An old friend of mine, who’s an automobile mechanic, and lives his life far from the craziness and excesses of the music business, once asked me why so many musicians have problems with substance abuse. Initially, I had no answer, but in the intervening years, I’ve thought about it a lot. My first response came within minutes of being asked, but I’m not sure if it’s true or false. I told him that the percentage is no higher than the general population. It just gets more press coverage. I think that may be true, but I have no way of confirming it.
Ironically, as I write, I’m watching the new Ken Burns documentary, “Prohibition”. It’s quite good, and the comparisons to our current state of the nation are obvious, even including the economic situation. They even showed people carrying signs saying stuff like, “Create 2,500,000 jobs. Repeal the Volstead Act”, which is a major argument people make for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of cannabis.
They also linked beer to treason by saying that all the brewmasters were all German, just like they do now with terrorism and drugs. Now I’m not denying the link between heroin and cocaine trafficking and terrorism, but we all remember those commercials where one guy told another that he helped the terrorists by smoking a joint.
At the time, the liquor industry was the fifth largest in America, so millions of people lost their jobs, just like now with restaurants and clubs closing because of the DUI laws. Remember when there were dozens of music clubs up and down and off Route 28?
And then there were the unintended consequences – crime, corruption, the rise of a wealthy criminal class (Mexican cartels), and the ease of getting a drink. It was easier to get a drink during Prohibition than before or after. One guy said he drank a glass of water when it was repealed because he hadn’t had any in thirteen years. Unregulated, liquor was available 24/7/365 to anyone, including children, just like now when every kid in America can get every drug known to mankind in school every day.
Even with the all the forces in favor of it, Prohibition didn’t stand a chance of passage because the United States government was dependent on the revenue they received from the taxation of whiskey, but as soon as that revenue stream was replaced by the income tax, Prohibition picked up some powerful friends.
Ironically, prohibitionists were also largely against government spending, so they opposed any funding of enforcement by the feds. Instead they wanted state and local authorities to pass their own laws and enforce them, which, of course, they had no interest in doing. In one year, all 48 states combined authorized a grand total of $700 for enforcement of the Volstead Act. That’s one thing that’s different from now.
But, I digress. My friend, Huge, was a lifelong alcoholic, but he loved life, and no mater how much he drank, he always remained himself. He wasn’t a mean drunk or anything like that. He just liked to drink. So do I, but I do it occasionally, in moderation, and usually at home. Huge did it all day, every day, and always at home, because he didn’t want to risk driving. In the end, just when his life could have been getting really good, he lost it.
My last cherished memory of us together was doing “Satisfaction”, a song we’d never done before, and never did again, at The Boiceville Inn when I booked the music there. We nailed it! Would Prohibition have helped my friend stay on the wagon? Not on your life! RIP Mister Huge. You played better drunk than most people do sober. Rock and Roll has lost an important voice and will miss you!
Live music picks for this week:
Thursday, October 13 – Black Crowes guitarist, RICH ROBINSON, brings his new band into the fabulous Club Helsinki in Hudson. Rich is largely responsible for The Crowes Stonesian, open tuned, bluesy sound, and this should be a great night for Rock and Roll.
Friday, October 14 – The great STEVEN STILLS makes a rare solo appearance at The Bearsville Theater. I don’t even remember the last time Stills played a venue so intimate. Tickets sold out in about ten minutes, so, good luck getting one. Consolation prize? My friend, BOW THAYER, and his band, PERFECT TRAINWRECK, are at The Falcon in Marlboro tonight. Bow has played at Levon’s , so you know he’s gotta be pretty good.
Saturday, October 15 – NINA VIOLET, an extremely quirky, but really interesting and good artist, is playing at the tiny Market Market in Rosendale.
Sunday, October 16 – LEVON is doing his annual free show at Gill’s Farm in Hurley in the afternoon. I haven’t been to a Ramble for a while and I’m even thinking of closing the shop for the day to attend. More information at www.levonhelm.com.
Wednesday, October 19 – Mr. and Mrs. Derek Trucks, AKA THE TEDESCHI-TRUCKS BAND, performs at The Egg in Albany, and this should be a most blueswailing night.
Enjoy the week.