15 Pop-Culture Masterpieces Brought to You by Drugs
Winners don’t use drugs. Everyone knows that. It’s one of many lessons imparted upon the world by that great thinker, G.I. Joe. But sometimes you look at the world and think, yeah, quite a lot of them do.
You look at the cultural landscape, and the canon that we have collectively decided are Great Works of Art, and holy shit, so many of the people who made them were blasted out of their minds on whatever substances they could get their hands on. Whether numbing themselves to trauma with drink, opening their doors of perception with psychedelics or just staying up really late to get a lot done with cocaine, opt-in toxins are everywhere.
Agreed-upon lists of masterpieces — films with perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores, say, or Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums or creative works placed in the Library of Congress — are so full of drugs you could roll them up, smoke them and use how fucked up you were to produce a masterpiece of your own.
Interestingly, a lot more music and literature is made while scrambled on drugs than movies, possibly because writing is done solo and recording an album generally involves 10 or fewer people, while a film involves dozens of people who might not appreciate standing around while you get good and fucked up. After all, you can’t have a high cinematographer. That would look like shit!
The Fucked-Up Four
Rolling Stone claims that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the greatest album ever. While recording, they were mainly into weed, LSD and cocaine, had previously been very into benzedrine, and John Lennon later got hella into heroin.
Weed’s Going On
Rolling Stone’s sixth best album ever, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is a musically rich, socially conscious record made while high as balls on all the weed in the world. Everyone involved was chain-smoking, and the air was said to be damn near opaque.
The Drunkest Movie Ever Made
Reformed boozehound Roger Ebert described drunken epic Withnail & I as “convey(ing) the experience of being drunk so well that the only way I could improve upon it would be to stand behind you and hammer your head with two-pound bags of frozen peas.”
What a Trip, What a Trip
During the making of Easy Rider, everyone was absolutely fucked. One story has it that, during production, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were so desperate for cocaine that they snorted an executive’s dead wife’s ashes. Five stars!
On the Road, and the Booze, and the Pills
Hailed as one of the great American novels even if everyone in it is kind of a dick, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was written in three weeks, fueled by cigarettes, coffee, booze, benzedrine and — there had to be one innocent ingredient in there — pea soup.
What Happens in Vegas… Is Immortalized in Print
Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas details exactly how many drugs he was on when writing it, in a famous list beginning, “We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline” and running too long to fit in this space.
Ah Well, Whatever, Never Mind
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was a troubled soul when he wrote and recorded Nevermind, addicted to heroin and vomiting daily. Somehow, within the chaos of his addiction and personal life, he came up with the best album of the decade.
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss… Just Heroin
During the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. sessions (Rolling Stone’s seventh best record ever) the recording engineer found guitarist Keith Richards passed out with a needle sticking out of his arm. On poking, Richards sprang up and continued playing.
Art with Heart
Jean-Michel Basquiat did a lot of drugs while producing a shitload of work that now changes hands for millions. He eroded a hole in his septum through excessive cocaine use, and it was an accidental heroin overdose that brought his life to an early end.
The Library of Chronic
Dr. Dre’s The Chronic is in the Library of Congress. There are much druggier albums, and its violence is arguably more notable than its weed-drenched-ness, but it’s still called The Chronic and in the Library of Congress, that’s insane.
Punks on Junk
Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization is one of only 105 films to have a perfect 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. And good lord, everyone in it is completely fucked up at all times, including the doomed Darby Crash.
Did Somebody Do a Line Off a Duck?
Caddyshack does not have a perfect Tomatometer score, but Bravo claimed it was the second funniest film ever, which is masterpiece-y. Chevy Chase did so, so much cocaine making this film. Rodney Dangerfield did two lines in his audition.
The Greatly Inebriated Gatsby
The F in F. Scott Fitzgerald didnt stand for “fucked-up,” but could have — he was hammered for two decades, which led to his death at 44. It’s difficult to read The Great Gatsby drunk — this motherfucker wrote it that way.
Booze for Breakfast, Drugs in the Blood
Truman Capote drank martinis with breakfast and produced two unquestioned masterpieces in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. However, he may have peaked with this quote: “I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I’m homosexual. I’m a genius.”
What, Philip, Electric What?
If you’re ever trying to find drugs and can’t find any, it’s possible the late Philip K. Dick did ‘em. He did a LOT, while producing endless works of genius. Confusing genius, yep. And he wasn’t happy. Still though, impressive!