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Playing whilst 'under the influence of...'

CyberFerret

Member
Messages
10,036
Ok, as someone who struggles to remember parts, keep time, follow the band etc. even when I am totally sober and fit, I always wonder how others managed to do it while totally hammered under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs?

I've read things like in Clapton's biography where he mentions playing one gig lying totally flat on his back on the stage because he was so out of it on drugs/alcohol that he couldn't even stand up.

Probably the worst I have experienced myself is one gig where I had a really bad 'flu, and had taken all sorts of medication to try and stay upright. I know I was wobbly on my feet and the only thing I can remember of that gig is spending time between the sets lying on a table in the back of the pub with the lead singer's girlfriend bringing me copious amounts of orange juice & water to drink.

Strangely, I cannot recall anyone saying that I played any worse than usual. :roll Maybe they were being polite.

Has anyone else done this, or experienced this? Is everyone else's innate playing ability so good that they don't have to have full control of their faculties to play well? Interested to hear...
 

boldaslove1977

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,805
it's funny... i've played with guys who get bombed and play better... and i've played with guys who have 2 drinks and melt. different people react in different ways.

i think to a certain extent... when you've played the same song a million times... you have to REALLY be hammered to NOT be able to play it... because your hands go on auto pilot... especially in the bar band biz... where you're not exactly playing anything uber-complicated.
 

PatrickE_FenderADV

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
28,300
Did you catch the PJ20 documentary? Mike McCready didn't even remember playing Daughter on SNL. It happens to the best players and sometimes we can't tell. I can't do it smashed, but I think there are times I have been better between sober and wasted. I refuse to let it be a crutch though.
 

2leod

Re-Member
Messages
8,586
I remember reading In GP (I think) that when it came time to lay down his track on "That Girl Could Sing" Lindley was, in his words, drunk as a skunk and just before the tape rolled his Orange Squeezer started crapping out but he told the engineer to roll anyway and everyone thought it was a keeper. "That Girl..." and "Disco Apocalypse" are my least liked songs on the album, but that solo was a gem - snotty (for a JB recording) and kind of fluid on the timing, it makes me smile!


 

SWEENEY

Member
Messages
320
I haven't played live on a regular basis since the mid 90's, but back then I drank heavily and very rarely did it diminish my playing and quite often enhanced it, according to friends and bandmates.

since those times I have stopped drinking like it was a full contact sport and when I do drink and play, any more than 2-3 drinks makes me sloppy.

I never could play high (pot). It KILLS my timing and makes stage fright take over my brain.

EDIT: I forgot to add that I play simplistic classic rock and blues, no technical stuff here.
 
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oldtelefart

Member
Messages
4,664
I like a drink or two, but after about 4, the fine motor control starts getting dodgy.
I much prefer a few tokes before playing, gets the creative juices flowing, makes it more fun, and doesn't mess with your physical capabilities like alcohol does.
 

elron hoover

Senior Member
Messages
2,131
A lot of it has to do with tolerance and dependency. People who chronically abuse drugs/alcohol can function under the influence much better than those who do not, sometimes even better than when they are sober. Even though Clapton may have been so whacked he couldn't stand, his hands could still go on autopilot.
 

rspencer

Member
Messages
2,425
When I was gigging regularly & drinking even more regularly, I could do it with no problem. But even if you're used to doing so, there is a very fine line between loose & sloppy. I played some of my best gigs ever when pretty well hammered. But, to be fair, I played my worst gigs in that condition as well.
 

SamBooka

Member
Messages
2,222
after one beer I played better.. after 2 beers even better still.. 3 beers was the same as no beer at all.. 4 beers and it was like playing with gloves on.

I dont know what the exchange rate for canadian to american beer is so you will have to work that out amongst yourselves.
 

Shiny_Beast

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,888
I was so messed up once ( a million years ago) at a party gig that I played an entire lead break on one or two strings. I had no grasp at all where I was on the frett board and it basically took all I had to figure out where to go on the next string :), epic solo lol.
 

stratotastic

Senior Member
Messages
7,239
My band will barely let me hit stage unless I've thrown a few back. I certainly don't play bad sober, but I tend to unleash the fury when I've drank a few. There definitely comes a point where it's too much and I'm all over the place, but have only had that happen once or twice.
 

HendrixVibrato

Have some experience...
Messages
628
after one beer I played better.. after 2 beers even better still.. 3 beers was the same as no beer at all.. 4 beers and it was like playing with gloves on.

I dont know what the exchange rate for canadian to american beer is so you will have to work that out amongst yourselves.
Not only funny, but pretty darned accurate as well - good post, Sam.

