, “and that’s about all I remember of it. I can’t even remember the studio. I know it was in LA because I’ve read it was.”
It was a strange period in Bowie’s life, where, fueled by cocaine and amphetamines, he grew a strange obsession with fascism and the occult. In interviews, he started saying strange things like, “I think I might have been a bloody good Hitler. I’d be an excellent dictator.”
All that, though, was coming from the drugs, which his collaborators described as essential to the process of making the album. “The most disturbing thing that can happen in the studio is to have to go to sleep if you’re on a roll,” guitarist Carlos Alomar explained. “If there’s a line of coke which is going to keep you awake until 8 AM. So that you can do your guitar part, you do the line of coke.”
Bowie, himself, didn’t think the cocaine was such a good idea. He barely ate or slept during the sessions and, at his darkest point, withered down to 80 pounds. “That whole time is a blur topped with chronic anxiety,” he would later say, looking back on it. “I could have easily died.”