HIGH NOTES: 7 Songs About Heroin, Because It’s Not So Passe

Heroin is not a drug you fuck around with. It is not a drug you joke about. But it is a drug you can sing about — and one that many people have sung about, in fact. From 50 Cent to the Rolling Stones, here are some songs shedding light on all the different dimensions of one of the world’s most addictive and life-consuming drugs.

“Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” by the Dandy Warhols

This fun track is actually very morbid, leaving no doubt as to what it’s about with the opening line, “I never thought you’d be a junkie because heroin is so passe.” Apparently, it’s not, because the song topped charts when it came out in 1997. In case the lyrics aren’t macabre enough, the video features dancing needles and gravestones — an odd juxtaposition with the colorful scenery and exuberant dancing.

“Needle in the Hay” by Elliott Smith

This gorgeously haunting song seems to tell the story of Smith’s own heroin addiction, with the “needle in the hay” representing the needle he’d shoot up with. “The White Lady Loves You More,” off the same self-titled album, is also debatably about heroin and/or cocaine.

“Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis has said that this song was about a low point in his heroin addiction, when he shot up under a bridge in LA, and his desire to never be in that place again. The last verse gives away the meaning: “Under the bridge downtown / Is were I drew some blood / Under the bridge downtown / I could not get enough / Under the bridge downtown / Forgot about my love / Under the bridge downtown / I gave my life away.”

“Pool Shark” by Sublime

In this incredibly depressing song, Sublime’s frontman Bradley Nowell sings, “Now I’ve got the needle / And I can’t bleed, but I can’t breathe / Take it away and I want more and more.” The last line — “one day I’m gonna lose the war” — eerily foreshadows Nowell’s 1996 death from a heroin overdose.

“A Baltimore Love Thing” by 50 Cent

50 Cent sings about struggling to detox from heroin here, personifying the drug as if it were an on-and-off lover. “Let’s make a date, promise you’ll come to see me / Even if it means you have to sell ya mama’s TV,” he raps. Formerly a drug dealer, 50 Cent has said that he has managed to become drug-free.

“Heroin Girl” by Everclear

“I can hear them talking in the real world / But they don’t understand that I’m losing myself / In a white-trash hell / Lost inside a heroin girl,” declares Everclear’s lead singer Art Alexakis. Like most songs on this list, this one ends morbidly: “They found her out in the fields / About a mile from home / Her face was warm from the sun / But her body was cold / I heard a policeman say / Just another overdose.”

“I’m Waiting For The Man” by The Velvet Underground

“The man” in this song is ostensibly a heroin dealer, who’s “got the works, gives you sweet taste / Ah then you gotta split because you got no time to waste.” Lou Reed later told Rolling Stone that “everything about that song holds true, except the price” — $26, in case you’re wondering.

HIGH NOTES: Music Videos That Will Vicariously Get You High

Sometimes, artists drop subtle drug references in their songs that you wouldn’t notice unless you carefully studied the lyrics. Other times, they put it right out there, with drug-inspired imagery splattered all over their videos.

If you want to vicariously experience a trip, consider these videos your pathways into the brain of someone on drugs.

The Dandy Warhols’ “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth”

Aside from the fact that the Dandy Warhols are dressed up as literal syringes while singing “heroine is so passé,” the colorful retro outfits, cartoonish background, and balloons look like they’re straight out of a trip.

Afroman’s “Because I Got High”

If you’ve ever failed at adulting due to illicit substances, Afroman feels you, and his enactment of all the dumb shit he’s done while high is undoubtedly good for a laugh.

Tyga’s “Molly”

In a very thinly veiled drug reference, Tyga pulls up to a party in a car as Siri announces “Hi, I’m looking for Molly.” The bright colors, wild dancing, and pills in the club suggest that Operation Find Molly succeeded.

Of Montreal’s “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia”

This song may not explicitly reference LSD like “Lysergic Bliss,” but it sure looks like the video was made on it. Kevin Barnes’ reflection blurs and warps in funhouse mirrors as he sings about “counting wolves in your paranoiac intervals.”

Rihanna’s “We Found Love”

This tragic video captures the insurmountable joy of rolling with a significant other as well as the utter devastation of the comedown. The reference to “yellow diamonds” in the lyrics led people to speculate about MDMA references, and the pills and expanding pupils in the video leave no doubt.

