10 great moments when music met alcohol

From left to right: Slash, Shane MacGowan, DJ Quik, Sid Vicious, Axl Rose - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
From left to right: Slash, Shane MacGowan, DJ Quik, Sid Vicious, Axl Rose

It's easy to pick the top booze-fueled moment in music history: all of them (there's a reason live shows take place in bars instead of libraries). But drunks and music fans have something else in common: they love to argue about trivia. So here's our votes for the 10 crucial drunken musical moments.

Patron Saint of Drunken Musicians: Shane MacGowan
There may have been worse drunks than the former lead singer of the Pogues in the history of rock 'n' roll, but none as vivid. There is no other performer whose name elicits more responses of "I thought he was already dead," perfectly understandable for a guy who had his first glass of stout at age four and never turned back. His greatest feat may have been throwing up on the front row of an audience in 2002 — from the wheelchair he was confined to after drunkenly falling off the stage and breaking his leg several weeks earlier.

Patron Saint of Drunken Musicians, American League: Hank Williams
Long before Shane MacGowan took his first sip of beer as a toddler in Dublin, Hank Williams was setting the standard for musicians more or less on a permanent bender. As befitted country stars of the era, he sang more about matters of the heart (and the soul) than he did about the bottle, but he still managed to get fired from the Grand Ole Opry for drinking too much, which is like being fired from the NBA for being too tall.

Greatest Alcohol Anthem: "D-R-I-N-K," The Jazz Butcher
The multifarious Pat Fish, aka the Jazz Butcher, penned the ultimate ode to inebriation in 1986 with the uncharacteristically slick "D-R-I-N-K." Over a slick small-band arrangement, he croons, "It's only heavy drinking that keeps us on our feet." The song makes drinking seem both romantic and destructive, wittily capturing the good and the bad about booze.

Greatest Alcohol Anthem, Hip-Hop Division: "8 Ball," DJ Quik
Rap music has never been shy about celebrating overconsumption, but leave it to Compton's smoothest criminal to drop the greatest of all salutes to its characteristic tipple, the 40-ounce malt liquor bottle. With an unforgettable chorus, a litany of favorite brand names, and an emphasis on cost-effectiveness, Quik makes a convincing case: "If I can't get it, then I get discouraged/I gotta get a bottle of that liquid courage."

Best Live & Loaded Performance, Concert Division: The Replacements
The legendary Minneapolis post-punk band were as well known for their blotto concert appearances as they were for the quality of their songs. Lead singer and author of "Beer for Breakfast" Paul Westerberg was stage-shy and uncertain, and got hammered just to be able to perform. Like their spiritual heirs Guided By Voices, they would frequently refuse to play at any venue that restricted on-stage drinking.

Best Live & Loaded Performance, Movie Division: The Germs
Want to convince your kids to stay away from the sauce? Forget all the lectures and statistics: just sit 'em down in front of Penelope Spheeris' classic punk rock documentary The Decline of Western Civilization and make 'em watch Darby Crash. The Germs frontman is so completely shattered with drink that he can't even stand up, let alone sing, perform, or form coherent sentences. By the time he collapses in a corner, hollering "SOMEBODY GET ME A BEER," you'll be saying, "No thanks."

Best Live & Loaded Performance, Awards Division: Guns N' Roses
People who aren't drunks or musicians often wonder how you can do something as physically complex as playing a wicked guitar solo when you're almost too polluted to stand. The answer? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, my boy, practice! But sometimes — like in 1990, when Slash and Duff McKagan danced, slurred, and stumbled their way through a post-victory press conference at the American Music Awards — no amount of training is enough, and you just end up trying and failing to pronounce the word "integrity" over and over.

Best Live & Loaded Performance, TV Division:The Sex Pistols
In 1976, the Sex Pistols — already the most notorious band in British music history — made an appearance on Today, a chat show hosted by the antagonistic Bill Grundy. The Pistols were three sheets to the wind (and reportedly, so was Grundy), and the host pushed them non-stop to do or say something outrageous. They happily obliged, and the result was talk show history, as well as one of the most bizarre alcohol-fueled moments in all of live television.

Best Musical Spokesmen for Booze, Hip-Hop Division: Tha Alkaholiks
Ol' Dirty Bastard may have been more drunk more often, but his story has a tragic ending. Tash, J-Ro, and E-Swift — the L.A. collective known as tha Liks — made drinking sound real; their signature anthem, "Only When I'm Drunk," features utterly familiar stumbling, belching, forgetting lyrics, and gasping to recover. But they also make it sound fun. "Try to get up, but I can't move/maybe I'm stuck in the groove/what the fuck was I tryin' to prove?" spits E-Swift, and suddenly, being down there on the floor with him sounds like a pretty good idea.

Best Musical Spokesman for Booze, Cabaret Division: Tom Waits
No musician as prolific and talented as Tom Waits can possibly be as drunk as he seems to be. Or can he? He certainly keeps up appearances: in every video, interview, and song he's ever done, Waits looks, sounds, and probably smells like a guy who exists solely on whiskey and cigarettes. But whether it's performance or reality, he'll leave behind a legacy — including immortal boozed-up classics like "Closing Time," "Warm Beer and Cold Women," "Jockey Full of Bourbon," and "Gin-Soaked Boy" — that will forever establish him as pop music's greatest romantic alcoholic.


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