"I was punk. Now I'm just stupid, I'm so awful." --Courtney Love "Awful."
Rome Girl and I were watching live videos on YouTube last night. Stevie Nicks. Courtney Love. Axl Rose. Slash. Keith Richards. Pete Townsend.
All people who flew towards the flame and managed to step back before the fire consumed them.
Mick Fleetwood leaning back while he plays drums so a roadie can pour beer straight down his throat mid song. Stevie swaying and forgetting words to a song she's sung a thousand times. Axl, looking skinny with marks on his arms singing about heaven's door as though death was both near and desired. Keith haggered, old before his time. Pete needing three or four drinks in the morning before he feels "sober" and yet still playing his heart and soul out on that guitar.
All of their performances beautiful, but to Rome Girl's mind a bit sad.
"What if one day the record companies all got together and decided they were not going to put up with booze and drugs anymore?" she asked. "What if they set up contracts so that if people were getting fucked up constantly they got fired. Most people can't show up for work drunk or on drugs so why the fuck do these people get away with it? Why is it romanticized?"
I pointed out that most of the great rockers over the past 40 years were fucked up - and often made their best music during the most fucked up periods of their lives. And, that some of the best live performances happen when these people are fucked up.
"I don't buy this idea that's it's ok that they are fucked up," she said. "If some random guitarist or singer showed up at your home and said he needed five beers before he could play you'd call the cops. So, why is it suddenly OK for them to behave like drugged out alcoholic bums just because they are on stage?"
"What happens to these people," she continued. "There must have been a point where they sat in a studio sober for days and days and actually had their shit together and wrote this stuff. This shit happens after that. Ok maybe if they had to be sober we'd have fewer great live performances, but these people would live longer."
She has a point. But I don't think its possible. And no - I don't think that getting fucked up makes you a better artist. But, I think the personal demons that make you a great artist are also the demons that drive you to drink and drugs.
It's important to remember it's not just rock stars and it's not new. Think of Van Gogh. Or Mozart or Hemmingway. Through time the people who have created the most in the world have led lives of self destruction with appetites that could and often did doom them.