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"Sly, salacious lyrics touching on the eternal verities: hard liquor, cheap sex, fast money and the endless quest for a good time."
—Short blurb on the remastered Razor's Edge by ACDC

 Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a rockstar and they give you them for free.

Billy Mack, Love Actually

The Power of Rock is awesome. I mean, c'mon! What problem do you have that wouldn't be solved by an awesome guitar solo, an elaborate dance routine, and a heartfelt song with kickass drums? Whose life can't be saved by "Stairway To Heaven"? Rock solves all, right?

Wrong.

On the cynical end of the scale, rock is actually pretty screwed up. Drugs are prevalent throughout the culture, rock musicians themselves use their inflated stardom to become real-life Karma Houdinis, and the whole scene is decadent on the top and seedy on the bottom. The consequences are emphasized more than the fun in this view.

Portrayals can be broadly divided into two types of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. The hedonist sees all that is availible with his/her fame and money, taking advantage of it until he wakes up with a hangover. The escapist, has a Dark and Troubled Past, uses drugs to escape their pain, sex as a replacement for intimacy, and music as an outlet for their anger.

Media portrayals often cross this trope with the Mad Artist for maximum craziness.

Not so much a response to The Power of Rock as an exposition of Real Life. Certainly Truth in Television, but often exaggerated in media for added effect. Also Older Than Dirt, being well documented at least as far back as Ancient Egypt.

Hookers and Blow is the Super-Trope.

Compare A Party - Also Known as an Orgy.

Examples of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll include:


Anime and Manga


Film

  • Velvet Goldmine. And yet, it has some rather positive messages.
  • Almost Famous.
  • This Is Spinal Tap plays Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll for laughs.
  • The Wrestler looks at the life of a wrestler once the glitz and glamour wear off.
  • Parodied to hell and back in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
  • Mostly played seriously in Rockstar, but a notable subversion is Steel Dragon's original lead singer, who notes that that he's gay and never did drugs, so so much for "sex drugs and rock n' roll."
  • The trope-naming song by Ian Dury (see below) was also the title of a 2010 biopic of Dury, with the profoundly awesome Andy Serkis in the main role.
  • Walk the Line - Johnny Cash gets deep into drugs. The love of June Carter brings him back.
  • In Get Him to The Greek, Aldous Snow is portrayed as being heavily into the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle. To the point where he even convinces his record company handler to smuggle a balloon of heroin for him during an airline flight.


Live-Action TV

  • Charlie's backstory on Lost is all about how he went from altar boy to this.
  • Behind The Music is built upon this trope. To the point that when they did "Weird Al" Yankovic, he expressed disbelief that he was the subject of a Behind The Music since he never had a huge angsty blowup with his band, and never had a struggle with heroin or alcohol. They ended up blowing a few of his less popular projects (such as UHF and the Polka Party album) into much bigger deals than they actually were; the only serious "struggle" they covered was his then-unsuccessful love life (which has become a Reverse Funny Aneurysm with his subsequent marriage and birth of his daughter).
    • Behind The Music eventually did several bands popular at the time that did not have those things; the same tactics were used.
  • Played with in Flight of the Conchords. The Conchords don't like beer (it makes Bret "have to go to the toilet"), don't smoke, and Bret at least is rather inhibited about sex. Their manager, Murray, wants them to adopt a more rock and roll image, and two of their fans manage to persuade them to take some acid. They claim to have just eaten potato salad and have plans to go jogging in the morning, so they'd better only have half...or half of a half...in the end, Bret accidentally takes a sixteenth of a hit, leading to the psychedelic "Prince of Parties" number, winding up with him perched on a toilet while the walls move around him.
  • The Osbournes could either be seen as subverting this trope or playing it straight. On one hand, Ozzy is clearly a little burnt from his years of drug abuse and wild ways, and cynics could claim that the sad after-effects of a rock and roll lifestyle are being played for laughs as a desperate and exploitative cash-grab. On the other hand, he has a luxury house, lots of money and though his family and home life certainly aren't conventional (or sane, given your point-of-view), there is certainly a lot of love and happy moments shown on camera.
    • The upcoming documentary "The Wreckage of My Past: The Story of Ozzy Osbourne," however, seems to be playing the trope straight judging from the trailer, which features images of Ozzy staring into space and sucking oxygen from a tank filmed with a shaky cam with sorrowful music playing over it.


Literature

  • Perhaps some amount of sex and controlled substances are necessary to rocking out at all: Fitz, from the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures, plays guitar and wants to be a rock star some day. He also smokes thirty a day, gets quite drunk quite often and occasionally gets extremely drunk, tried laudanum once or twice, and has an active love life. Note the following Live Journal icon, by redscharlach: [1]
  • Parodied in Soul Music: "We're doing this for sex and drugs and Music With Rocks In!" "I don't think you've ever taken drugs, and for that matter, I don't think you've ever had--" "Well one out of three ain't bad!" "Yes it is, it's only thirty-three percent..."


