Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
The Power of Rock
is awesome. I mean, c'mon! What problem do you have that wouldn't
be solved by an awesome guitar solo, an elaborate dance routine, and a heartfelt song with kickass drums? Whose life can't
be saved by "Stairway To Heaven"? Rock solves all, right?
On the cynical
end of the scale, rock is actually pretty screwed up. Drugs are prevalent throughout the culture, rock musicians
themselves use their inflated stardom to become real-life Karma Houdinis
, and the whole scene is decadent on the top and seedy on the bottom. The consequences are emphasized more than the fun in this view.
Portrayals can be broadly divided into two types of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. The hedonist sees all that is available with their fame and money, taking advantage of it until they wake up with a hangover. The escapist has a Dark and Troubled Past
, uses drugs to escape their pain, sex as a replacement for intimacy, and music as an outlet for their anger.
Media portrayals often cross this trope with the Mad Artist
or the British Rock Star
for maximum craziness.
Not so much a response to The Power of Rock
as an exposition of Real Life
. Certainly Truth in Television
, but often exaggerated in media for added effect, and mostly averted in Real Life
. Also Older Than Dirt
, being well documented at least as far back as Ancient Egypt
Hookers and Blow
is the Super Trope
. Often goes hand in hand with Three Chords and the Truth
Compare A Party Also Known as an Orgy
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Anime and Manga
- Detroit Metal City makes fun of this quite a bit... what with the protagonist being a fan of Euro-pop who joins a death metal band for the money. Needless to say, he ends up rather over his head...
- K-On! is about a school rock band where instead of sex and drugs, they have hugs and cake.
- The Takotsuboya K-On Trilogy, on the other hand, are Dark Fics that put the sex and drugs back in.
- The opening sequence of The Legend of Black Heaven implies that Oji did drugs when he was in the band, and as for sex, he got one of his groupies pregnant and married her.
- In the Heat Guy J episode "Brother," there is a young man named Kia, who is trying to get into the music industry. It is revealed that his father used to be a famous musician, who let fame go to his head, and started drinking heavily and cheating on (and beating) his wife. Eventually, the man left his wife when he found out his mistress was pregnant, and he married her and started a new life with her and the son he had by her. Kia resents his father, and decides to kill his half-brother as revenge. His brother gives him a Cool Down Hug, and he can't bring himself to shoot the boy.
- While not a full example of this trope, Alpha, Peter Parker's unwilling sidekick became this due to obtain his powers. He lived the lifestyle of a rock star, going so far as to abandon his parents and his first crush. It took watching him nearly kill people in the air with his recklessness for Alpha to get his powers taken away. Coming back to normal wasn't easy. At all.
- Velvet Goldmine. And yet, it has some rather positive messages.
- Almost Famous.
- This Is Spinal Tap plays Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll for laughs.
- The Wrestler looks at the life of a wrestler once the glitz and glamour wear off.
- Parodied to hell and back in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
- Mostly played seriously in Rock Star, but a notable subversion is Steel Dragon's original lead singer, who notes that that he's gay and never did drugs, so so much for "sex drugs and rock n' roll."
- The trope-naming song by Ian Dury (see below) was also the title of a 2010 biopic of Dury, with the profoundly awesome Andy Serkis in the main role.
- Walk the Line - Johnny Cash gets deep into drugs. The love of June Carter brings him back.
- In Get Him to the Greek, Aldous Snow is portrayed as being heavily into the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle. To the point where he even convinces his record company handler to smuggle a balloon of heroin for him during an airline flight.
- The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years - A documentary featuring many of the most notorious hard partiers in rock at the zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) of their debauchery.
- Charlie's backstory on LOST is all about how he went from altar boy to this.
- Behind The Music is built upon this trope. To the point that when they did "Weird Al" Yankovic, he expressed disbelief that he was the subject of a Behind The Music since he never had a huge angsty blowup with his band, and never had a struggle with heroin or alcohol. They ended up blowing a few of his less popular projects (such as UHF and the Polka Party album) into much bigger deals than they actually were; the only serious "struggle" they covered was his then-unsuccessful love life (which has become Hilarious in Hindsight with his subsequent marriage and birth of his daughter).
- Behind The Music eventually did several bands popular at the time that did not have those things; the same tactics were used.
- Played with in Flight of the Conchords. The Conchords don't like beer (it makes Bret "have to go to the toilet"), don't smoke, and Bret at least is rather inhibited about sex. Their manager, Murray, wants them to adopt a more rock and roll image, and two of their fans manage to persuade them to take some acid. They claim to have just eaten potato salad and have plans to go jogging in the morning, so they'd better only have half...or half of a half...in the end, Bret accidentally takes a sixteenth of a hit, leading to the psychedelic "Prince of Parties" number, winding up with him perched on a toilet while the walls move around him.
- The Osbournes could either be seen as subverting this trope or playing it straight. On one hand, Ozzy is clearly a little burnt from his years of drug abuse and wild ways, and cynics could claim that the sad after-effects of a rock and roll lifestyle are being played for laughs as a desperate and exploitative cash-grab. On the other hand, he has a luxury house, lots of money and though his family and home life certainly aren't conventional (or sane, given your point-of-view), there is certainly a lot of love and happy moments shown on camera.
