songs about addiction
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Get Hooked: 15 Classic Songs About Addiction

Great artists suffer, so we don’t have to! Rather than face such personal demons ourselves, we list 15 classic songs about addiction for the morning after.

Why do we do this to ourselves? That’s the million-dollar question. Whether it’s drinking, drugs, dice, or love, our addictions are our own fault and nobody else’s. Most of us manage to outgrow them, eventually. But far too many friends, family, and coworkers have wrecked their lives over the years, succumbing to everything from alcohol/pills (legal) to cocaine (illegal) to gambling (now promoted and taxed). All invariably lead to anguish, ruinous lies, and self-immolation. Laws or outright bans don’t seem to improve human behavior any more than they did in the 1920s.

But as the wise man once said, great artists suffer, so we don’t have to. Nobody enjoys looking in the mirror, right? It’s far better to savor a fantastic song about bad habits or personal demons than face up to them ourselves.

Here, we list 15 memorable tracks about physical and psychological dependence. Some tranquilize, and some rock. Most are laments, a few are celebratory, while others are brutal after-action reports once the damage is done. But each supplies the perfect “morning after” recipe for past or future mistakes.

15. The Strawbs – “Hero and Heroine” (Hero and Heroine – 1974)

We begin with a pounding, King Crimson-esque tribute to what may be the most insidious substance of all. The Strawbs explored complex folk, hard rock, and everything in between during a wonderful run of early 1970s progressive-tinged albums. Leader Dave Cousins’ lyrics aren’t exactly subtle here, but where’s the subtlety in heroin’s “irresistible white fleece”? The gallivanting “Hero and Heroine” follows a classic three-act structure, as our crushed and broken hero plummets from the top of the world to its dreary bottom – all thanks to his “snow white dove”. Worst of all? You can bet he went right back to her, again and again.

14. The Alan Parsons Project – “Snake Eyes” (The Turn of a Friendly Card – 1980)

This snide little gem plays in the back of our heads every time we enter a booming Vegas casino. Technically, part two of the title suite, “Snake Eyes”, was the final single released from Alan Parsons’ Turn of a Friendly Card in October 1981. American AOR radio picked this one up for sporadic airplay, and though it only topped out at #67, many of us never forgot it. What sounded like a glamorous, Sinatra-cool ode to probability for us Gen-X teenagers has since morphed into a mind-reading indictment aimed straight at our self-deluding hearts. Slashing lyrics like “Just one minute more / And I’ll walk right through that door” apply to every bad habit, not just the craps table. It’s said that gambling is the most pernicious sin because it drags everyone we love right down with us. So consider “Snake Eyes” a fervent warning.

13. Donnie Iris – “Ah! Leah!” (Back on the Streets – 1980)

From drugs to gambling to obsessive love. Contemporary critics dismissed the Cruisers as a 1980s bar band, but they were the best one going. “Ah! Leah!”, geek avatar Donnie Iris’ 1980 paean to doomed attraction, has aged very well. Beyond the subject matter, Iris rocks sublimely here with chiming chords and a seductive rager of a solo. Blood pumps and pulses race: “Our minds said no / But our hearts were talking faster!” Everyone deserves a hopeless romantic fixation like Leah at least once in their lives, and we deserve it good and hard. Just don’t marry them, whatever you do. This brand of fire burns bright in the moment but is rarely conducive to lifelong hearth and home.

12. Ace Frehley – “Wiped-Out” (Ace Frehley – 1978)

Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley‘s substance use (and abuse) has long been legendary, even among 1970s rock circles. Fortunately, Frehley has been sober since 2006. But before jumping on the wagon, he gifted party-loving fans with this rollicking tale of a drunken night on the town that yours truly would kill to have witnessed first-hand. “Wiped-Out” features some of the wooziest, most doped-out guitar of the decade, plus an absolutely killer main riff and solo. This is also one of three tracks on our list displaying absolutely zero regret. It’s 100% braggadocio, with zero sophistication or remorse, as our beloved Space-Ace winds up with the hooch, the girl, and a fabulous all-time high. Where do we sign?

11. The La’s – “There She Goes” (Single – 1988; The La’s – 1990)

Okay, so the entire world knows this one, and every cell in my music-snob body militates against including it. But “There She Goes” is just too darn wonderful to ignore. Forget the awful cover versions or naive critics too blinkered to realize that Lee Mavers was singing about heroin, not women. (“Pulsing through my veins”? “No one else can heal my pain”? Wake up, people!) That timeless opening riff plunges you right back into the beating heart of college music’s golden era, circa 1983-1995. The rest of their debut is frightfully overrated (sorry), and the La’s soon imploded over Mavers’ mental and substance issues. But even this stuffy, pompous critic cannot praise “There She Goes” enough.

10. Poster Children – “Drug I Need” (Junior Citizen – 1995)

The first time we heard this buzzing dynamo and its pummeling kamikaze coda, it took our breath away. Does anybody still write cray-cray rock anthems like this anymore? “Drug I Need” starts slow and sexy, building to a cathartic, strafing-run finish that the word ‘crescendo’ was invented for. Poster Children reached their own crescendo with 1995’s Junior Citizen, a mid-1990s marvel of efficient, intelligent, nearly flawless pop-punk that AllMusic’s Ned Raggett considers that year’s most underrated Stateside release. “I feel like I just died in my sleep,” croons our pained narrator at the sight of his quarry. The payoff comes as a legitimate shock when we discover he hasn’t even met her yet – just passing on the street. So this seething, crashing meteor was written about a complete stranger? Unrequited love, here is thy sting.

9. Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit” (Surrealistic Pillow – 1967)

Okay, so this one verges on obligatory while also suffering from a chronic cultural overdose. Even today’s little “Glee” kiddies recognize it. But that’s not the Airplane’s fault, nor does it detract from “White Rabbit’s” time-capsule echo down the ages from the Summer of Love. Half a century later, Surrealistic Pillow remains a mysterious and compelling listen, while “Rabbit” marries Lewis Carroll’s marvelous “Alice in Wonderland” imagery to late-1960s psychedelic sensibility (or lack of it) with drug-addled aplomb. Beyond the head-trip lyrics, “Rabbit’s” noodling guitars and military drumbeat escort the listener on an epic lysergic voyage that still hasn’t ended.