The Power of Rock is awesome! Why? Well, what problem do you have that wouldn't be solved by going to a big concert, hearing an awesome guitar solo by The Rock Star, seeing a singer do an elaborate dance routine, and belt out a heartfelt song while the drummer pounds out a kickass drum beat? Whose life can't be saved by the poignant chords and emotional vocals and guitar playing in "Stairway To Heaven"? Why not go to a concert to partake of relaxing herbs, make new friends backstage and party all night on the tour bus? Sex and drugs 'n rock and roll solves all your problems, right?
On the cynical end of the scale, rock music and its culture are actually pretty screwed up. Heavy use of addictive hard drugs, including heroin snd cocaine, are used throughout the culture, leading to stars becoming the Addled Addict and hard liquor flows so freely backstage, onstage and on the tour bus that many become The Alcoholic. Rock musicians may use their inflated stardom and wealth to become real-life Karma Houdinis. Some rock stars may use their fame to take advantage of fans or even rape them. The whole scene is decadent on the top, with stars partying all night at luxury hotels in drug-fueled orgies and seedy on the bottom, where has-been bands from yesteryear who got screwed over on their album contract play at dive bars in Wretched Hive for a pittance. The adverse consequences to rock stars and their hangers-ons' addiction to fame, wealth and intoxicants are emphasized more than the fleeting Bacchanalian pleasures of partying 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 to the hilt with parties, orgies and decadent living until they wake up with a maxed out credit car bill, a hangover, and an eviction notice from the luxury hotel whose suite they destroyed.
The escapist has a Dark and Troubled Past, and they use heavy drugs to escape their pain, casual, anonymous sex as a numbing distraction (and as a replacement for intimacy), and loud, raucous music (and instrument-smashing and hotel-room trashing) as an outlet for their anger.
There's also a related type that uses into illicit substances or sexual encounters for Artistic Stimulation. These artists are more likely to use soft drugs (cannabis) or psychedelic drugs (LSD, magic mushrooms), as they are seeking a mind-expanding creativity boost, not the numbing and blacking out that the escapist seeks. Their sexual encounters are more about seeking a muse, a beautiful and creative woman who will inspire their art. This contrasts sharply with the "What's your name again?" hookups of the hedonist or the drunken bedroom orgies of the escapist.
Media portrayals often cross this trope with the Eccentric Artist, Addled Addict, 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; the similar phrase "wine, women, and song",note attributed to Martin Luther, dates back to at least the 16th century.
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. Compare and contrast Rotten Rock & Roll and Rock Me, Asmodeus!, where rock musicians are the outright villains of the piece, but which has more of a tendency to overlap with Evil Is Cool.
Also compare to tropes about Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.
No Real Life Examples, Please!, as claims about real rock stars tend to be made-up, exaggerated gossip. Even documented Real Life examples of problem-filled rock star lifestyles are not to be included, as it is way too common and tragic.
- 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...
- 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 with 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.
- K-On! is about a school rock band where instead of sex and drugs, they have hugs and cake.
- 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.
- While not a full example of this trope, Alpha, Peter Parker's unwilling sidekick, became this due to obtaining 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.
- Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin buys an album that glorifies this lifestyle, then throws away the album itself because he just wants to leave the packaging around to annoy his mother.
- Codex Equus: Deconstructed with Moon Ray Vaughoof. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan, he took drugs and alcohol during his career thanks to factors like stress and lack of inspiration, and his vices would be enabled by toxic people like his wife, Crystal Light. When he started receiving prophetic visions of himself drowning in water, he tried suppressing them with more alcohol. His professional and personal life deteriorated to the point where he collapsed from a gangplank during the Live Alive tour, and a hospital tour revealed that he severely damaged himself with his habits. Fortunately, he wised up, cut off all the bad influences in his life, and made a full recovery in rehab, after which he revived his career. He still died relatively young, but it was due to a fatal helicopter crash and not the drugs. Now he spends his (after)life helping addicts overcome their vices like he did so they could clean up and make amends for their mistakes while preventing others who are at risk from falling into addiction.
