Skip to main content
Music

Mark McGwire vs Bob Dylan: What about performance enhancing drugs in rock music?

Performance enhanced?
Performance enhanced?
Photo: Wikipedia.org

Poor Mark McGwire.  He just can't seem to win.  The burly baseball slugger finally came clean and admitted his illicit use of Anabolic Steroids and HGH that finally ended a tight-lipped concealment of what everybody had already figured out.  Mr. McGwire (one of the infamous "Bash Brothers" with Jose Canseco) was one of literally hundreds of roidheads in baseball (and likely professional sports as a whole) that played during an era of performance enhancing drug abuse, one that will likely leave a giant scar on modern sports for years to come.  America's pastime may be forever tainted. (I also can't help mentioning that Mark McGwire totally reminds me of Metallica's James Hetfield....) 

Funny again, how rock musicians are held to a completely different standard.  Isn't it interesting how arts and sports differ so drastically?  Now, I realize that the arts (especially rock music) may seem like a strange, if not utterly offensive, comparison to professional sports.  Maybe.  On the contrary, don't even try to tell me that both are not a source of multi-billion dollar entertainment because they most certainly are.  Sports is skills based as is music for the most part (however debatable that may be).  Kids idolize their favorite sports figures (I personally wanted to be either Dale Murphy, then of the Atlanta Braves, or the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird) as much as kids idolize their favorite music stars.  Think Miley Cyrus if you will.  So really, what's the difference? 

These certainly are strange parallels, but I simply can't ignore the connection.  It's arguable that many of rock music's greatest icons as well as its greatest moments were produced with the help of "performance enhancing drugs."  It's well known in rock lore that Bob Dylan was quite the fan of the all-natural green stuff (he's a genius but some of the stream of conscious lyrics on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde are far out man) and was responsible for introducing The Beatles to weed.  Whether or not it became their gateway drug is irrelevant.  What we do know is that the Fab Four weren't just overindulging in tea when they created the landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The Doors and Jim Morrison weren't using Pepsi and chocolate to "Break On Through To The Other Side" or hop aboard "The Crystal Ship."  Pink Floyd's soaring, atmospheric landscapes on Dark Side Of The Moon surely weren't the bi-product of chewing mint gum.  

Again, it appears that rock musicians and those in the arts (think literature and Hunter S. Thompson, etc.) are given completely free passes.  They simply can do whatever they want to squeeze the innermost out of their art.  Now this is not to say that all musicians were using mind-altering, performance enhancing substances (although most of the ones with "hits" dabbled in some kind of extracurricular vice).  Exactly the same as baseball, where not everyone was guilty of juicing up and jabbing syringes into their fannies but you have to admit that the baseball players with the most "hits" were likely rocking with roids.  The only difference being that those athletes will continue to draw scorn and opposition while those lucky musicians keep on rolling along beautiful and stoned. 

For more of my ramblings check out my Rock Music homepage.

Comments