David Bowie - Station To Station (1976)
Having recently finished filming Nicholas Roeg's eerie masterpiece 'The Man Who Fell To Earth', Bowie had suddenly found himself a stranger in an even stranger land. In particular Los Angeles, a morally bankrupt and narcissistic hell by the mid-seventies. It was a place still reeling from the death of the utopian dream and the creepy aftershocks of its demise. Rumours of the occult being the new religion for the Hollywood A list and members of the Manson family still creeping about in the desert gave the place a paranoid, nefarious edge. Added to the fact that Cocaine was being pumped like a bitter well into the mix and suddenly the City of Angels wasn't a holy place to live in at all.
In the midst of this was a slowly unravelling David Bowie. In the grip of a huge and debilitating Cocaine habit, he should have perhaps have gotten help and certainly got a one way ticket out of town. Instead he plowed on with the project talking about being 'attacked by psychic vampires' and diminishing to a standing weight of an astonishing ninety pounds. Living entirely on a diet of milk, red peppers and Cocaine at this point -he was literally wasting away to a vanishing point during the sessions. His frail condition was hardly helped by the people he was surrounding himself with. Various narcissists and hangers on would feed him praise and drugs in equal measures as he kept on with the record. It became an orgy of snowblind madness and excess. By the time it was finished he knew he had reached breaking point. It was no self conscious cry of an artist either. In truth he also knew that one more line of grade A Cocaine could possibly have killed him.
The resulting album was post-humously divided in its opinion amongst many critics. Whilst many saw it as a masterpiece, others pointed to its strange and cryptic lyrics as a man on the verge of a complete breakdown. Bowie himself however, to this day has no recollection of even making it, but has conceded it to be a cry for help of sorts. He has also admitted that his incarnation of the 'Thin White Duke' was an 'ogre', a person who 'intensified feeling whilst feeling nothing, an amoral zombie.' Tellingly it's been a character he has never really returned to in any capacity.
The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street
You only have to look at the resulting pictures from the sessions from 'Exile on Main Street', to realise that the Rolling Stones were hardly riffing on the tones of temperance for inspiration. Bare chested and barely alive, they don't so much resemble a rock and roll band as a bunch of nefarious pirates, sailing headlong into a sea of hedonism without a care in the world.
At the helm of their skull and crossbones ship, was captain Richards, a man who during the early part of the seventies had seemed to metamorphosise from a human being into a Ki Ora crow humming on a telephone pole. In the summer of 1971, a villa rented by the guitarist in the South of France had became the base for the recording of the darkest and greatest record ever made. The resulting sessions became as much an exercise in human endurance as creativity. Fuelled by heroin, literally thousands of pounds per week of the stuff, it was miracle that anything was even recorded at all. Somehow however the Rolling Stones managed to balance themselves out long enough to record an absolute masterpiece. A record that if you listen very carefully to, you can hear the spoons being burned underneath the the dark fizzle of cottons in the background.
Oasis: Be Here Now (1997)
The word expectancy should never have been a problem for the Gallagher brothers. Their supersonic rise from estate wannabee's to rock royalty had, after all, been based on confidence and the knowing narcissism that behind all the music press quotes and pantomime poses was a glut of great songs.
By 1997 however things were getting sloppy. As the whole world was waiting for their imminent third album, the band were becoming a caricature of themselves. Behind the scenes for the recording of 'Be Here Now', everything had seemingly been turned to eleven. The ego's. The infighting. The narcotics were all becoming more and more problematic, rather than being used as a creative tension to record to.
In particular, the influence of Cocaine. What had first been used as a calling card for success and affluence by the band had now become a debilitating influence, especially in the studio. As album producer Owen Morris would later recall: 'in the first week of recording someone tried to score an ounce of weed and scored an ounce of coke instead, which kind of summed it up'. He also conceded that certain recording sessions had been 'fucking awful'. Hardly the blueprint for a rock and roll band looking to continue their momentum and legacy. More likely things were heading into freefall.
So it was to be prove. Upon its release in August 1997, 'Be here Now' may have ushered in massive early sales - but seemed a disappointing decline in the bands creativity. Gone were the brilliant, escapist anthems of their first two albums, the sleek, measured ballads and in their place an overblown morass of endless guitar solo's and drug pomp came crashing down instead. It was the equivalent of watching a supermodel expose herself in a Wetherspoon's foyer. It also signalled the end of Britpop and it's generic scene too. From out of nowhere the greatest band of that whole period had seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Mainly due to the vainglorious influence of Cocaine. Someone hilariously had even forgot to put any bass on the record, forcing Noel Gallagher to later admit that 'I never listen to the record now. Mainly because it's fucking shit.'
Primal Scream: Give Out But Don't Give Up (1994)
Following the widescreen genius of 'Screamedelica', Primal Scream next decided to live out their best Rolling Stones fantasies and create their own version of 'Exile on Main Street'. What followed was a one way ticket into drug oblivion. Despatching themselves to the States, the band ended up recording songs that to this day they can't even remember writing. As Andrew Innes explains: 'I remember Alan McGhee phoning me and saying that we had written a great song in Rock's. I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about.'
It didn't end there. A hedonistic tour with Depeche Mode pretty much nearly finished them off. There were also stories of them hanging out with Heidi Fleiss and one of a member being so straddled on Heroin that he was stabbed in a bar and didn't even notice. To this day Bobby Gillespie can't verify them. 'I was so fucking out of it that you could have detonated a nuclear bomb on my head and I wouldn't have noticed.' He would later say.
Happy Mondays: Yes Please (1992)
It started off with an unsuccessful kidnap of Johnny Marr and ended up with two members of Talking Heads nearly having a nervous breakdown.
Dispatched to a meeting with the band, the legendary Smiths guitarist was surprised to find the presence of the members of the Happy Mondays and once inside the premises, two heavies blocking his exit to the door. He then found himself strong armed into the band with the dubious title of being their new guitarist for a new album to be recorded in Barbados: 'I was driving back down the motorway thinking what the fuck have I just done,' Marr said. 'I quickly spun the car round and headed back to the house where I found Shaun alone. I explained, look Shaun I can't join the Happy Mondays. He was deeply offended. I'd only been in the band two hours and he made me feel more guilty than when I'd left the Smiths.'
Minus Marr, the band headed to Barbados anyway to record the album with producers Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, formerly of Talking Heads. On his way through Manchester airport however Shaun Ryder managed to smash a months long supply of Methadone he'd planned to take with him to get him through a month of recording. What conspired next was a mixture of Hunter S Thompson and a Carry On film: crack cocaine, too many bongoes and the selling of studio owner Eddy Grants furniture. By the time the dust settled, the resulting album (or lack of it) even managed to bankrupt Factory records. And mentally, two very bewildered Talking Heads who still shudder at the very memory of it.
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