- In-Universe, Moon Ray also believes that this is why many Trimortidae members tend to be musicians and/or Music deities. While a music career looks glamorous, it's also very stressful and precarious, making it very easy to die from. Many music celebrities don't realize this until it's too late, and after they die, most of them try to make amends for their mistakes by doing good deeds as psychopomps.
- Downplayed in Coping. When Flash Sentry was in a high school rock band, he dabbled with weed and beer. He's mostly quit them and sticks to cigarettes now.
- The Jem Dark Fic Mary Phillips Story starts with the '80s musician Stormer being sent to rehab for cocaine addiction. Her manager was the one who got her hooked in the first place.
- Being a 1980s rock star, Riot gave into this in Starlight Is For Always. He ended up dying of an overdose alongside his bandmate Minx.
- The fanvid POP Culture revolves around Cassie (using Mio from K-On as her basis), a young musician who is forced into drug addiction by executives who routinely overwork and sexually abuse her. When she comes out about it, she's scorned on the internet. This leads to her being Driven to Suicide.
- Unlike their source material, the The Takotsuboya K-On Trilogy are Dark Fics that put the sex and drugs back in.
- 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.
- Rock of Ages's Stacee Jaxx provides the page image. Dude is high as balls and knee-deep in screaming groupies, partly his sleazy manager's doing and partly Jaxx attempting to drown his sorrows.
- Velvet Goldmine. And yet, it has some rather positive messages.
- Almost Famous.
- This is Spın̈al Tap plays Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll for laughs. Discussed in one of the Talking Heads interviews with the drummer.
Marty DiBergi: What would you do if you couldn't play music anymore?
Mick Shrimpton: Well as long as there's, y'know, sex and drugs, I can do without the rock & roll.
- 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 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.
- The members of the Chelsea and Millwall firms in The Football Factory live this lifestyle, even though they're only extreme fans of football. Every Saturday, they meet up to party hard in popular nightclubs, have their way with strippers and other female partygoers, and do recreational cocaine in the restrooms.
- Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, a film adaption of the one-man play by Eric Bogosian.
- Bohemian Rhapsody downplays this, mostly focusing on Freddie Mercury's rise to stardom. But it does have a few scenes showing how the lifestyle is slowly destroying him.
- Weird: The Al Yankovic Story parodies this trope, applying the ups and downs of the rock and roll musician biopic to the otherwise uncontroversial life of its writer and subject, "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- 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 someday. 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.
- 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.
- Some of the characters in Ghoul are in a rock band.
- Espedair Street by Iain Banks is a story of a Scottish rock star, full of this trope.
- In Star Island, Cherry Pye is hardly the only young pop singer signed to Maury Lykes' record label whose stardom has fueled a life of sex orgies and drug abuse. As for why Maury tolerates this high rate of burnout, there's a personal reason he named his label Jailbait Records.
- Charlie's backstory on Lost is all about how he went from altar boy to this. His brother Liam went through the same cycle of vice but was able to get clean after his daughter was born.
- VH1's 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).
...AND THEN MY SEVENTH ALBUM ONLY WENT -GOLD- INSTEAD OF PLATINUM! I HAD TO GET THE MEDIUM-SIZED JACUZZI! *sob* [stops sobbing and retains professionalism] Will that work for you?"
- It 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.
- Referenced in an episode of Frasier. Frasier's new neighbor is a rock star who plays his loud music at all hours of the day at unreasonable volumes. The psychiatrist shouts in annoyance, "Doesn't he ever stop for sex and drugs!?"
- 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)
- Probably the Ur-Example is Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin (1958), the last album to be released during her lifetime, where she was only in her forties, yet due to years of abusive relationships, alcohol, morphine, heroin and racial abuse sounds far more world-wise, not to mention her voice, which is ravaged like a 70-year-old due to her lifelong addictions.
- MGMT's Oracular Spectacular takes both ends of the scale to hell and back.
- David Bowie:
- 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.
- "Ashes to Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) sees Bowie revisit 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 spend 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 before passing on.
- 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 the lead man of a 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 & 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 eventual drug abuse are explicitly part of his story. The sex can only be assumed, but the man made millions and was a household 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 its 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 (or never went into the tower in the first place), whilst Murdoc seems to be quite happy where he is.
