An interesting Inversion from Ryan Adams: Hardly anybody, upon listening to "How Do You Keep Love Alive?" (from his 2005 album Cold Roses), would think it was anything other than one of Adams' typical melancholy alt-country songs, not reflecting the influence of any drug except maybe a bit of whiskey. But by Adams' own account, he was high as a kite on opium when he composed and recorded the song. Also, because in his stupor he never bothered to write any of it down, he has spent years "trying to understand the chord pattern" because "[he] can't fucking play it."
Almost anything by Tori Amos. Particularly the albums From the Choirgirl Hotel, Boys for Pele, and To Venus and Back. Especially To Venus and Back.
The Beatles claim that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was inspired by a picture John Lennon's son drew about a girl named Lucy, not the drug "LSD". Currently, the most accepted explanation is that although parts of the song are probably drug-inspired, it's equally inspired by the drawing (which really does exist!), and the title's "LSD" acronym is a complete coincidence.
The rumor was probably helped by the sequence for that song in Yellow Submarine.
Ironically, one of their few songs they admitted was about drugs was the innocuous-sounding "Got to Get You Into My Life" from Revolver—which was about weed.
And ONLY the first two lines of "I Am The Walrus" were written on acid, according to Lennon. Not 100%, but a rather insignificant portion of the actual song. (And if anything, those lines prove the explanation in this trope right; something repetitive like "I am he as you are he as you are me" is as far as you are going to get if writing lyrics while on acid.) The weirdness in the rest of the song was intentional. John Lennon wanted it to sound druggy and incomprehensible; it was his way of messing with people who were looking for "deeper meanings" in Beatles songs. As he said, "Let them figure that one out!"note "Let's stick that in there, we say, that'll start them puzzling. I'm sure all the artists do, when they realize it's a con. I bet Picasso sticks things in. I bet he's been laughing his balls off for the last eighty years." Parts that seem to be drug-inspired could have been written in the style of The Goon Show, but not all.
Bob Dylan was convinced the Beatles were stoners well before they smoked anything because he misheard the line 'I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't Hide' in "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as 'I get high, I get high, I get high'.
The Beatles have been fairly consistent that they were rarely high while recording, with one memorable exception being during Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, when John accidentally took a tab of acid thinking it was an "upper." (The fact that the Beatles considered amphetamines as a different class of drugs than marijuana or psychedelics is a subject for another day)
Speaking of Sgt. Pepper, Paul McCartney was experimenting with a decidedly Un-psychedelic drug during the recording. Paul had recently been introduced to cocaine by his friends in the avante-garde art scene in London.
Big & Rich came up with some pretty psychedelic Country Music (yes, you read that right) on their first album, Horse of a Different Color, including a track sounding an awful lot like it came off a Queen album. Most of their weirder music is courtesy of Big Kenny, whose two solo albums also fall under this trope (especially the first one, which is brightly-colored, theatrical synth-pop with mostly delirious lyrics); John Rich is far more sedate.
It's worth noting that Captain Beefheart claimed that none of his music was made under the influence of drugs. However, his band members have refuted this.
Aversion: David Bowie has said that he doesn't even remember recording 1976's Station to Station because he was so strung out on cocaine at the time (this was soon after the filming of The Man Who Fell to Earth, mentioned under Films: Live Action!). And "TVC15" is apparently about a hallucination Iggy Pop had about his then-girlfriend being swallowed by a TV-set. On the other hand, Bowie's music remained every bit as weird as that for several years afterwards, and he had quit using drugs by the time he made Low (1977), which has been described as resembling a cocaine comedown set to music.
Bowie never took strong hallucinogens, fearing that it might trigger the schizophrenia common in his family.
Semi Aversion: Kate Bush and her entire discography is this trope, with fellow bandmates and collaborators bringing up that she never took any hard drugs, fuelling her creativity with massive amounts of tea and marijuana. Her excessive work habits of composing songs almost 20 hours a day non-stop when she found inspiration coupled with the sleep deprivation is probably another factor in how her creative output came to be.
The Clash flew in the face of the "Speed is cool, pot is for hippies" mentality of punk (although they did speed, too.) By their later albums (especially Sandinista!) they had succumbed to the notion common with cocaine users that EVERY idea they had was brilliant and deserved to be committed to wax.