Music

  • The Ian Dury song "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", the Trope Namer (although variations on the phrase seem to have existed before he wrote the song in 1977)
  • MGMT's "Oracular Spectacular" takes both ends of the scale to hell and back.
  • The David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" is all about this trope.
    • Another Bowie example: "Ashes to Ashes", in which Bowie uses the return of his character Major Tom as a metaphor for his struggle with addiction.
  • Somewhat Bowie-inspired, Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals is a dual-layered odyssey that's half about this. The "Omega" songs are all Sex, Drugs, and Rock anthems of hollowness and empty glitter, while the "Alpha" songs are about overcoming pain and alienation.
  • "Lust For Life" by Iggy Pop covers this theme as well.
  • "Shooting Star" by Bad Company.
  • Sixx:AM draws a lot of inspiration from the horrible things Nikki Sixx did back in his Motley Crue days.
    • Motley Crue themselves spends a lot of time singing about getting high and/or laid because of their fame.
  • Everything by Pink Floyd from Meddle onward; mostly because the guy who wrote their happier stuff had been the Anthropomorphic Personification of this trope. Emphasis on had. (Shine on, you crazy diamond...)
  • Metallica's "Some Kind of Monster" documentary covers this, though with the inversion of showing an older, wiser version of Metallica that had outgrown their wild hedonistic early years and now basically was all corporate-like (to the point of hiring a therapist to help the band co-exist) and largely being a bunch of middle-aged family men desperately trying to come up with a comeback album that would make the world love them again. They had to try twice for the comeback.
  • The Arrogant Worms have a song called 'Sex, Drugs, and Rrsps' which deals with lead man of band who decides to invest his money in the stock market instead of blowing it on hookers and drugs.
  • A lot of The Velvet Underground, especially the first two albums, with the speed anthem "White Light/White Heat," the seventeen-minute tale of a drug orgy Gone Horribly Wrong "Sister Ray," and the heroin-inspired "I'm Waiting for the Man" and, well, "Heroin." Much of Lou Reed's solo work as well, especially Berlin.
  • The downfall of Savatage's Streets: A Rock Opera's main character DT Jesus. A drug dealer turned rock star, the fame and the eventual drug abuse are explicitly part of his story. The sex can only be assumed, but the man made millions and was a house-hold name...
  • The phrase itself was referenced by the Propellerheads' Decksanddrumsandrockandroll.
  • The german national anthem is the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied. The first one was scrapped because it lays claim to areas of central europe that all lie outside of the current german state, and the second one was scrapped as well because it's really just about Sex (german women), Drugs (german wine), and Rock and Roll (german song). The third one is about unity, justice, and freedom, which is much more suitable for a national anthem.
  • The Pantera home videos (Cowboys From Hell: The Videos, Vulgar Video, and 3 Watch It Go) contain interviews, music videos, and footage of the band performing. The videos also contain backstage footage of the band's wild partying, drunken shenanigans, pulling pranks on each other, and female fans flashing their breasts to the camera. Basically it's a concert video/documentary combined with Jackass and a touch of Girls Gone Wild.
  • "Rockstar" by Nickelback is about a man who's aspiring to become a rockstar, just so he can lead this lifestyle.


Video Games


Western Animation

  • Rock and Rule plays this trope and The Power of Rock straight. The Big Bad is this trope personified: he's a burned out decadent rocker who wants to summon a demon using the heroine's voice. He is defeated when the male and female leads sing a duet that destroys his evil.
  • Parodied in the Happy Tree Friends DVD with the story behind the creators' success. It plays like one of those E! biographies, with "jujubee and high sugar candy binges" as well as other amazingly harmless demonstrations of how the success went to their head. It even has them do a Power Walk down an alleyway! It mentions how the head animator got so hopped on sugar he animated an entire season in one night! However, it was a season they already had.
  • Bart Simpson did it with a fantasy sequence where Bart imagines himself as an alcoholic rocker, alienated from his friends, and insulting his fans in his songs. Note that this is his fantasy sequence!
    • Little sister Lisa meanwhile has her entire career as a jazz musician planned out as far as cliches go, though she remains undecided towards whether or not she'll die young to cement her legend.
    • One season finale, "Behind the Laughter", was a pitch-perfect parody of Behind The Music (complete with the actual show's narrator) chronicling how the family's hopes for stardom "began on a wing and a prayer, only to end with the wing on fire and the prayer being answered by Satan".
    • Although not a musician, Krusty the Clown is shown many times to be heavily dependent on drugs (legal and otherwise), a heavy drinker (complete with Drunken Montage), and has had a good number of one-night stands, while being The Krusty.
  • South Park: After Stan gets tired of ruining Guitar Hero, he starts playing "Heroin Hero", in which a person just plays a character who injects heroin into his body while chasing a dragon.
  • Four words: Dethklok! Dethklok! Dethklok! Dethklok!


Real Life

  • Very, very numerous.
    • Drug abuse took its toll on Aerosmith; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's nickname "The Toxic Twins" stems from their severe drug abuse, and Tyler infamously collapsed during several shows in the early 80's. All five members went through rehab in the 80's and have been clean and sober since. In the words of Steven Tyler: "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll: stop doing drugs, and you have more time for the other two."
    • Motley Crue is legendary for the debauchery and hedonism they engaged in during the 1980s. The members of the band gorged themselves on pretty much every vice imaginable: alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, groupies, strip clubs, etc. After Nikki Sixx nearly died of a heroin overdose (his heart stopped for a couple of minutes, but a paramedic managed to revive him with adrenaline shots to the heart) the band's managers canceled their European tour and convinced everyone in the band to enter rehab (Mick Mars refused, and instead cleaned up on his own). Although the band members are now more or less sober, they still have a reputation for being icons of the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle.
    • This led to Jimi Hendrix's untimely death by apparent drug overdose.
  • Averted in Straight Edge hardcore.
  • This trope tends to be most prevalent near the middle of the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness, while bands at the extreme end of the scale tend to have far more laid-back lifestyles (save for Black Metal, whose musicians embody a different trope altogether).
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