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Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
"Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a rock star and they give 'em to ya for free."
Billy Mack, Love Actually

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?

Wrong.

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.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • Perhaps some amount of sex and controlled substances are necessary to rocking out at all: Fitz, from the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures, plays guitar and wants to be a rock star some day. He also smokes thirty a day, gets quite drunk quite often and occasionally gets extremely drunk, tried laudanum once or twice, and has an active love life. Note the following LiveJournal icon, by redscharlach: [1]
  • Parodied in Soul Music: "We're doing this for sex and drugs and Music With Rocks In!" "I don't think you've ever taken drugs, and for that matter, I don't think you've ever had—" "Well one out of three ain't bad!" "Yes it is, it's only thirty-three percent..."
  • In Cold Iron, the first Rosie Lavine novel, by Melisa Michaels, elves who come from faerie to become elfrock stars usually indulge in the worst forms of this trope, at least according to Rosie. The trope is even mentioned almost by name by another character:
    Hilly: Sex, drugs and elfrock ain't what their fans imagine it is.

    Music 
  • 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 song "Ziggy Stardust" is all about this trope.
    • Another Bowie example: "Ashes to Ashes", 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 The 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." 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.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Rock and Rule plays this trope and The Power of Rock straight. The Big Bad is this trope personified: he's a burned out decadent rocker who wants to summon a demon using the heroine's voice. He is defeated when the male and female leads sing a duet that destroys his evil.
  • Parodied in the Happy Tree Friends DVD with the story behind the creators' success. It plays like one of those E! biographies, with "jujubee and high sugar candy binges" as well as other amazingly harmless demonstrations of how the success went to their head. It even has them do a Power Walk down an alleyway! It mentions how the head animator got so hopped on sugar he animated an entire season in one night! However, it was a season they already had.
  • Bart Simpson did it with a fantasy sequence where Bart imagines himself as an alcoholic rocker, alienated from his friends, and insulting his fans in his songs. Note that this is his fantasy sequence!
    • Little sister Lisa meanwhile has her entire career as a jazz musician planned out as far as cliches go, though she remains undecided towards whether or not she'll die young to cement her legend.
    • One season finale, "Behind the Laughter", was a pitch-perfect parody of Behind The Music (complete with the actual show's narrator) chronicling how the family's hopes for stardom "began on a wing and a prayer, only to end with the wing on fire and the prayer being answered by Satan".
    • Although not a musician, Krusty the Clown is shown many times to be heavily dependent on drugs (legal and otherwise), a heavy drinker (complete with Drunken Montage), and has had a good number of one-night stands, while being The Krusty.
  • South Park: After Stan gets tired of ruining Guitar Hero, he starts playing "Heroin Hero", in which a person just plays a character who injects heroin into his body while chasing a dragon.
  • Metalocalypse:
    • The band themselves are so rich and famous that they literally get away with murder, in addition to having scores of groupies and massive amounts of binge drinking and drug abuse
    • Even moreso for Dr. Rockzo, the Rock 'n' Roll Clown. He does cocaine! It's one of the main reasons he's one of the favorite characters (specifically he's an expy of David Lee Roth).
    • When Murderface and Toki try to start a record label, their first band runs into this problem before they even make a record.
    Murderface: Dammit, don't they know the order of things? You get famous, then you become a heroin addict!

    Real Life 
  • Very, very numerous.
  • This is the Trope Maker of 27Club. Many talented musicians have died on various causes in the age of 27. If a rock star survives beyond this age, he or she is likely to avert this trope.
    • Drug abuse took its toll on Aerosmith; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's nickname "The Toxic Twins" stems from their severe drug abuse, and Tyler infamously collapsed during several shows in the early 80's. All five members went through rehab in the 80's and have been clean and sober since. In the words of Steven Tyler: "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll: stop doing drugs, and you have more time for the other two."
    • Mötley Crüe is legendary for the debauchery and hedonism they engaged in during the 1980s. The members of the band gorged themselves on pretty much every vice imaginable: alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, groupies, strip clubs, etc. After Nikki Sixx nearly died of a heroin overdose (his heart stopped for a couple of minutes, but a paramedic managed to revive him with adrenaline shots to the heart) the band's managers canceled their European tour and convinced everyone in the band to enter rehab (Mick Mars refused, and instead cleaned up on his own). Although the band members are now more or less sober, they still have a reputation for being icons of the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle.
    • This led to Jimi Hendrix's untimely death by apparent drug overdose.
    • The Beatles were on just about every substance you could come up with. Contrary to popular belief, they didn't actually record any of their songs while high, since they didn't like the results when they tried it.
    • Visual Kei and Japanese Hard Rock / Heavy Metal + the Japanese underground club scene are all nigh-infamous for it... except it's not officially done, and it's a secret, because of the drug laws in Japan where even having pot can get you jailed for 10 years or more and your career ruined. Alcohol, tobacco, and lots and lots of often unsafe sex are the open parts of the iceberg, with everything else being known but not said. The first iteration of Visual Kei, Visual Shock, was infamous for it. It was primarily X Japan and the other Extasy Records bands that brought it to a true art form, though Buck Tick and Kuroyume could easily compete. Somewhat died out with the decline of Visual Shock in The Nineties and a series of high-profile drug busts late in The Nineties - but popped back up in, of all places, the Oshare subgenre - and is relatively common everywhere in modern Visual Kei, unless the band is Straight Edge, has a large amount of members that went sober - or the entire band did- or it is Oshare and actually abides by its "we are cute and clean" rules rather than violates them privately.
  • Averted in Straight Edge hardcore.
  • This trope tends to be most prevalent near the middle of the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness, while bands at the extreme end of the scale tend to have far more laid-back lifestyles (save for Black Metal, whose musicians embody a different trope altogether).
  • This trope was probably most prevelant during the 80's. Once grunge hit the mainstream, it (or, at least, its glorification) cooled down significantly. Lemmy Kilmister has even complained about boring, clean-living attitudes of modern rock musicians.
    Lemmy: It kills me how bland this period is... You go backstage these days and you see 20 bottles of Perrier and a bag of nuts. What’s wrong with this fucking picture? Everything is so healthy today and it’s terrible. I don’t get it...
  • The Rolling Stones were known for this trope, and it spawned a (false) rumor about Mick Jagger being caught eating a Mars Bar from Marianne Faithfull's vagina. (They were caught in a drug raid, and while Ms. Faithfull was nude and covering herself only with a blanket, they were not doing that with a Mars Bar.)
  • This Cracked article, written by Mara Wilson (the girl who played the eponymous Matilda in The Film of the Book), explains why people who become famous during their formative years are particularly susceptible to this trope.


Sex Is ViolenceOlder Than DirtSex for Services
Quick NipThis Is Your Index on DrugsSlipping a Mickey
Red Oni, Blue OniBrit PopShout-Out
Fats DominoRock & RollBuddy Holly
Scooter Riding ModThe SixtiesSpy Catsuit
Senseless ViolinsMusic TropesSexophone

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