There is absolutely no doubt that Afroman’s "Because I Got High" and Eric Clapton’s "Cocaine" are about drugs; it says so right there in the title. However, not every artist is so on the nose, and there are a slew of songs you didn't know are about drugs. Here are 14 secret drug songs that may surprise you.
Some of the songs on this list are certainly up to interpretation. Not every artist is just going to come out and say, "This is a song about an illegal substance." True, David Byrne often tells a live audience that his song "And She Was" is about LSD. But it’s only obvious once you know that. And remember the hit song "Semi-Charmed Life"? It's almost definitely among songs you never noticed are about drug use. But listen closer, and you'll notice the crystal meth references all over the lytics. It’s just so upbeat and catchy that it’s hard to make out the brutally dark meaning.
From Ed Sheeran to U2, plenty of not-so-druggy rock stars have penned surprising odes to drug abuse. Take a listen and get ready to have your eyes opened.
The A Team By Ed Sheeran
"The A Team" was singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran's introduction to the world. It's a folksy, upbeat tune that certainly masks the weight of the lyrics. Sheeran penned the song after visiting a homeless shelter when he was 18 years old. During his visit, he heard stories about women who were struggling with substance abuse. Smoking crack in the song is poetically depicted as "breathing in snowflakes."
Sheeran said he wrote the song specifically for a woman named Angel, who was called the "unofficial sheriff of the shelter":
"I was 18 at the time. Lived away from home for about two years but I had never really seen the dark underbelly of London. It was a bit of a wake up call to me. I wrote this song for Angel.”
Got To Get You Into My Life By The Beatles
So many Beatles songs are clearly about drugs (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Day Tripper,” for example). However, upon a quick listen, “Got to Get You Into My Life” appears to be a love song. Not so, admits Paul McCartney in Barry Miles's 1997 book, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now:
"It's actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.”
McCartney also revealed in a 2004 interview with the Daily Mirror that he tried heroin once and did cocaine for about a year. However, the band never let drugs get in the way of the music:
"Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time."
Talking Heads' "And She Was" is a poppy, upbeat cut off the band's 1985 album Little Creatures. In the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, lead singer David Byrne describes how the song references the acid trip of a girl he met in Maryland:
"I used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore. She once told me that she used to do acid (the drug, not music) and lay down on the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc. It seemed like such a tacky kind of transcendence... but it was real! A new kind of religion being born out of heaps of rusted cars and fast food joints. And this girl was flying above it all, but in it too."
Bryne introduces the song with the story in the video above.
In 1997, no one could escape hearing the seemingly sugary-sweet, poppy, upbeat song "Semi-Charmed Life." You remember how it goes: "Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo," and so on until the end of time.
But sometimes things that are nice and shiny on the surface are dirty underneath. The lead single off of Third Eye Blind's self-titled debut album unwittingly had people singing about crystal meth and oral sex. During an interview with Rolling Stone, lead singer Stephan Jenkins admitted he had no idea how the song got airplay:
"Yeah, it's funny. I wrote a song about drugs and f*cking, and I'm pretty much about clean living on the road. We can't even believe it got onto the radio."
The song's lyrics are delivered in a rapid succession and are difficult to make out. There is actually a line in the tune that says, "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break." However, most radio stations opted to play an edited version of the song with the words "crystal meth" distorted.