Rock N Roll Cliche

Prior to taking the reigns as lead singer of the Australian rock band AC/DC, the Scottish-born Ronald Belford Scott had quite a diverse career, including playing in a pipe band, spending several months in a coma after a motorcycle accident, and being rejected by the Australian Army, who claimed he was “socially maladjusted.” The singer, better known as Bon Scott, howled his way through most of AC/DC’s best known albums, singing lascivious ditties that barely qualified as single-entendres, fronting a band best known for noisy, stripped down power chords. As a performer, Scott seemed every inch the wild man, and so, on February 19, 1980, it came as a surprise to nobody when he was found dead in a friend’s car after a night of binge drinking. Scott, famously, once sang that “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” Unfortunately, he discovered that, with the help of too much alcohol, it can be a very fast plummet downward. (Max Sparber)

From Wikipedia: After a night of heavy drinking in London’s Camden Town, he passed out in a friend’s car and was left to “sleep it off”, but was found dead, at the age of 33, in the early hours of 19 February, 1980. The cause of death listed on his death certificate was “Acute alcoholic poisoning” and the verdict of the inquest “Death by misadventure”. This was about 7 months after AC/DC’s release of Highway To Hell.

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For some reason, it just doesn’t seem like a member of the Grateful Dead should have died from alcohol abuse. After all, this is a band who will forever be associated with the two great countercultural drugs of the Sixties: LSD and marijuana. These drugs were supposed to liberate the spirit; if someone were to die of either (a rare scenario, except for the occasional acid casualty who, convinced he can fly, leaps from a roof), the death should be suitably trippy. After all, wasn’t it at a Dead concert that a fan reportedly simply evaporated in an ecstatic trance? Ron McKernan, known since high school as “Pigpen,” wouldn’t enjoy such a metaphysical end. No, the singer, harmonica player, and organist for the Dead had fashioned an image for himself that drew equally from old timey bluesmen and contemporary bikers, and McKernan’s steered clear of hippie drugs in favor of Thunderbird wine and Southern Comfort. McKernan drank so much that it only took a few years for his liver to begin to fail; he quit alcohol in 1971, but two years later was dead of a hemorrhage in his booze-weakened gastrointestinal tract. (Max Sparber)

“I wanna try some one hundred percent,” Irish rocker Rory Gallagher sang in a song presciently titled “Too Much Alcohol,” ending the song with the words “Then I won’t feel a thing at all.” Gallagher developed an exceptional reputation as a guitarist and bluesman in the Seventies: He was invited to become a permanent guitarist for the Rolling Stones and took the title of Melody Maker’s Musician of the Year from Eric Clapton in 1972. Gallagher toured relentlessly, appearing in grueling, marathon performances, one of which was preserved in a film titled Irish Tour ’74.

Unfortunately, Gallagher was also a drinker, although he seems to have been unusually discreet about the fact. His consumption was significant enough to destroy his liver: Rolling Stone lists the cause of his 1995 death as being cirrhosis, but most of his other biographers demur from being so explicit, simply stating that Gallagher died from complications brought about by liver transplant surgery. True though that might be, it’s an unsatisfactory explanation. After all, Gallagher’s original liver didn’t just go bad all on its own. But if Gallagher’s fans wish to be delicate about the subject of alcoholism, so be it. We do not lack for rockers whose drinking is a public spectacle. (Max Sparber)

The man behind the ferocious drums on Led Zeppelin’s albums was a former construction worker from Worcestershire, England, with a taste for breaking drumheads. He had an intense dislike of the itinerant life of a rock star, though, and took to drinking shots of vodka. On September 25 of 1980, Bonham, en route to rehearsal for an upcoming tour of America, began binge drinking, downing four quadruple vodkas. He continued drinking throughout the evening, consuming an estimated three-dozen shots of vodka before bedding down at Jimmy Page’s house. By morning, he was dead. The coroner determined that Bonham had died in a manner that seems especially popular among rock stars: He had choked on his own vomit. (Max Sparber)

From Wikipedia: On September 25, 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King from The Old Hyde to be at rehearsals at Bray Studios for the upcoming tour of the United States, the band’s first since 1977. During the journey Bonham had asked to stop for breakfast, where he downed four quadruple vodkas (roughly sixteen shots (~8cl) of vodka), with a ham roll. After taking a bite of the ham roll he said to his assistant “breakfast”. He then continued to drink when he arrived at the studio. A halt was called to the rehearsals late in the evening and the band retired to Page’s house — The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. After midnight, Bonham had fallen asleep and was taken to bed on his side. It was rumoured that he had a total of forty shots that night. Tour Manager Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones found him dead the next morning. Bonham was 32 years old.

The cause of death was asphyxiation caused by choking on his own vomit. A subsequent coroner inquest found no other drugs in Bonham’s body. John Bonham was cremated and a funeral was held on October 10th, 1980 at Rushock, Worcestershire parish church near The Old Hyde farm.

I recently stumbled upon an article called Death Drinks of Rock Stars. It would probably be a lot easier to link you directly to the article on Daily Lush Magazine, but what fun would that be? I think it would be much more enjoyable to share Max Sparber’s article piece by piece (or in this case, tragedy by tragedy) and create a new Rock Sellout category for its arrival.

ANYBODY ELSE get the eerie sense, when watching a show like MTV’s Cribs, that every time the camera focuses on a rock star’s swimming pool we are seeing the site of a future drowning? It might be, oh, let’s say Tricky’s swimming pool instead of Brian Jones’s, but it doesn’t matter. Within a year or two, there will be a bloated corpse floating at the pool’s surface.

Rock and Roll just seems to have a natural affinity for self-destruction, and, often enough, a rock star’s decline will be spectacular. When they’re not dying in plane crashes, a la Buddy Holly and Lynyrd Skynyrd, they’re crashing cars (Marc Bolan), getting crushed under a bus (Metallica’s Cliff Burton — twice in one night!), or just offing themselves (Johnny Ace, Roy Buchanan, Kurt Cobain, et al). Sometimes, they simply drink themselves to death.

We’re not talking about the rock stars who drank and died young, such as that of the hard-boozing Jim Morrison, whose bathtub heart attack at age 27 has longed fueled speculations that his appetite for alcohol and drugs eventually simply stopped his heart. As much as Janis Joplin loved her Southern Comfort, it was heroin that killed her, also at age 27. Certainly booze played a factor in Jimi Hendriz’s death in 1970 — but mostly because he had used it to wash down nine sleeping pills.

We won’t concern ourselves with these famous casualties of the rock and roll lifestyle. Not when there are rockers whose ends came exclusively as a result of hootch. These are the men — and they are all men on this list — for who alcohol was their poison, and had the steely resolve to keep pouring the stuff down their throats until it did them in. Rock and Roll is famous for those who live its hard-drinking lifestyle, and some of them went ahead and died from it.

We give you the men and their drinks, and those of you plucking a scratched up old guitar while sipping Jack and Cokes and dreaming of fame might pause to reflect on them. (Max Sparber)