Alice Cooper used to abuse alcohol heavily, then sobered up in the 80s. His pre-sobriety work is sometimes trippy, sometimes scary. His later work, particularly Along Came a Spider, often goes straight into horror.
Trippy balladeer Donovan renounced drugs in 1966 after police raided his home... and went on to pen Atlantis and an album entitled A Gift from a Flower to a Garden.
A Gift From a Flower... was meant as a double concept album, one set of songs for Hippie Parents, the other set for their children. The box set contained a message calling on young people to renounce the use of drugs and "seek the sun" through natural means. Atlantis was a paraphrase of Ignatius Donnelly's 1882 speculative work considered by New Age seekers to have at least a partial basis in fact.
Everything Else wasn't on drugs when they made "What Can't Be Seen".
The video invokes this trope; too bizarre to go into the full details, but it's trippy and well... weird. Notable for being one of the few videos where she doesn't make an in-person appearance, only an appearance as an Animated ActressAs Herself. The video is here. Incidentally, Dua actually wasn't taking drugs and was perfectly sane when doing this.
The Geeks Were Right by The Faint, a relatively unknown/underground indie...techno-y elec. band. Watch at your own sanity's risk.
While many music videos for Electronic Dance Music (especially of the Dubstep variety) can get downright weird, the video for Dillon Francis and Flux Pavilion's "I'm the One" is so out-there and random. The two artists' faces being pasted on kittens is hardly the weirdest thing about it.
Hot Chip's video for I Feel Better went viral and deservedly so. Because just when you think it can't get weirder... it does.
The video for The King of Wishful Thinking is a... loose interpretation of the innocuous song. It's as if a very, very dull man has utterly lost his mind. And bad white man dancing throughout.
The way the band members told it, Doug Ingle was drunk while (or after) writing the song and this is how the lyrics came out when he tried to sing it to Ron Bushy.
Anything by Miranda July. Not exactly music, but it doesn't really fit anywhere else, and she did release it as an album... If you do manage to find any of her albums, it'd probably be a good idea not to listen to the whole thing at once. And under no circumstances should you listen to her on hallucinogens.
"Down Under" by Men At Work. The whole song relates a road-trip through Eurasia taken by the singer ("on a hippie trail" in "a fried-out Kombi", an over-headed Volkswagen combination van), who is stated in the first verse to be high on marijuana ("head full of zombie"). The narrator is also frustrated by the stereotypes other countries have about Australia (it's a land where "women glow and men plunder", where people eat Vegemite sandwiches and drink cheap beer until they vomit, or "chunder"). To many people who don't know what it means, it's just a catchy pop song from The '80s with weird lyrics.
They Might Be Giants are often mistaken for drug addicts because of the surreal nature of their songs. They drink a metric shitload of coffee, but that's it.
The video for the song Un Monde Parfait, by French singer Ilona Mitrecey.
Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf is a very heavy drug user, and often includes drug references in his songs. His style of music is even called Stoner Rock. Yet despite this, he has said in interviews that he never does drugs while writing music, and in fact looks down on musicians who do. His opinion is that drug use dulls creativity, and that musicians who write music while high could have written much better music while straight.
Some of Of Montreal's albums, especially Skeletal Lamping, sound like Quaaludes set to music, and certainly make references to (other people using and pushing) drugs. But lead singer Kevin Barnes has repeatedly denied drug use — he's just utterly lost his mind. Even "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethian Curse" (Chemicals) from Hissing Fauna is, according to Word Of God, about serotonin.
"The Most Unwanted Song" wasn't made on drugs. It was carefully made to incorporate the most annoying Music Tropes ever, according to the people surveyed. It's mind-bogglingly, almost endearingly bizarre. Especially when they get to the country/opera/rap bit. And the children shouting with joy over every holiday in the calendar year, and the prospect of doing the appropriate shopping at Wal-Mart. If you don't go "WTF" at least once, you are an alien. And it's longer than Inna Gadda Davida? Enjoy.
Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie" was widely construed to be about marijuana, but it refers instead to a Jamaican cooking pot. It was, however, based on a song called "Pass The Kouchie", which did indeed refer to a cannabis pipe.
