A Drinkin' Culture


Jan 9 2011, 12h26

Apart from the paracetomol derivatives and histamine blockers (like promethazine - key ingredient in Procodin cough syrup), there are no drugs more widely used than alcohol and nicotine. Yet unlike the other drugs, alcohol and nicotine are rarely seen as a remedy for ailments. Rather they are misused much like any 'party drugs', to derive temporary pleasure and to act as acceptable ingredients in many social events.

Alcohol in particular, which have been associated to social behaviour and human history for thousands of years (starting with mead, which was first described in a hymn of the Verdic religion dated around 1700 to 1100BC), is an essential part of our culture. Yet instead of perceiving alcohol as one of the most harmful drug afflicting human society today, the alcohol consumption is seen as a legitimate drinkin' culture, as reflected in movies, stories and music.

I am especially interested in music related with the drinkin' culture. Even though these music usually perceive the drinkin' culture as legitimate and probably widespread, they usually make fun of drinking as a problem at same time. For instance, in a superbly written comedic song "Bruce's Philosopher Song" by Eric Idle, the Monty Python links famous philosophers with drinking and alter some famous lines like Rene Descrates' "I drink therefore I am" as a pun. Here is the Philosophers' Song during their Hollywood Bowl performance.

Bruce's Philosophers Song - Monty Python
*be warned of slight vulgarity*

In less sophisticated songs, drinking culture can be seen as a quick fix or remedies for psychological troubles for people. The next two songs below, Jimmy Buffett's "Magaritaville" and Mighty Mighty Bosstone's "Another Drinkin' Song", illustrate how quickly people turn to alcohol, even being totally aware of it as just an escape, knowing fully the ill-effects of drinking.

Magaritaville - Jimmy Buffett

I simply love the lyrics of the chorus:

"Wastin away again in margaritaville
Searching for my lost shaker of salt
Some people claim that theres a woman to blame
But I know its my own damn fault
Yes and some people claim that theres a woman to blame
And I know its my own damn fault"

Another Drinkin' Song - Mighty Mighty Bosstones

In a totally different style, ska, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones came out with probably the best song in recent collection describing a person with a drinking problem. Just listen to the reason a person who is addicted to drinking may saying (as in the chorus of the song):

"Countin' on a remedy I've counted on before.
Goin' with a cure that's never failed me.
What you call the disease, I call the remedy.
What you're callin' the cause, I call the cure."

But the lines that I really got me laughing out loud everytime I hear this upbeat and improbable ska music are:

"Just a devotion to a potion.
Please, no applause.
A dedication to a medication.
A crutch, a cure, a cause.
What I've counted on to pick me up has knocked me to my knees.
Before I hit the floor once more I'll call it the disease"

Yes, a devotion. Alcohol might just probably be a diety to some. Heh.

I used to have a slight drinking problem as well, but I have stopped way before it took a serious grip on my life. There are many who are not as fortunate however, and alcoholism really did become a disease that affected their normal functioning in life.

In his famous tune "The Piano Man", the great Bily Joel detailed how alcoholism asserted enormous grip on people's lives, denying them the chance to seek for something greater or better in their lives.

The Piano Man - Billy Joel

The whole song is littered with examples of people showing remorse for drinking, and yet still continued to drink their lives away, like in the lyrics,

"He says, bill, I believe this is killing me.
As the smile ran away from his face
Well Im sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"

Unfortunately, music talking about vices or misdeeds, usually stop at remorse and never really go on to talk about the journey to bounce back or to move to the other step of repentance. In a rare recent example, Mike Portney from Dream Theater wrote an interesting series of music, detailing his journey through Alcohol Anonymous, in his attempt to bounce back from an alcohol problem. In Dream Theater's last album, Chaos Motion, the song Repentance was wrote exactly to explore the mindset of the

Here's a fast version of Dream Theater's Repetence. It would have been better to listen to the song at the standard speed, as the spoken words totally lost the impact in this song. However, without better alternatives, I guess we just have to make do then.

Repentance - Dream Theater

The lyrics of the song in full:

"VIII. Regret

Hello Mirror, so glad to see you my friend
it's been a while...

Staring at the empty page before me
All the years of wreckage running through my head
Patterns of my life I thought adorned me
Revealing hurtful shame and deep lament

Overwhelming sorrow now absorbs me
As the pen begins to trace my darkest past
Signs throughout my life
that should have warned me
Of all the wrongs I've done for which I must repent

I once thought it better to regret
Things that I have done than haven't
Sometimes you've got to be wrong
And learn the hard way
Sometimes you've got to be strong
When you think it's too late

Staring at the finished page before me
All the damage now so clear and evident
Thinking about the dreaded task in store for me
A bitter fear at the thought of my amends

Hoping that the step will help restore me
To face my past and ask for forgiveness
Cleaning up my dirty side of this unswept street
Could this be the beginning of the end?

I once thought it better to regret
Things that I have done than haven't
Sometimes you've got to be wrong
And learn the hard way
Just when you're through hanging on
You're saved

IX. Restitution

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self seeking will slip away.
Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

You're only as sick as your secrets, but the truth shall set you free...

The truth is the truth, so all you can do is live with it."

I only briefly touched on four of the songs I enjoyed, touching on various aspects of the theme. I'm pretty sure that are lots more alcohol and drinkin' song out there. Do let me know if you have come across some interesting ones that I may not have hear before.


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