Since this week's Racket is about the comeback of cocaine, we thought we'd dedicate this week's Wack to the same subject. After all, coke is the most Wack of drugs sure, it can be fun, and when directed towards a goal, say, the writing of your memoirs, cracking a case la Sherlock Holmes or coming up with Freudian theory, it can be a useful tool, but usually it just makes you act like a yammering asshole.
Anyway, here's a list of ten of the best cocaine songs that have ever come our way. A few notes about the list...They aren't in order of quality, and I ruled out all songs about dealing cocaine, which is why you don't see "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" or 99 percent of the other rap tunes about blow on here. To make this list, the song must be about doing cocaine or sound like what cocaine feels like, not peddling it down on the corner.
We've also cobbled together a first take at a Cocaine Hall of Fame. To gain admittance, your coke use must either be positively legendary or have caused your death. John Nova Lomax
1. "Cocaine," J.J. Cale. What, you were expecting something else? Putting something else up here would be showing off unnecessarily. In recent years, the sober Eric Clapton has brought his cover of this out of retirement. While some think the song takes an ambivalent stance, as Clapton has pointed out, it does open with the line "If you want to get down, down on the ground..."
2. "Cocaine Habit Blues / Take a Whiff on Me," traditional. Versions of this hoary old folk song have been covered by everyone from Leadbelly, Blind Gary Davis, the Memphis Jug Band and my grandfather to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Jackson Browne. Not to mention Houston's own Sideshow Tramps. "One time after a show, a guy came up to us and asked where he could find some coke," says Tramps multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey "Uncle Tick" Muller. "I had to tell him I had no idea."
3. "Moonlight Mile," the Rolling Stones. Did you know a "moonlight mile" was the Stones' slang for a nocturnal coke session? I didn't either, but that's what the Internet says. Anyway, this tune is from the Stones' most blowed period, sounds like 5 a.m. on a coke bender feels and Mick Jagger sings he's got "a head full of snow." It's also one of the best Stones songs ever hell, one of the greatest rock songs of the classic era. Ironically, Keith Richards doesn't perform on this druggiest of Stones tunes, but it's perhaps not too ironic when you find out he was too fucked up to perform the day of the session.
4. "Put the Crack Down, Parts 1 and 2," Joe Guitar Hughes. A tough blues from a tough dude, Hughes moves the song from the general ravaged ghetto streets full of crack-induced prostitutes to the personal. "Things I am telling you I learned it all first-hand / I'm confessin' to you that I was a crack-smokin' man / crack took all my money / my bill were overdue / I borrowed from everyone I could / 'til my friends left me too / almost lost my family, I knew that was it / got on my knees and prayed God give me the strength to quit."
5. "Half on a Sack," Three Six Mafia. A rarity among hip-hop jams, this little ditty finds Memphis's most notorious posse rapping about the fun you can have on blow. Most rap songs about cocaine have been about selling it or take a disapproving view of coke use. This one is about buying it and stuffing it up your nose and those of your groupies and the thrills that ensue. Rated X, but that goes without saying.
6. "South Nashville Blues," Steve Earle. This Piedmont-style ragtime blues about Earle's three-year "vacation in the ghetto" finds the singer walking in the rain on Lewis Street, where "the devil lives" and Earle trolled for crack and a litany of other stimulants. Earle's carrying "a pistol and a hund'ed dollar bill everything I need to get me killed." It's a much more listenable alternative to Earle's stark "C.C.K.M.P.," which stands for "cocaine cannot kill my pain."
7. "Prangin' Out," the Streets. British rapper (or whatever that thing is he does) Mike Skinner usually has a song or two about fiddling about with ecstasy, weed and stronger stuff, and this is his coke anthem. "I do a line but then panic and feel a bit prangy," he talk-sings. ["Prangy" means too high on coke.] "So I glug Marlon from the bottle to ease off the panic / Then when it starts wearing off, I just feel a bit sad / Snort more tour support, and then have a drink."
8. "It Takes Two," Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. On the surface, this song has nothing directly to do with cocaine or crack. But then it all depends on whether Mister, um, Base, is saying "I want to rock right now" or "I want a rock right now." (Or as Press contributor Greg Ellis hears it, "I want two rocks right now." "'Cause it takes two to make a thing go right," he explains.) I've always leaned toward the "a rock" view, because this has always sounded to me like music made by crackheads for the enjoyment of other crackheads, exactly what a big ol' hit off the pipe would feel like. Here's what, um, Mister Rock's track does to me: My pulse races, there's those clicky drums and hissing cymbals, that chick going "Whoo!," that four-note bassline, Rob Base rapping about how he's the king of the whole motherfucking world. "I like the Whopper, fuck the Big Mac!" Man, my eyes are rolling around in my skull just thinking about it. The song is insanely catchy, ridiculously frivolous and always done way before I want it to be, which seems a lot like a crack high to me.
9. "Thrasher," Neil Young. According to Michael Walker's new book Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock & Roll's Legendary Neighborhood, cocaine spelled doom for the L.A. hippie scene that spawned Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This song is Young's take as he escaped toward a rebirth as a solo artist. His old friends had become "dead weight," fools who planted "when the moon was full" because they were "lost in crystal canyons," each with his own "aimless blade of science."
10. "Lit Up," Buckcherry. "I'm all lit up, again / I Love the cocaine love the cocaine." Back in 1999 when these dudes came out with this, they seemed laughably behind the times. In hindsight, they seem to have been way ahead of the curve, as songs about cocaine, hard retro-rock, and carrying on like Aerosmith-style rock stars have all come back into fashion. But then again, much like cocaine, does that stuff ever really truly disappear?
Cocaine Hall of Fame
Bobby Hatfield (Righteous Brothers)
James Honeyman-Scott (the Pretenders)
Ol' Dirty Bastard
And now for some non-devil's dust-related news, here are the top ten sellers at Sound Exchange and Sig's Lagoon this week:
1. Shellac Excellent Italian Greyhound
2. Napalm Death Scum; 20th Anniversary Edition
3. Chaos Horde 1986 Demo LP
4. Jana Hunter There's No Home
5. Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane over the Sea
6. Charalambides Electricity Ghost
7. Bardo Pond / Pre split ten-inch
8. Pixies Surfer Rosa
9. Beirut Gulag Orkestar
10. Quintron "Jam Skate 12-inch"
1. Sideshow Tramps The Medicine Show
2. Moses Guest Best Laid Plans
3. Aggrolites Reggae Hit L.A.
4. White Stripes Icky Thump
5. Betty Davis Betty Davis
6. Blaze Foley Cold, Cold World
7. Betty Davis They Say I'm Different
8. Kashmere Stage Band Texas Thunder Soul 1968–1974
9. The Octanes Lucky Seven
10. James Hand Evil Things
(lists compiled by Craig Hlavaty)
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