Most people still don't know (or care), and dutchie now has become slang for a joint.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame stated that he used to think drugs made him creative. He then gave drugs up and he went from a few years between each album to a creativity burst of releasing a few in a year (some for free.)
Marilyn Manson's first two albums, Portrait of an American Family and Antichrist Superstar were openly and honestly made on all the drugs, with even guitar rifts inspired by acid, and the writing process for Antichrist Superstar basically being Manson and (bassist) Twiggy Ramirez doing any drug possible, not sleeping for days, and drawing on their overly depressing childhoods. Then, Mechanical Animals comes out with songs like "The Dope Show", and was barely made on any drugs, and is actually anti-drug, "The Dope Show" being sarcastic as possible, with another song being called "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)", which had by far the trippiest video. One of the primary inspirations for the album was Brave New World, after all. The rest of the band's work has been made on a revolving staple of drugs, primarily absinthe, cocaine and pot, with the cocaine getting dropped after 2003.
Ted Nugent is an adamant straight-edge, and aside from some brief experimentation in The '60s, has never used drugs and, by his own confession, has had maybe three beers in his entire life. In this light, his entire musical catalog falls into this category.
Ted Nugent's sixties group The Amboy Dukes became a One-Hit Wonder with "Journey To The Center Of The Mind", a song that was pretty blatantly in favor of drug use. Nugent wrote the music, but not the lyrics, and has claimed that he was too naive to realize what the song was about at the time. Oddly, he recorded his own version of the song for his 2007 solo album Love Grenade without changing any of the lyrics.
Loverboy by Billy Ocean. While there are two videos for the song, this version in particular seems to have been made while watching Star Wars on drugs.
The music video for Chris Dane Owens' "Shine on Me" would be an example even if Owens' eyes weren't bloodshot throughout the video.
He is currently studied by scientists who want to find out how some people manage to shrug off the effects of unGodly amounts of drugs, while others succumb after a few tries. They actually discovered several genes in his genome that allow his body to metabolize alcohol and opiates better than the average person.
"Dr. Looney's Remedy", a witch doctor-themed song by children's music group Parachute Express. Complete with a trippy jungle video replete with plenty of Aracuan Bird.
Reportedly the only drug Mike Patton uses is caffeine, which can be surprising given stuff like this video, stranger moments of Faith No More and especially his work with Mr. Bungle and Fantomas. Yes, despite Faith No More having an album called Angel Dust (a few songs on that album were things he wrote during a sleep deprivation experiment though). Adult Themes For Voice, his bizarre a capella sound collage of a solo debut, was inspired by nothing more than fits of boredom during a lengthy Faith No More tour that he happened to pack his tape recorder for. And while he has written at least one song about drug use, it's intended as a satirical skewering of the party lifestyle rather than a recounting of any personal experience.
The video for the Pet Shop Boys song "Go West". Some of the characters even look like mushrooms. There's also "Can You Forgive Her?". Go West's video does have thematic ties to its song. CYFH's video has absolutely nothing to do with the song, in addition to being weird.
While marijuana is involved in the song, the music video is about Petty as a morgue assistant who takes home the corpse of a woman (played by Kim Basinger) for a dinner date. Necrophiliac sex with her is the "last dance".
Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell said, "My take on it is it can be whatever you want it to be. A lot of people think it's a drug reference, and if that's what you want to think, it very well could be, but it could also just be a goodbye love song.
With the exception of Freddie Mercury in the 70s, and his cigarette smoking, the band's songs were not written under the influence of anything stronger than tea and alcohol. Brian May, the guitarist, actually goes so far as to ban smoking from his later concerts and any building he owns.
Special mention to the song 39. While the lyrics sound bizarre and incomprehensible at first, reality is stranger than fiction: they describe space travel on subluminar velocities and time dilation according to Einstein's theory of relativity. Brian May, who wrote the song, is PhD in astronomy, and certainly knows his stuff. He described the song as "space folk".
Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, one of the most beloved modern progressive rock bands, is strongly against drug use: "I don't do drugs, I just dream". Several Porcupine Tree songs speak of the negative effects drugs have on people, and the consequences of drug abuse.
