I noticed a common element in live Sly Stone videos while selecting clips in honor of Sly Stone's birthday. In each of the videos, Sly sported a runny nose worthy of former Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis
Sly Stone sported a shiny upper lip on a number of performances throughout the 70's.
The sheen was the direct result of massive cocaine ingestion. As I watched more clips, I realized the tell tale sign was a constant.
Shortly after Sly's B'day I was checking out clips of Merle Haggard. As I am wont to do, I became distracted by performances by George Jones. In addition to being, perhaps, the finest country singer of all time, George was renowned for his battles with the bottle, Tammy Wynette and prescription drugs. George's drug of choice were black beauties -pharmaceutical amphetamine (aka speed). Strictly speaking, a black beauty was a tablet of Biphetamine, manufactured by Strasenburgh Labs before finally being pulled from the market in 1998. Black beauties allowed George to engage in the buzz maintenance required by prodigious alcohol consumption and nightly performances on the Country & Western Circuit.
Check out George's eyes in this clip. The man is wired for sound. The same look I used to see in tweaking truckers and bikers in my bartending days. I am sure he had to fight turning three minute songs into two minute ditties.
Other notable examples of video intoxication are Sid Vicious
Shane McGowan pushed the edge of the alkie envelope while performing with the Pogues.
During my years as a bartender I witnessed far too many substance fueled crash and burns. The blues greats were particularly susceptible. However, folkies were every bit as susceptible - John Fahey and Phil Ochs were two notable disasters I witnessed.