Self destruction and rock and roll seem to go hand in hand….or is that the myth that we want to believe? 

Self-destruct in T-Minus 5…

They tend to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. The world mourned Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, Layne Staley and John Bonham. Legends one and all. Not just for their contributions to music, for which they should all be celebrated, but for their grisly demises as well.

Even those that aren’t dead (yet); Mötley Crüe, The Stones, Guns N’ Roses, have had their decadence raised to legendary status. It’s all become a part of the myth… And the attraction.

56404998 – guy smoking weed

It’s been noted that egos, drugs, money and women have ended more bands than anything else. But, they’ve also started more bands than anything else.

It’s got a nasty habit of self-destruction, rock n’ roll does. After countless rehabilitations, relapses and recoveries, rock music still carries one vital and potent drug in its system; that myth.

That poisonous myth. The “fuddy-duddy rock n’ roll lifestyle,” as Rotten once called it. It’s made and it’s broken people and careers. And, it birthed this mad notion of rock n’ roll as a lifestyle rather than just a genre. A life and death cult spawned by Elvis accidentally twitching his pelvis.


The defining pop cultural phenomenon of the 20th century is largely defined by many people by its depravity rather than its contributions to life and living. Rock n’ roll, and indeed music of all sorts, is an enhancement. It enhances the pleasure of living and has done so for millennia. For religious or spiritual purposes, or just to Kick Out The Jams for the sheer joyous Hell of it.

It’s a way of augmenting and intensifying one’s existence. What it is not, is something to exist by and for. And certainly, the rock n’ roll lifestyle, is hardly a healthy one.

And, more importantly, it’s inaccurate!

The rock n’ roll life, ie. Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll (ordered in decreasing importance), is ultimately, a shallow existence. It may be fun for a while, and even manageable in moderation. But, you’re living as a slave. Rather than as an independent individual.

And surely that is the point. Or rather, was the point. Rock n’ roll was a statement of individuality, of freedom. But now, the idea of what a rockstar is/is not has become as rigid a boundary as those that rock music originally set out to destroy. Self-destruction is unhealthy. But a little bit of demolition has its place.


You see, demolition makes room for the new and improved. And, while you can doubt whether or not that was the original intention behind the music, it certainly became a significant part of what the music was about.

Or the music was at least a fitting soundtrack. And we all know how important the soundtrack is…

But the idea of rockstars as hedonists is as detrimental to the music as it is to the people themselves. Slash noted in his biography that the drugs will fuel the creativity to a certain point, but past that point they become a hindrance, rather than a help.

Anyways, listen to Frank Zappa and Sonic Youth followed by Mötley Crüe and Poison and decide for yourself who made the better music. The pursuit of hedonism, with rock music the vehicle for that pursuit, has resulted in some piss-poor tunes.

Because, it’s a shallow cause: chasing the next hit (drugs or single) and the next groupie. Whereas, striving to create something truly inventive and original, to further your own experience, and by extension someone else’s, is a worthwhile crusade.

Hence, Frank Zappa. A man who through the pursuit of his musical ambitions enhanced the living experience of many a listener. But shamefully too few.


But, it’s not just the problem of a handful of a few individual, ego-inflated rock n’ roll types. It shows to us the true colours of what we as a consuming public want. As opposed to an enlightening and life-affirming experience, we’d prefer the junk food hit of scandal straight in the mainline.

Because it’s what we crave as a collective society, we spawn misguided people who think S&D&RnR is a desirable or, worse yet, romantic way to live and die. Or they just think it looks fun. The effect is the same.

And the effect is detrimental. It’s destruction, not demolition. Demolition makes way for. Destruction just flattens.

It’s well documented that drugs have had an impact on the music made by rock groups. And it’s even resulted in some of the best work by some of the best groups. The Beatles stand as academia-accepted proof of that. What I’m talking about is excess. And I mean EXCESS. And the acceptance of said excess to the point where it’s not only accepted, but expected as well. Because when we start to expect something, we lose the spark. That little wild flame of madness that not only fuels creativity, but is beneficial to us all.


It’s sad that rock n’ roll is probably more synonymous with its excess rather than its contributions to being human. Its augmentation of living has long been overshadowed by its dark side. A cheap, easily digestible thrill. But, the thrill has long since left the building…

Violence, hurt and death VS enlightenment, healing and life. Zappa himself noted humanity’s penchant for destruction and said that there’d be no humans left in 1000 years just a short while before his death in 1993. Rock n’ roll has brought all of these things. All of those things on both sides of that “VS”.

It’s sad. Like Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, the wrong message was taken up by many people. In Bruce’s case; a message of mindless patriotism and servitude to a country. In rock music’s case; the pitch black underbelly has become the accepted and expected face of the genre. A horrible mistake. One we may/may not be around to regret.

It’s sad…

James Fleming

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