Believe it or not, Radiohead is sometimes labeled a stoner band, even though Thom Yorke has never done drugs in his life (although he has hinted at using anti-depressants).
Red Hot Chili Peppers. Particularly "Behind the Sun." And considering that between them they've probably done enough illicit substances to kill a herd of buffalo, it really is hard to believe it wasn't made on drugs.
The band has said in interviews that "Under The Bridge" is explicitly about heroin usage. The giveaway line is "...drew some blood", which refers to blood flowing up into the heroin syringe before the drugs are injected into the vein.
The music video for "Ladies And Gentlemen: My Brother, The Failure" by Thursday is fairly straightforward at first, if not strange because, unlike the lyrics, the video doesn't seem to have anything to do with brothers. It goes to hell around the time the main character's wedding-dress-wearing wife starts ballroom dancing with giant cockroaches, who then get into a fist fight with an exterminator.
The oeuvre of eurodance band Toy-Box has to be heard to be believed, but their music videos are especiallydeliciously cracked out.
Many people feel Jethro Tull, in particular writer/singer/flutist Ian Anderson, was on drugs given Ian's jumping around on stage and his crazy, wide-eyed expressions. However, Anderson rarely drinks, smokes little (or none at this point) tobacco, and does not do drugs at all. In fact, he once said that his few experimentation experiences actually hindered his creativity.
Bonnie Tyler's videos for "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and to a lesser degree "Holding out for a Hero." The literal version of the former actually makes sense, in so far that what's happening is what is sung.
Unexpect. The idea of a sober and otherwise sane person coming up with a track like Megalomaniac Trees is unsettling.
Ween is actually a strong aversion; the band quite avowedly did a shitload of drugs, particularly marijuana, and this is referenced at times in their music. This then peculiarly got inverted over the course of their career, to the point that their final two albums Quebec and La Cucaracha are relatively calm prog-rock and pop-rock respectively, despite them dissolving afterwards primarily due to one of the members being burned out from drug use.
"Weird Al" Yankovic is drug-free. It's been said if he ever did use drugs, he'd probably turn normal.
Close to the Edge by Yes (all three tracks, not just the title track) hovers tantalizingly on the border of almost making sense, but not quite. Whether this indicates anything about the process of creation...
Steve Howe and Chris Squire have both commented in various interviews over the years that a lot of the seemingly trippy, surrealistic lyrics in Yes' "classic" period (i.e. the 1970s) came about not through drugs, as everyone assumes, but because Jon Anderson considered their voices as just another instrument. He would string nonsense lyrics together based on whatever words would fit the music and, as long as the words sounded good when they were sung, he didn't care if they made any sense or not. (This may also have been a case of Jon knowing his audience, many of whom probably were on drugs at the time.) To be fair, while the lyrics may not have been inspired by drug use, the band members have made no secret of their use of cannabis at the time, with the exception of Wakeman, who preferred alcohol.
This music video is quite possibly why Eddie Murphy pursued acting and not music after doing stand-up comedy.
The late Frank Zappa had a well-known dislike of drugs, yet wrote songs such as "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" (Freak Out) and "Billy the Mountain" (Just Another Band from L.A.), which is about how you shouldn't try to persuade a mountain to fight in 'Nam, and gave his children names like Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Diva. He'd fire band members for smoking half a joint, and then go record an album like Lumpy Gravy.
Zappa had done marijuana a handful of times in social situations to be polite, and enjoyed the occasional beer. His real drugs were coffee and cigarettes. And the rest of the band members were not strangers to drugs, despite Zappa's "no drugs on the road" policy. This policy was mostly so the cops would not have an excuse to bust him, and Zappa, perfectionist he is, wrote music that is very hard to play, especially if youre not sober!
He wrote a rock opera, Joe's Garage that has a character based on L. Ron Hubbard (okay, not based, he just uses Hubbard's name) who heads a cult focused around sex with household appliances. Plus, the main character joins the cult and has sex with household appliances...that speak German.
