Sex, drugs, rock n roll: Rockstars through the ages

Ever since Ian Dury released his single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll in 1977, sex and drugs have been associated with the production of rock music. However, is the term still relevant to the rock industry in 2022? 

The “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley entered the music scene just as tv’s were becoming more common across America and England. Elvis received an immense amount of publicity and interest, being cited as the first person to add overt sex to music, and be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. Although he still maintained a clean-cut appearance like most 1950’s singers, his provocative presence perhaps was the real reason he was labelled a rockstar. Nicknamed Elvis-the-Pelvis, his captivating, sexual dance moves carried a new sense of revolt and rebellion against previous generations and musicians. Unconsciously, he was becoming a rockstar, enticing an emotional response from his audience. 

The 1960’s ushered in liberalised attitudes about sex, bands such as the Rolling Stones prioritised femininity within their music to target a market of young girls. Then came the 1970’s and 80’s where the rocker style blurred genders with men wearing their hair long and embracing their sexuality. Towards the end of the 20th century, heavy drug use became more associated with the genre of music following the drug related deaths of many rock musicians. The result of this was both creative and destructive. Cocaine was frequently taken by rockstars such as David bowie, who’s addiction reached a new high when he released station to station. Though in a paranoid state whilst recording most of the album, critics argue that it sent Bowie’s work down exciting, new paths. 

Rock music as a genre is still very much a thing in 2022, however the term “rockstar” may not be so relevant anymore. Over time the excitement around sex and drugs has faded as musicians have become increasingly at risk of public scrutiny because of social media. There may be benefits of drug taking however, as singer Harry styles announced that he took mushrooms at Shangri-La studios in Malibu, founded by The Band back in the 1970’s. Could the hallucinogenic effect of drugs lead musicians to create more inventive rock music sounds/styles? Or perhaps the industry has become bland and market focused, leaving real creativity and self-expression in the past?

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Tabi Fielding

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August 2022
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