A$AP Rocky’s L$D (LOVE x $EX x DREAMS)

The “L$D” in this song ostensibly stands for “LOVE x $EX x DREAMS,” but the video makes the double entendre clear. If you’ve ever wondered what an acid trip is like (and a good one, at that), look no further than A$AP Rocky’s journey through this glowing neon city.

Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”

Posner has said that this song is about a real experience taking a “mystery pill” in Ibiza, which made him feel “amazing” until he came down and “felt 10 years older.” Based on the creepy video, this seems like a trip that’s better off experienced vicariously.

Animal Collective’s “Brothersport”

I’m pretty sure this song is not about drugs, but the video, well, is a drug. Take a look at the cartoon dinosaurs, painted eggs, and singing tadpoles and you’ll see what I mean. But I can’t be held liable if you actually lose your mental faculties in the process.

PLAYING DETROIT: Prude Boys “The Outlaw”


When the sandy shores of a zombie beach party meet the salty lawlessness of a vintage wild west shoot-out, you would likely find yourself galloping within the Tarantino-lite dreamworld crafted by the latest tracks from garage pop threesome Prude Boys.

The Outlaw, though only two tracks long, make for a grungy Lee Hazelwood x Nancy Sinatra reboot while garnering imagery of seduction and escape with their uniquely refined and playful nostalgia. The opening riff from the titled track is reminiscent of The Dandy Warhols lick from “You Were the Last High” but in Prude Boys uptempo context feels urgent and authentic surrounded by vocalist Caroline Myrick’s haunted warble. Wildly expressive without much deviation, “The Outlaw” is genre-less and toggles between what feels like fantasy cinema and curious reality like a chase through the Hollywood backlots and sound stages, dipping in and out of backdrops of ghost towns and real life coffee shops.

“You Plague My Dreams” follows “The Outlaw” with a jutting rock tale of a lingering lover. Tormented by wanting to stay but the unfair crimes of still hanging around even while deep into the R.E.M cycle, our antagonists find ways to make resentment soft and make guitars sound as though they are slamming doors. Though a little less obvious in its cinematic tonality than the EP’s opener, “You Plague My Dreams” finds itself in the closing credits territory which is apropos for a band with a knack for seeing the bigger picture.

Saddle up and get rowdy with the latest from Prude Boys below:

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LIVE REVIEW: The Dandy Warhols @The Bowery Ballroom


If you haven’t had the chance to see the Portland-based, 1994-born garage rock band The Dandy Warhols live yet, here are three reasons to catch them before they wrap up their Distortland tour:

1. They’re one of the rare bands that sounds even better live than they do in recordings.
2. They’re also one of the rare bands that has managed to outdo the work it became famous for in the 90s and early 2000s.
3. They’re touring with the Louisiana-based Seratones, which blend punk rock with gospel for a truly unique sound.
All three of these facts became clear during the low-fi alt-rock band’s stop at New York’s Bowery Ballroom Wednesday, April 13. On stage, each member’s quirky qualities rounded out the show.
Lead singer and guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor possesses what Simon Cowell would call “superstar quality.” His stage presence is attention-commanding, magnetic, and larger than life, and his performance is carefully choreographed, from turning away from the audience during guitar intros to casually commenting, “We inherited an empty, dirty New York from the 70s.” Drummer Brent DeBoer’s playing is equally clean and seamless, and keyboardist Zia McCabe uses the mixing skills she’s picked up as a solo DJ to play around with the sound. Guitarist Peter Holmström is the odd stepbrother of the Dandy Warhols family, perpetually shuffling around stage left in a feathered fedora.
While the audience went crazy for old hits like “Bohemian Like You” and “The Last High,” it was impossible not to also sing along to the new singles “STYGGO” and “You Are Killing Me,” even though I’d never heard them before. (Seriously, download Distortland and put them on now. You will feel like you’re at a beach party.)
Aside from their visual intrigue, what makes The Dandy Warhols so thrilling to watch live is that simple, repetitive hooks like “I like you” and “do-do-do-do-do” are so freaking fun to sing along to, though it’s Taylor-Taylor’s sultry baritone voice that trademarks them.
The Seratones also energized the audience with an exuberant opening set that involved lead singer and guitarist AJ Haynes hitting a tambourine and jumping into the crowd.
After the series of infectious performances, the evening’s energy fizzled out when The Dandy Warhols declined an encore. So, I left the venue, plugged my earphones in, typed “Dandy Warhols” into Spotify, and scrolled to their live recordings.