Of course, Rock isn't just about poetry. It's also, and often more importantly, about drugs . Obviously, I can't spend a week blogging about Rock and not talk about drugs, so here goes. My top 5 drug songs of all time :
1. The Beatles: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
You just can't beat the Beatles, can you? I mean, how do you go from being a bunch of cheeky but clean-cut lads to writing rock songs about tangerine trees and marmalade skies? At one level, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a surrealist masterpiece - an exquisite combination of mind-blowing imagery coupled with the lurking sense of a plot ('who is the girl with kaleidoscope eyes?' you catch yourself thinking, knowing full well the question makes no sense). At another level, it's almost an anti-song: the slow drone of that voice (so hypnotic in its languor) erupting into brief moments of visionary high, only to collapse back into flat monotone. You just have to listen to the song once to know that there will be others - songs about the drug experience, songs that bring out the hallucinatory and the surreal, songs that work by distorting reality, songs that shift wildly in tempo to convey the sudden exhileration of the high.
And as usual, the Beatles will have got there first.
2. Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit
How can you not love a song that works off Alice in Wonderland, bringing out (if it hadn't occured to you before) the more sinister side of "one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small". This is music straight from the other side of the looking glass, its other-worldliness heightened by Grace Slick's eerie witch-chant of a voice. White Rabbit is also that classic kind of drug song - the one that starts low and builds monotonically to a screaming climax of white noise at the end. Incredible stuff .
3. Jimi Hendrix: Purple Haze
If the ability to create and sustain a distinctive sound is the hallmark of a great musician - Hendrix may be just about the greates of them all. Nobody sounds quite like Hendrix - even today the opening chords of Purple Haze (or of Voodoo Child or of Machine Gun) are instantly recognisable as coming from Hendrix' guitar. The lyrics to Purple Haze are irrelevant. The sound captures perfectly that sense of hysterical dementia, of a screaming, helpless transcendence. To listen to Hendrix play is to hear the world being torn apart, sheet by metal sheet. If there is a message in Hendrix, it is that pain - merciless, unbearable pain, is a form of beauty all by itself.
4. Velvet Underground: Heroin
It starts off so softly. The gentle strumming of the guitar, Lou Reed's slow drawl of a voice. And then suddenly, in mid sentence, the song accelerates, the drumming picks up like a heartbeat, the words come spilling out, caught up in a barely controlled frenzy. And then, just as you're beginning to get into the tempo of it, it dies again. Only not quite. A little bit of the momentum survives, the sound of it a subtle addiction - you know what's coming now, you know how fast and high the song can go. You sit there waiting anxiously for the next crescendo. Over and over again, the cycle is repeated, and with each pass the song returns to a slightly quickened heartbeat, with each pass your need to hear the song explode is greater. So that when Reed sings "Heerroooooin / Be the death of me" you can feel the longing, the desperation of the desire. And when the song finally bursts out in an orgasm of noise, the music screeching away in the background, while the lyrics talk about death and destruction in a voice that has to struggle to be heard, it feels right somehow, you feel happy, you feel sated.
5. The Cranberries: Salvation
You know how in the old days they had a rule where you couldn't make a movie where murder went unpunished? Well, just in case you were planning on getting on your high horse and criticising this post for supporting drug use, I thought I would put in a song that manages to combine a more positive social message with some incredible music. Salvation has to rank among my top 5 Cranberries songs (I'm particularly likely to think of it, for some reason, coming into Penn Station on my trips to New York City; I think it has something to do with emerging out of the tunnel and seeing the light filtered down through the skyscrapers) - it's a powerful song, bursting with a nervous but hopeful energy. More than anything else, though, it's an insistent song, one that demands to be listened to, one that requires that you sing along with it at the top of your lungs.
Other favourites anyone?
 Actually, there's a fair deal of correlation between the two. With a lot of rock you have to be really, really high to see the poetry. Just listen to Frank Zappa and you'll see what I mean.
 heh heh: didn't you put a post like this sometime back, perhaps in an earlier avatar? I was looking for it, but couldn't find it. The only song I remember from it that isn't on this list was Coldplay's Yellow. Please to add to comments section.
 Jefferson Airplane's performance of White Rabbit at Woodstock is one of my signature performances from that event - ranking up there with the sound of Joe Cocker howling 'With a little help from my friends', Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner (did you know that apparently three quarters of the people who attended Woodstock had left by the time Hendrix came on - that's a lot of regret), Joan Baez singing Joe Hill, and this amazing song by some woman called Melanie, who I've never managed to find anything by, except the one song.