NOBODY plays "better" when loaded, despite all illusions/delusions and comments from both well-wishers and enablers alike to the contrary; BTDT, too many times. Finally figured out it was downright disrespectful of the audience, myself and the cats that cared enough to help me to be able to play along the way. Looking back on it, I guess I was lucky that I played drunk for "only" about 2 - 3 years, and it was in small clubs where 95% of everyone else was *really* hammered themselves - but there was (and is) still no excuse for it, shame on me. We're all better than that, and no matter when the audience is drunk, they deserve our best.

If nothing else, you gotta at least have some self-respect. :)

That said, I don't preach to fellow players on stage if they're playing well, I'm no saint - so I don't give anyone a hard time about some need to be stone cold sober as long as they are playing well. But that is indeed a very fine line.......
 

paranoid70

Member
Messages
6,490
I typically play a little better after a couple of beers. Probably because I have a couple when I usually practice as well.

However, the guy I used to jam with played great when he was loaded. In retrospect, I did all the heavy lifting in that band - most of the leads and nearly all the rhythm guitar. But after he had a number of drinks, he would play some wicked (albeit rather sloppy) leads - seriously it was really great. The third set was definitely more lively than the first.
 
Messages
2,703
it takes practice...:Devil

seriously why not just play sober? I'm guilty of playing under the influence sometimes but hope I never let it get out of hand.
 

Oppressed

Member
Messages
61
I was at a drum clinic with my drummer at the time for Steve Gadd. Someone asked "I have heard you are high when you play, is that true?"
He replied, "I can't answer that, but I can give you this advice, if you're going to play high, practice high."

I normally had a buzz prior to going on, but at the same time tried to get fired up for every show, so the adrenaline would sober me up before the first note.

I do think it is good for some, loosens you up. Could remove inhibitions for some too, which could be good or bad depending on the player.
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,927
A lot of it has to do with tolerance and dependency. People who chronically abuse drugs/alcohol can function under the influence much better than those who do not, sometimes even better than when they are sober. Even though Clapton may have been so whacked he couldn't stand, his hands could still go on autopilot.

I agree. When I was a full time professional alcoholic/drug user, it was just business as usual. However, I always managed to stay upright!
 
Messages
10,401
@ elron hoover: My parents saw Clapton during the '461 Ocean Boulevard' tour in Buffalo. Clapton came out struggled through 3 songs, fell down, attempted the 4th, fell down again and had to be walked off stage. Emmylou Harris cried on stage. B.B. King came back out and finished the night. Backstage, my English teacher happened to be at this show, where ol' Slowhand threw up all over some hapless guests. Sorry, Clapton never was able to pull that crap successfully.

We all saw how well ol' Pagey plays when he's hammered, slobbering all over himself at Live Aid, butchering "Whole Lotta Love".

I saw Metallica restart every other song once, because they we're hammered. They sucked!

James Jamerson played those astonishing bass lines to Marvin Gayes' "What's Goin' On" flat on his back, dead drunk.

Paul Chambers damn near OD'd on heroin, was thrown into an ice bath and walked around a few hours before playing with Miles Davis, and sounded as if nothing happened. John Coltrane, smacked out of it, dozed off on stage and picked goobers out of his nose. All this was according to Miles.

I like to have around 3 beers before I go on, then I'm loosened up a little. After that, one beer between breaks. I never feel like I have a buzz going, just relaxed. I've played trashed where other drunks thought I sounded great, but I know the truth...I sucked! I did notice that when I smoke pot and play, at times I'm either on top of the beat or just ahead of it. I think I hear it faster than it is.

Moral of the story?
Rollllll another one....just like the other one....
 

TheGuildedAge

Senior Member
Messages
13,060
I think it's unprofessional myself. I don't care if you are a cover band or Pearl Jam. When someone is paying to hear you play music, they deserve better than drunken jamming.
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,927
I think it's unprofessional myself. I don't care if you are a cover band or Pearl Jam. When someone is paying to hear you play music, they deserve better than drunken jamming.

I don't party like I used to and I'm not gigging now, but I still know some guys who are "professional' boozer/doper types....you know, the guy who can drink a case of beer and appear sober?

I agree being visibly loaded and unable to do what you were hired to do is unprofessional at any level. But being a part of the party (especially for bar gigs) and having some drinks doesn't mean "drunken jamming".
 
Messages
3,339
I like to have two beers before we start to loosen me up. A beer a set keeps me loose and takes the edge off. Five to six beers for the night and I'm good. Mind you, this is very light beer I'm drinking (Michelob Ultra). I'm not drunk or really even buzzed hard, just relaxed and in a good frame of mind.
 






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