Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What I've Been Reading: The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty

There's a track on Soul Coughing's first album, Ruby Vroom, called Mr. Bitterness. Presumably, songwriter Mike Doughty recognized that having already used the title for a song by a band he actively despises, he shouldn't re-tread it here as the title of his memoir. Fair enough. It would have been accurate though.The tone of this memoir is unremittingly bitter. 'Primal Scream' might also have been considered as a title, but another band already has rights on that, so...

When I say it's bitter, I mean it by way of description rather than as judgment. But man... at about page 150, I realized Doughty had yet to cast a positive light on anyone or anything. Hated his parents growing-up; fell into a music biz run by sharks and conmen; created a band and really hated the other three members. I mean, from start to finish...hated them. Became fairly successful and took no pleasure whatsoever in any of it. Slipped from casual drug use to extreme addiction along the way, and didn't even pause to enjoy the stations in between. There's a slight upturn in mood towards books end - when he's sober and medicated - but even that's muted. A survivor's victory, of sorts.

Except...there's something to be said for surviving, living a full life (whatever form it takes), and for continuing to produce work through the sheer necessity of doing so. I always thought Soul Coughing an interesting band (and that Screenwriter's Blues was a masterpiece), and I kept Doughty on my radar because of that. I've no idea whether ardent Soul Coughing fans knew of the animosity and disharmony at the heart of the band, but I suspect like me, most casual fans will have found this an eye-opener. Not that that part matters. It's one aspect of a familiar rock narrative presented here.

The book reads like a gargantuan clearing of the throat, a settling of debts. Also, a cleansing. Doughty is sober now, takes medicine for depression/bipolarism. He's extremely active as a musician and writer/blogger, forging a creative path. You suspect that he takes more responsibility for himself in life than he does within the pages of this book. For all that, he's still interesting. Still worth keeping on the radar.

                                                   Screenwriter's Blues

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