The majority of famous musicians have a wild story or two to tell about their times spent doing drugs. There’s the frequent hotel room trashing’s, late-night drug fuelled adventures, and weird shenanigans that could only happen when you’ve ingested a few too many chemicals, or were Keith Moon.
But what happens when musicians were caught in the act, with their drug of choice, still in their possession?
The fact that all five spots could have been taken up with ridiculous stories of Ozzy Osbourne’s wild antics is proof of the man’s affinity for just about every drug under the sun. However, one in particular stands out about when he was caught possessing cocaine.
Back in 1999, the front man for the legendary Black Sabbath revealed to High Times a hilarious story situated around a hotel swimming pool and involving a fellow guest.
“It’s a brilliant sunny day, and this guy’s sitting there with one of those reflectors under his chin getting a suntan,” Ozzy said as he set the scene. “I ask him, ‘You want to do some coke?’ He goes, ‘no no no.’ So I’m just whacking this stuff up my nose.”
“I say, ‘What do you do?’ He says, ‘I work for the government.’ ‘Uh… what do you do with the government?’ ‘I work for the drug squad.’”
The man then showed the bewildered Ozzy his badge while he proceeded to freak out. However, the story was still to take another bizarre twist.
“Oh you’re alright,” the officer calmly told the scrambling rocker. “I’m the guy that got you the coke.”
David Lee Roth
When you’re in a band as successful as Van Halen were in the 1980’s, drugs were easy to come by. When you’ve left that band and decided to start anew as a solo artist, it is less so. As former front man David Lee Roth embarrassingly found out for himself.
In April 1993, the singer was taking a walk around Washington Square Park in New York. He was also trying to buy some drugs. Unluckily for him though, the police were also there carrying out Operation Double Header.
An unsuspecting Roth was spotted by an undercover officer buying weed from a dealer in the park. He was subsequently arrested, along with 37 others, and booked for his crime.
Officer Thomas Kilroy claimed he didn’t know who the singer was upon first arresting him.
“He had sunglasses on and I was looking at him. I was like, this guy looks familiar to me. Then we asked what his name was and he said ‘Roth.’ And we went ‘David Lee?’ And he said ‘Yeah.’”
Roth was charged and given a summons, which was “less than a misdemeanour,” for buying a $5 bag of marijuana.
After the incident he appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show. He described the incident as embarrassing but compared it to “buying a pretzel or soda on a Sunday afternoon.”
In 1976 Neil Young was backstage getting ready to come and join The Band for their film The Last Waltz. For their final show they had invited a number of high-profile musicians to join them. Young was there, and so too was Bob Dylan, Dr John and Neil Diamond for some reason.
Young was no stranger to drugs during the mid-70’s, so happily obliged in a few lines of coke, which was reportedly everywhere backstage, before making his triumphant entrance. The only problem was that this time it was fairly obvious the Canadian was on drugs.
A sizeable rock of cocaine was, unknowingly to him, clearly visible up his nostril throughout his performance of ‘Helpless’.
This anomaly forced the filmmakers, including director Martin Scorsese, into a decision. They couldn’t just cut Young from the entire film, so instead they had to get inventive.
Robbie Robertson, The Band guitarist and co-producer of the film, paid several thousand dollars to have the cocaine visually erased from the film. A timely and back then pricey procedure whereby each frame was individually edited.
“It was the most expensive cocaine I’ve ever bought,” Robertson joked afterwards.
“I’m not proud of that,” Young admitted, when asked about one of the most infamous moments in music history.
No article concerning musicians and drugs can ever be complete without the obligatory mention of the Rolling Stones.
Keith Richards’ reputation proceeds him when it comes to tales of snorting his own father’s ashes, and wild drug fuelled lunches spent with fellow guitarist Ronnie Wood. But before all of that came his drug bust in 1973.
Not for the first time, the drug squad raided his home where they found Richards still asleep with his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg.
As they searched the residence they discovered a mammoth stash of drugs that included (deep breath); weed, cannabis resin, Chinese heroin, mandrax tablets, syringes, burnt spoons and an assortment of pipes.
Richards alibi? The guitarist claimed that it was not actually his house and all the drugs belonged to the Chess record label owner’s son, Marshall Chess. He claimed that Pallenberg and himself were just passing through and had spent the night there.
However, various pictures of him and gold-plated Rolling Stones records on the wall told another story.
Along with the drugs the police also found a loaded handgun, rifle and 110 rounds of ammunition. He faced 25 charges in all and was looking at a hefty prison sentence. Yet, somehow, he managed to escape with just a $500 fine after claiming he was set up by the police.
“When we got busted at Redlands , it made us realise it was a whole different ball game. That was when the fun stopped,” Richards said, supposedly with a straight face, as he looked back decades after his 1973 drug bust.
On September 24th 1988, the legendary James Brown entered into an insurance company that was situated next door to his office. He was welding a shotgun and was visibly angry.
“He just said, ‘Why are you all using my bathroom?’” recalled a witness from inside the insurance company. ”He had grass in his hair and said rats and cockroaches were running out of his hat.”
The police arrived shortly after, but the story was far from over. Brown fled the scene after they had tried to block him in inside his truck, before he engaged them in a “10 to 14 vehicle pursuit which reached speeds of 95 kilometres per hour to 135 km/ph.”
Two of his tires were shot out by the police, yet he continued to drive on just the rims. Meanwhile, he also attempted to ram two police cars off the road as they encircled around him.
When he was finally arrested, Brown faced a slew of charges. They included carrying a deadly weapon in a public place, attempting to flee police, and driving under the influence of drugs. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
Rumours of his use of PCP had circulated for years prior, with one incident reportedly seeing him hog-tied by police after he had tried to kick in their car window while high on it.
He never admitted to having a drug problem though, despite numerous arrests for everything from cocaine to marijuana possession throughout his lifetime.