Iggy Pop - Lust for Life Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick / About something called love / Oh Love, love, love / Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.
This song is constantly used in advertising — whose job is it to figure out if the songs they want to use in a commercial is about, oh I don't know, heroin? Maybe it's that bouncy beat, a perfect post-punk Bo Diddley pound, but really, people need to stop using this song in bank adverts.
The La's - There She Goes
There she goes / There she goes again / Pulsing through my vein
Can any single song more encapsulate the aching romance of H than this one? Let's say no — with its jangling leads and heartbroken vocals, it's as wonderful as it is devastating. Like "Perfect Day," this could easily be mistaken for a love song, but it's about the sadness first and foremost: Heroin can keep even the most lonely folks company ... until those withdrawals start to kick in.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under The Bridge
Under the bridge downtown / Is where I drew some blood / Under the bridge downtown / I could not get enough
This song started off as a poem Anthony Kiedis wrote looking back on his addiction and feelings of isolation. Once again, there's some scary stuff in this video — apparently shooting up is like running from an A-bomb.
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks
I'm living on Chinese rocks / All my best things are in hock / I'm living on Chinese rocks / Everything is in the pawn shop
A little too much China white will do that to you.
Elliott Smith - Needle in the Hay
Your hand on his arm / The haystack charm around your neck / Strung out and thin / Calling some friend trying to cash some check
Is it alienation or addiction? Is there a difference? That's the beauty of Smith's words: They don't have to be specific, but they're beautifully lush with imagery.
Editor's note: This piece first published on August 10, 2012, and was updated for publication on June 27, 2016. The piece originally ran with the following introduction:
Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. It's in many ways the enduring holy trinity of pop music. Like it or not — we're not advocating anything — drugs are responsible for lots of great songwriting. So every Friday in August, we're going to take a look at the impact of drugs on popular music.