Where does “Sex, drugs and rock’n roll” come from

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“Sex, drugs and rock’n roll” – sex drugs and rock’n roll – is one of the expressions that we hear most frequently to describe the often exaggerated and unregulated lifestyle of artists, celebrities or singers, especially in the field of rock music. It is a phrase that began to spread in particular in the late seventies thanks to a song by punk singer Ian Dury, who was born on May 12 80 years ago and died in 2000 at the age of 57: its origin, however, dates back to a few years earlier. , and is inspired by an even older concept.

Ian Robbins Dury was born in Middlesex on May 12, 1942. He was part of the UK’s first punk movement in the early seventies with the Kilburn and the High Roads group, but achieved more transversal success thanks to New Boots and Panties !! And Do It Yourself, the band’s first two records Ian Dury and the Blockheads, released in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Dury wasn’t a great singer, but he was still very charismatic on stage. He was almost always seen with a cane because when he was seven he had fallen ill with polio, almost completely losing the use of an arm and a leg. In the late 1980s, his career began to decline: before dying of liver cancer he engaged in various charitable activities and had a short career as an actor.

One of Ian Dury’s most famous songs is “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”, a single that also came out in 1977 under Stiff Records, a then fledgling label that dealt mainly with punk and new wave music and had released records by Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and the Damned. The single didn’t sell much on the spot, but it was a huge critical success.

Although Ian Dury’s song helped popularize and widespread the use of the expression of its title, its first documented use is found in a 1969 article in the magazine. LIFEin which it was said that «sacred things for the counterculture [erano] sex, drugs and rock ». Two years later the expression was also used by a British journalist who was working on describing the unruly life of young people at the time, and who in the weekly Spectator he wrote that “it’s not for nothing that youth culture is characterized by sex, drugs and rock’n roll.”

As the site noted Mental Floss it seems the expression is a variation of the formula “wine, women and music”, which is found in various European cultures in more or less similar versions, and alludes to vices or pleasures considered universal, always described in three words. It is thought that the first use of this formula dates back to a German song from around 1775 which said “He who does not love wine, women and songs remains a fool for life”. However, the same saying is found in various other countries, including Norway, Portugal, Bulgaria and Georgia; in Italy the same idea – albeit with a negative connotation – is expressed in the saying “Bacchus, Tobacco and Venus reduce man to ashes”.

“Sex, drugs and rock’n roll” has in turn become a well-known formula and quoted more or less faithfully in dozens of books, comics and films, at rock concerts, on T-shirts and of course in songs. For example, the first words of the song refer to it “Ain’t no right“By Jane’s Addiction and those of a verse of”I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)“, One of the most famous songs by the American singer and actor Meat Loaf, where however the word” drugs “is replaced by” drums “(drums) to avoid problems of censorship. Sex & drugs & rock & roll is also the title of a biopic about the life of Ian Dury, released in 2010.

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