Friday, December 28, 2007

Songs About Heroin

I remember back when JFK Jr. died in the plane crash a local radio station kept playing Sarah McLachlan's In the Arms of the Angel as a tribute until a guy called in to complain. The conversation went something like this:

Caller Guy: I'm not sure if that's an appropriate tribute song for JFK Jr. You guys know that song is about heroin addiction - right?
Female DJ: Way to ruin the sentiment.
Male DJ: Yeah way to go jerk.
Caller Guy: Hey I'm not the one who's oblivious to the lyrics here.

I thought the exchange was funny but I also remember being surprised to learn that U2's Bad was about heroin. The references in those songs are a little esoteric. Not like Neil Young's The Needle and the Damage Done. Some songs dance around the subject of heroin so much that it almost becomes a stretch to make a connection. For instance some people believe that the Eagle's Hotel California is about heroin addiction. I guess my point is that the references to heroin in many songs have become so veiled that you can almost convince people that almost any song is about heroin.

To illustrate my point let me tell you about a conversation I had about a week with a friend at a bar.

Friend: You know you never see The Little Drummer Boy on TV anymore. I wonder why?
Me [making it up as I go along]: Well supposedly they pulled the show because it portrays Arabs in a bad light but the real reason is because the song is about heroin addiction.
Friend: What? What are you talking about?
Me: Yeah - the song was written by a guy trying to kick heroin and turn his life over to Jesus but he felt worthless because he had nothing to give back in exchange for being saved from his addiction.
Friend: You're kidding - right?
Me: That's why in the show its always the little drummer boy and his donkey. The donkey was a metaphor for his addiction. They stopped showing it during the Reagan administration when they launched the War on Drugs. In the TV business it's pretty common knowledge.
Friend: Wow! I never knew that.

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