Do drugs really make music sound better?

The year is 2011. Colours swirl before me and an overpriced drink rests smugly in my hand as I play grateful witness to the best and finest gig of my still-young life. We are at the Manning Bar, that perpetual host to up-and-comers and the down-and-out, and we have come to see Hawkwind. Don’t worry – you’re entirely justified if that name doesn’t ring a bell.


“We must acknowledge that, like or loathe it, drugs are irrevocably woven into the threads of popular music.” We look into the marriage of drugs and music

I may like to think of myself as a fairly hip and happening kinda guy, but even I’d have to concede that burned-out space-rock bands from the early ‘70s are not exactly ground-zero for the wild sounds of youth today. But here in the sweaty darkness, the grisly thud and frazzled squeals of Brainstorm and D-Rider are all that anyone did, does, and ever will need.

Spacing out, we’re spacing in

A hefty gal spins fancy-free in the mosh while the old guy with the hat gets freaky.

Phasing out, we’re phasing in

Guitars chug endlessly. Eyes closed, the singer stares skyward through the grizzled mask of the close-to-dead.

Turning up by burning out

Girls on stilts stride the dappled stage. Somewhere, far off, a keytar is wailing.

Lifting off and gazing

The music scales the endless peak and I am close to tears. Am I dead? Is this heaven?

I should probably interrupt the tale at this point to mention that I was fairly high. A clearheaded, sober analysis thus reveals that the greatest gig of my life was likely nothing but phantasm, a giddy delusion with no basis in fact.

Only drugs could explain that brief, potent mania; for a few good minutes there I was convinced beyond doubt that space-rock was the one true music, the only sound I, or anyone, could ever possibly need. However pure and blissful that feeling, it was built on sand. It was a great gig by a band I liked, not the second coming. So my enjoyment was built on self-deception – but does that matter?

Read more of our analysis on the relationship between drugs and music in Happy Mag #2, available here.

While you’re here, check out our list of the druggiest albums of all time.