- A Pale Horse Named Death has the song "Devil Came with a Smile", whereupon a wannabe rocker makes a Deal with the Devil to live this kind of life. It doesn't end well, of course.
- Grunge music as a whole tended towards the escapist side of this trope, and a very dark version thereof. Drugs were rarely glamorous; usually, their users were portrayed as taking drugs in order to dull the pain of the problems they faced and often wound up destroying themselves in the process. Many famous grunge stars were notorious heroin users and were writing from experience.
- Deconstructed in "Swimming Pools (Drank)" by Kendrick Lamar, a song about the problems with trying to stay sober and not become an alcoholic (or lapse back into such) in a culture where alcohol consumption is glamorized. Ironically, it's also a really great song to get drunk to at a party.
- The Weeknd takes a dark spin on this trope, especially so in his Trilogy series of mixtapes where he describes his drug-fueled escapades which he only does to mend his own broken heart and escape from his problems. Most of his early songs, in fact, can be described as an auditory drugged haze.
- In addition to having been a Real Life example of this trope, Marc Almond has several songs which include drug references in his back catalogue. "The Idol" is of particular interest as the lyrics deal heavily with the negative consequences of the rock and roll lifestyle.
- Disgraceland is all about this trope and when it goes wrong.
- Hyeon from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues is a tamer version, being a rock & roll enthusiast in a tribute band who leads a life of high school hedonism, including drinking, doing weed, and plenty of dates.
- Fiasco has the Touring Rock Band playset, which is designed to produce this kind of result. The Needs categories include "To Get Fucked" and "To Get Wasted", and the Objects include a mountain of coke, bondage gear, a heroin works, and a bong made out of a skull. The Fiasco Companion goes so far as to mention a game one of the writers played, which involved a metal guru slash drug dealer, his assistant who handled the transactions and sold him out to the DEA, and a circus bear that ran over the assistant in a bus.
- The One-man play Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, by Eric Bogosian, later adapted to film.
- In Cyberpunk 2077, deuteragonist Johnny Silverhand is a textbook example of the escapist type. He was the most famous Rockerboy to ever live, and an Insufferable Genius who used his music as an outlet for his anger at the Crapsack World he lived in while at the same time being completely incapable of interacting with the world through methods other than violence, insults, and drug abuse.
- In Disco Elysium, your hotel-room-trashing, disco-obsessed cop has an Electrochemistry stat, a representation of his mesolimbic reward pathway which begs him to seek out drugs and sex. If you choose to become a Superstar Cop, this will lead to you developing this kind of personality, through stat buffs which give you the ability to do more drugs, allow you to get sexually aroused more easily, and compare yourself to a rock star to all who listen.
- The Bohemians faction of Fallen London is portrayed with gothic humour as licentious dilettantes, closely connected with prostitution and honey-smuggling - to use exotic pleasures as artistic inspiration, to pay the bills in between commissions, and just for fun.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City seems to hint this with the fictional band Love Fist, a parody of Hair Metal bands from the 80s. Your first mission for them consists in getting drugs and pimping out the Colonel's daughter, Mercedes, for them.
- The Guitar Hero series has a few nods to this trope.
- A mostly offscreen example in Melody. Drugs are Dash's undoing, as a relapse causes his band to break up and his girlfriend to leave him.
- The early Onion article "Molly Hatchet's Nightmare Descent Into Booze, Sex, Drugs 'Not All That Nightmarish,' Guitarist Admits" spoofed the typical invocation of this in TV retrospectives:
"To be honest, if anything, it was the nightmare descent into a lack of booze, sex, and drugs that really hurt," said Reeves, who has worked at his brother-in-law's bait shop since leaving Molly Hatchet in 1986. "The excesses of fame were just fine, thank you very much. It was the non-excesses of non-fame that were the hard part."
- 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 Team 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.
- The Simpsons:
- 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!
Fantasy-Milhouse: You changed, man! It used to be about the music!
- 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 a Depraved Kids' Show Host.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 more so 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!
- When Pickles' old band goes clean, he becomes offended, claiming that this trope is all part of the lifestyle