- The upcoming documentary "The Wreckage of My Past: The Story of Ozzy Osbourne," however, seems to be playing the trope straight judging from the trailer, which features images of Ozzy staring into space and sucking oxygen from a tank filmed with a shaky cam with sorrowful music playing over it.
- The Ian Dury song "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", the Trope Namer (although variations on the phrase seem to have existed before he wrote the song in 1977)
- MGMT's "Oracular Spectacular" takes both ends of the scale to hell and back.
- The David Bowie album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is all about this trope, with the "Ziggy Stardust" track being the crown example. The final track, despite the ominous title of "Rock n' Roll Suicide", ultimately subverts it however.
- Another Bowie example: "Ashes to Ashes" from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), in which Bowie uses the return of his character Major Tom as a metaphor for his struggle with addiction.
- Bowie's even played this for humor. In the Short Film/long-form video Jazzin' for Blue Jean one of his two characters, Screamin' Lord Byron, is a rock star implied to be living the hedonistic version of this trope. His handlers literally carry him around, and when he's first seen in the flesh (being hustled into his dressing room, to be specific) he's hooked up to a portable oxygen tank!
- Somewhat Bowie-inspired, Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals is a dual-layered odyssey that's half about this. The "Omega" songs are all Sex, Drugs, and Rock anthems of hollowness and empty glitter, while the "Alpha" songs are about overcoming pain and alienation.
- Lust For Life by Iggy Pop covers this theme as well.
- "Shooting Star" by Bad Company.
- Sixx:AM draws a lot of inspiration from the horrible things Nikki Sixx did back in his Mötley Crüe days.
- Mötley Crüe themselves spends a lot of time singing about getting high and/or laid because of their fame.
- Many songs by Pink Floyd from Meddle onward; mostly because the guy who wrote their happier stuff had been the Anthropomorphic Personification of this trope. Emphasis on had. (Shine on, you crazy diamond...)
- Metallica's "Some Kind of Monster" documentary covers this, though with the inversion of showing an older, wiser version of Metallica that had outgrown their wild hedonistic early years and now basically was all corporate-like (to the point of hiring a therapist to help the band co-exist) and largely being a bunch of middle-aged family men desperately trying to come up with a comeback album that would make the world love them again. They had to try twice for the comeback.
- The Arrogant Worms have a song called 'Sex, Drugs, and Rrsps' which deals with lead man of band who decides to invest his money in the stock market instead of blowing it on hookers and drugs.
- A lot of Velvet Underground, especially the first two albums, with the speed anthem White Light/White Heat the seventeen-minute tale of a drug orgy Gone Horribly Wrong "Sister Ray," and the heroin-inspired "I'm Waiting for the Man" and, well, "Heroin" from The Velvet Underground And Nico. Much of Lou Reed's solo work as well, especially Berlin.
- The downfall of Savatage's Streets: A Rock Opera's main character DT Jesus. A drug dealer turned rock star, the fame and the eventual drug abuse are explicitly part of his story. The sex can only be assumed, but the man made millions and was a house-hold name...
- The phrase itself was referenced by the Propellerheads' Decksanddrumsandrockandroll.
- The German national anthem is the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied. The first one was scrapped because it lays claim to areas of central europe that all lie outside of the current german state, and the second one was scrapped as well because it's really just about Sex (german women), Drugs (german wine), and Rock and Roll (german song). The third one is about unity, justice, and freedom, which is much more suitable for a national anthem.
- The Pantera home videos (Cowboys From Hell: The Videos, Vulgar Video, and 3 Watch It Go) contain interviews, music videos, and footage of the band performing. The videos also contain backstage footage of the band's wild partying, drunken shenanigans, pulling pranks on each other, and female fans flashing their breasts to the camera. Basically it's a concert video/documentary combined with Jack Ass and a touch of Girls Gone Wild.
- "Rockstar" by Nickelback is about a man who's aspiring to become a rockstar, just so he can lead this lifestyle.
- "Gone Guru" by Lifeseeker. A famous rock star who believes Celebrity Is Overrated gives up his hedonistic lifestyle to become a hermit living in nature. Ironically, his new lifestyle choice causes him to end up becoming even more rich and famous as a self-help guru (and/or possible cult leader), and he falls back into his former party animal lifestyle, even going as far as spending his entire fortune in his old age to get his head cut off and put on a robot body so he can keep partying for eternity.
- "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees is about someone who tries to distract himself from his empty life with drugs, partying, and empty sex. He knows it, too.
- Parodied lovingly (as most things are) by Steel Panther.
- Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz from Demon Days touches on this theme in it's music video which according to the In Character Director's Commentary is about being entrapped in a hedonistic world of their own creation, trapped in the Feel Good tower. Noodle has managed to escape on her flying island, whilst Murdoc seems to be quite happy where he is.