Top 10 Cocaine Songs Of All Time
Cocaine has had a significant impact on popular music. While booze is far more likely to result in sloppy work and an unsightly beer gut in middle age, coke leaves you wired enough to ensure that you will produce a whole lot of something, and thus ups the odds that you will actually produce something good.
Keith Richards may have fallen out of a tree in Fiji while out of his gourd on other than vitamin supplements, but he is what rock n’ roll is all about: debauchery. And, while a sober Eric Clapton was quoted as saying, “I hate listening to my old records, which I did stoned or drunk,” he’s alone in that camp as most fans of his music hate listening to anything that he’s done straight.
Keith Richards’ entire career, Neil Young’s coked out performance at “The Last Waltz”, Stevie Nicks having built up such a tolerance to cocaine that she had to have it blown up her rectum to get a high (this never happened, apparently, but is nonetheless one of the more entertaining urban legends), cocaine use is an integral part of the rock-star lifestyle. It’s what young boys dream about: One day, if I practice enough and work on perfecting my skills as a singer-songwriter, I too will be able to snort cocaine off of the breasts of a vacant-eyed stripper whose name I’ll forget before I’m back on the tour bus and liquidating a savings account by mobile phone to settle debts with unsavory characters.
Here we have compiled a list of the Top 10 Cocaine Songs of all time — songs about, influenced by, and more than likely written on clouds of Peruvian marching powder:
In this one, the good Reverend regales us with the modern day parable of a farmer out in his field pulling corn and carrots “when two low-flying aeroplanes, ’bout a hundred feet high/dropped a bunch o’ bales o’ somethin’, some hit me in the eye”. The farmer cuts the bales open and notices a mysterious powder inside. Being a rube, for whom presumably white lightnin’ is still the biggest thrill in town, he has no idea what it is and brings it to his “Crazy Brother Joe”: “He sniffed it up and kicked his heels, said, ‘Horton, that’s some blow!’” Our lucky farming friend then heads into Dallas, becomes a millionaire by selling his find, ditches his farm in Texas and buys another in Peru. Think of it like the Bill Paxton movie “A Simple Plan”, only a whole lot happier and without Billy Bob Thornton in the role of a mouth-breather. We can safely assume that at some later point in this farmer’s life the drug dealers whose fortune he stole would have tracked him down and introduced him to the latest in Columbian necktie attire, however, for taking a different angle on the cocaine song and for its appreciation of the entrepreneurial spirit, we salute the Reverend Horton Heat and include “Bales of Cocaine” on our Top 10 Cocaine Songs of All Time list:
Bales of cocaine, fallin’ from low-flyin’ plane
I don’t know who done dropped ’em, but I thank ’em just the same
Bales of cocaine, fallin’ like a foreign rain
My life changed completely by the low-flyin’ planes
This is a song that needs to wipe its nose before returning to the dinner table. With two founding members who met in a tattoo parlor and bonded over their mutual love of AC/DC, Buckcherry exemplifies the type of hard rockin’ lifestyle that has enriched many a well-connected roadie. A song meant more for the mosh-pit than for lyrical analysis, this one is interesting though for the number of places in which the narrator gets “lit up”. They include: a plane, his couch, his bed, on a train and backstage somewhere with a groupie knocking, “Crack the door for the curious girl cuz she’s waitin’ she’s been waitin’…” And fulfilling the age-old maxim that all bands who look like this will eventually do something that reminds one of Spinal Tap, we get a replay of the classic, “It goes up to 11” bit of dialogue in the following bit of verse: “I’m in touch love, from this crutch/Well you’re on ten but buddy I’m on eleven”.
“I’m on a plane With cocaine And yes I’m all lit up again”
“I don’t do cocaine anymore. Well, only occasionally,” GNR guitarist Slash, 1992. Long before the band broke up and Axl Rose set about attempting to strangle whatever bit of fan support they had with the “Chinese Democracy” debacle, the Gunners were at the forefront of cocaine-fueled hard rock with Appetite For Destruction, and “My Michelle” was one of their best. The Michelle in the song actually existed. She knew the band and asked Axl to pen a tune for her. She did not get “Sweet Child Of Mine” treatment. This one tells a story of a hard-living woman whose “daddy works in porno/Now that mommy’s not around/She used to love her heroin/but now she’s in the ground.” The song and the real-life story both have a happy ending, as, according to Slash’s biography (which would no doubt require a snort of something illicit to get through), Michelle has since moved across the country and cleaned up her act.
“So you stay out late at night And you do your coke for free Drivin’ your friends crazy With your life’s insanity”
Though better known for penning that motet Sweet Home Alabama, heard if a case of Amstel Light, a $150 Yamaha guitar, a group of white people, or a campfire are within a 100-yard radius, Skynyrd is also known for this thoroughly unpleasantly titled opus: ‘What’s that smell?’ being one of the worst questions you can ever hear uttered, along with ‘Is anyone here a vegetarian?’ A well-worn refrain when it comes to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, members of the band were killed by over-consumption, but in this case, it was of fuel, at least according to the National Transportation Safety Board, who determined this caused their plane to take a nosedive into a Mississippi forest. This song references an earlier and less-killing crash involving guitarist Gary Rossington, whiskey, coke and an oak tree that would just not get out of the way.
“Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you’re in my way
There’s too much coke and too much smoke
Look what’s going on inside you
With an obstructed view concert ticket to one of their performances costing in the range of your average eight-ball, The Eagles certainly know a thing or two about life in the fast lane, a song inspired by a road trip Glenn Frey took with a dealer named ‘The Count’. In ‘Hotel California’, (a song so ubiquitous you can be wandering the rugged mountains of northern Laos and hear a villager who’s otherwise had no contact with modernity, humming a few bars) there were ‘mirrors were on the ceiling’, and in this song, their paean to hard-living, they served a dual purpose other than a means to admire your feather mullet and creepy mustache.
“They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills
There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face”
These Dead songs casually mention cocaine use as part of the average work day for those in two occupations — a train conductor and a trucker — and we’re hoping this was more fantasy than fiction. Truckers are already not the kind of people that most like to share the road with — their egos being inflated in proportion to their rigs and requiring no further boost from chemicals. Cocaine use might, however, explain, how train conductors can crash something that sets out on a predetermined track. The ‘livin’ on reds, vitamin C and cocaine” lifestyle is unlikely to feature prominently in the health and wellness section of your local bookstore alongside “You: On a Diet”, or “Train your Brain to Think like a Thin Person”.
“Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.”
“Livin’ on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine
All a friend can say is ain’t it a shame?”
Pound for pound, or more accurately, ounce for ounce, “Sticky Fingers” is one of the most drug-addled albums ever released, with nearly half of the songs on it in some way referencing drugs either obliquely, or quite explicitly with heroin in Dead Flowers, morphine in Sister Morphine, or singing the praises of a nighttime bump in Moonlight Mile. Sticky Fingers, along with Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the Night” are among the most depressing albums of the 1970s, and together make the Tom Waits song catalog sound like the collected works of the Village People by comparison.
“Yeah, you got satin shoes
Yeah, you got plastic boots
Ya’ll got cocaine eyes
Yeah, you got speed-freak jive”
“Sweet cousin cocaine, lay your cool cool hand on my head
Ah, come on, sister morphine, you better make up my bed”
“When the wind blows and the rain feels cold with a head full of snow, with a head full of snow”
There are numerous songs out there that go by the name “Cocaine Blues” or a variation thereof, presumably because there was no shortage of real-life material on which to base such ditties. We’re slotting two of the more prominent in our third and second spots. The first is a “traditional” song, which means that it’s public domain and can therefore be burned, photocopied, recorded, dubbed over, mixed with farm animal sounds, and played over and over again on the street corner to the annoyance of everyone within 100 yards (public noise ordinances notwithstanding) — all with copyright-infringement impunity. The Reverend Gary Davis, who, unlike Brother Horton Heat earlier in the list, actually was an ordained minister, laid down the definitive version of this one, and a young Bob Dylan added it to his repertoire. This version takes us through some of the less pleasant aspects of cocaine use — hence the “blues” part — including:
Any pretense to romance going out the window:
You take Sally, an’ I’ll take Sue,
Ain’t nah difference between the two.
Cocaine all around my brain.
Unpleasant physical effects:
Hey baby, you better come here quick,
This old cocaine ’bout to make me sick.
Cocaine all around my brain.
And one quite bizarre veterinary notion:
Cocaine’s for horses and it’s not for men,
Doctor said it kill you, but he didn’t say when.
Cocaine all around my brain.
The second of our public domain songs (go ahead and record this one on YouTube using a butt kazoo and a ukulele for all the record companies care) was first known by the far more ominous sounding name “Transfusion Blues”, but popularized as Cocaine Blues by none other than the Man in Black (especially after Labor Day) Johnny Cash. This was one of the songs that Cash sang at Folsom Prison that no doubt had the guards ruining underwear while wondering whether they would soon have a riot on their hands. This super-charged song tells the story of Willie Lee, a “hack”, which we presume means either a prison guard or cop, as a reporter for a schlock newspaper wouldn’t be as cool, who takes a shot of cocaine and shoots his cheating woman down. He then flees to Mexico, but is apprehended, put before a jury of “12 honest men” and sentenced to “99 years in the Folsom Pen”. By the end the convicted prisoner advises his fellows to stay off the cocaine, not to murder, mind you, but to avoid the cocaine; he seems ok about the murdering your wife part.
The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the Folsom pen
99 years underneath that ground
I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down
Come on you’ve gotta listen unto me
lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be
Don’t be fooled by Clapton’s fatigued version, this gem penned by J.J. Cale (a man to whom Slow Hand arguably owes his entire career) is in our estimation, the definitive blizzard ditty. Clapton is quoted on Wikipedia as having once said that “Cocaine” is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought… from a distance… or as it goes by… it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But in actual fact, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.” Being that Clapton didn’t write this song, this opinion is about as valuable as the answer you’d get if you asked the Byrds what they were thinking when they came up with “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Defending his position, Clapton mentions the lyric, “If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine” to demonstrate that the song is anti-coke. He doesn’t mention though that every other lyric in the song could feature in the text of a Colombian drug-runner’s spring/fall catalogue:
If you want to hang out, you’ve got to take her out, cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine
If you got bad news, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done and you got to run, cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine
If your thing is gone and you want to ride on, cocaine
Dont forget this fact, you cant get it back, cocaine
She dont lie, she dont lie, she don’t lie, cocaine
Honorable or dishonorable omissions: Never Change (Jay-Z), Snowblind (Black Sabbath), Cocaine (The Game), No Thing On Me (Curtis Mayfield), What A Waster (The Libertines), Picture (Kid Rock)