In my recent post Blessed Are The Drug Free Paul McCartney said that getting high during the recording process is a bad idea because “tuning up is a bit of a chore when you're stoned” (MYFN p.192). Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne makes a similar point
I try to remind people, that when [creative] people are willing to do drugs, it’s just another way of saying “F**k man I don’t have any limits. I’ll try things and see what happens.” Making music is such an internal, psychic connection that people have. When you have to collaborate with people, I don’t know too many people that would want to be [high]. We would want to do the drugs and then go out and have fun. We wouldn’t want to sit in our studio and struggle with what the kick-drum is going to sound like. Speakeasy
Film director John Waters agrees with Ringo who said “we found out very early on that if you play it stoned or derelict in any way it was really sh**ty music - so we would have the experiences and then bring that into the music later” (SOL p.110).
Everybody said, “Oh, you must've been on drugs when you made those movies”. No, we weren't on drugs when we made them. I was on drugs when I thought them up, and I was on drugs when we showed them. But I was never on drugs when we made them because it was too hard [to work when you're high]. NPR
Even when they were high the Beatles benefitted from straight engineers and producers. George Martin observed “There's no doubt that, if I too had been on dope, Pepper would never have been the album it was” (AYNIE p.206). Lennon wasn't so lucky during his solo career however
Drummer Jim Keltner “John was exercising all his bad habits, as were we all, including Phil [Spector], the only problem with that was that Phil was the producer, and somebody had to be sane.” The article notes that Spector would often dress as a surgeon, karate instructor or cowboy, shooting the ceiling and chasing Lennon with a loaded revolver. Ultimate Classic Rock
Lennon expressed doubts about crediting drugs as the source of his creativity asking “Did Dylan Thomas write Under Milk Wood on beer?... the beer [and] the drugs are to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. They don't make you write better”. Beatles Interviews
In an interview with Slate, comedian Marc Maron calls such crediting “romanticizing and unfair”
Slate: I’ve heard literary scholars suggest that mind-altering substances helped certain artists do their best work?
Maron: What people forget, English professors included, is that those artists were probably geniuses—so to give that much credence to a substance is romanticizing and unfair. Would we not have that art if it wasn’t for drugs? I don’t know. But I guarantee you that at that moment in time, most of them … weren’t thinking, “I’m a genius. If I take this medicine or if I get strung out on this s**t, that’s when I’m doing to do my best work.”...Whatever the relationship was between their mental health and their addiction, you can speculate all you want, but it’s not a system built to generate brilliant things.
Arjune Rama: What Marc Maron Taught Me About Addiction
Read the full Blessed Are The Drug Free post here