In his book The Real Frank Zappa Book he relates the story of how as a child he would play with a large lump of mercury as a toy. So while his weirdness may not be drug induced it may be chemically so. In the same book he wrote, "I like pepper, tobacco and coffee. That's my metabolism." He also once said in an interview "Tobacco is my favorite vegetable." In another interview, he said "I live my life eating these things" (indicates his cigarette) "and drinking this black water in this cup".
In Zappa's biography (which one, please?) the author accounts a time when, by virtue of obsession, Zappa managed to put together an entire band for a tour, none of whom would or ever had taken drugs. Zappa mentioned at one point it was one of the most boring tours he ever did and realised this when he discovered there was more than one chess tournament going on within the band. After that he apparently loosened up on firing band members mid-tour for smoking joints, so long as it was kept quiet and didn't put him in a compromising situation.
Strongly averted by George Clinton, whose 70s oeuvre was largely fueled by all kinds of drugs, which may be why we never got that Mothers of Invention/Parliament-Funkadelic tour(see above).
The electro-swing song "Bathtime In Clerkenwell" by The Real Tuesday Weld, a song who's lyrics are mostly mouth noises, practically feels like it was written and recorded on drugs. Even the animated music video for it looks like it was made under the influence of some sort of hallucinogen.
Nearly all of Death Grips' work could count. Even their social media can fall under this, on their Instagram strange images are uploaded with zero context, sometimes repeatedly (with the most extreme example being a bottle full of cigarettes being posted 45 times in a row).
Due to Eminem's publicly known image as a Recovered Addict and the fact that his music and image softened afterwards, it's common for fans to say he was better when he was on drugs. However, he was on drugs much less than a lot of fans realise.
The songs on Slim Shady EP were written while clean. Eminem did not use drugs or drink until after he'd started rapping in character as Slim Shady about being an Undiscriminating Addict. People in the hip-hop community then started treating him as if he was Slim Shady, and giving him drugs, which he then started abusing, along with acting more violent and angry in real life. However, even then, his favourite illegal drug was ecstasy, and he never touched anything harder than that. He did cocaine once in 1999 at the urging of Kid Rock (and recorded an uncharacteristically swaggering Slim Shady guest verse for "Fuck Off" under its influence), but hated the experience so much he never touched it again even when his wife became addicted to it. While his music was influenced by "acid rap", he did not do acid (and certainly never "strapped the whole sheet to my forehead, waited 'til it absorbed in and fell to the floor, dead"). The drugs he would later have problems with were Valium, Vicodin and Ambien, legal drugs that were prescribed to him for his knee injury and insomnia, as well as alcohol.
Eminem wasn't abusing illegal drugs while making The Eminem Show because his assault conviction and subsequent probation had regular, random drug testing as a condition of his freedom. During this time, all he did was take his prescribed medicine in approved doses (whether he needed the prescriptions at all is up for debate), and drink beer in moderation once or twice. The Eminem Show is his most popular album, and one of his most critically acclaimed.
By the time Eminem made Relapse, he'd recovered from his drug addictions and was clean. The content on the album is even more violent and nasty than anything he'd recorded on drugs, and describes Slim Shady binging a whole Aspirin-to-Zantac medicine cabinet of branded pharmaceuticals. Eminem stated in interviews that, because he believed drugs made him a better rapper, his goal with Relapse was to prove that he could rap like he was on drugs even sober.
This trope is parodied on "Must Be The Ganja", in which Slim is going totally out of control with murders and rapes, and suggests it's the weed and the drink. At the end of the song, he breaks character to admit that it can't be the ganja or Henny because he's been clean for a year, so all of his euphoria and violence is... the real him.
The bonus track "My Darling", kind of a backstory for the album, has a scene where Dre tells Eminem that since he got off the drugs, he got "a lot softer", which helps eventually persuade him to relapse (in kayfabe).
In "Fall", the lead single from Kamikaze, Eminem announces that "though me and my party days have pretty much all partied ways, you'll swear I forgot that I'm the guy who made "Not Afraid""note referencing his Self-Empowerment Anthem about getting clean. He then dedicates almost the rest of the album to the kind of savage drama-stirring he used to do while on drugs, in particular dedicating a speed-rap verse in "Lucky You" to a crisis of confidence as he allows himself to fear that he needs drugs to get his edge back.