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Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll

Skip the Drugs (and Booze)

Photo of the Author from his files

During my college years, one of the ubiquitous songs on radio and turntables was “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury.

It’s a catchy tune with a sly vibe to the vocals. And, of course, it summed up the main interests of many wild young men and women at that time, myself included.

Join in! Jump in! Live for today! Go!


I believed in that. I believed in drugs as a way of life, sex whenever available, and rock & roll always.

This song came out during punk’s heyday and was considered to be a punk anthem. Rebellion and good times mixed well.

Until it didn’t.


One of the great punk rockers is Mike Ness, and his band is called Social Distortion. They’re still going strong, having started in 1978. Remarkable.

Mike grew up hard, became addicted to heroin, and spent time in jail. 5 years after the band’s 1st album, he got clean. They released an album called “Prison Bound,” which was the first of his forays into writing about the life he narrowly escaped.

Later, they made an album called “Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll.”

Photo by Stefan Krause, Germany, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons


The anthems and lyrics and posters and album covers and Rolling Stone articles and interviews that celebrated and glorified the confluence of drugs, alcohol, and rock & roll were a heady elixir for me and many others including a lot of my friends, my tribe.

There was a powerful current to the counter-culture, and it felt like it was important to be dedicated to it.

That type of thinking and living killed a lot of people. I always felt that would never happen to me, as did, I’m sure, a lot of people who died.

Luck, good fortune, the rare smart choice, and more, played into my survival.


I love how Mike Ness has turned the Ian Dury song title on its head.

Sex - yes. Rock ’n’ Roll - yes. Drugs? Let’s replace that with Love. Yes.

Sex, Love and Rock ’n’ Roll.



I got clean and sober a few years after Mike Ness did, and we’re close to the same age.

We’re both married for a long time.

His songs have expressed much about how I feel about the old days. They happened. That was my life. Songs such as “I Was Wrong,” “Ball and Chain,” and “Drug Train” are laments that hit me hard.

And the stories they tell are wrapped in glorious rock and roll language, the poetry of punk. It’s my thing.


I’m here to tell you that being sober has nothing to do with being square or uptight or conservative or boring.

If you’re all about the booze and drugs, sober people may seem to be boring.

But it was Love I wanted all along. Sex is great and music is huge in my soul, but Love is the bedrock of life.

And having Love is what makes the Drugs (and booze) able to be out of the picture for me.

I’m grateful to wildmen like Mike Ness and Social D for showing us the way.

I’m glad I didn’t have to become square to become sober.

Life is rich. Rock & Roll, theatre, art, books, films, photography…bring it. I want to see it and hear it and dance it and live it.


P.S. On June 7th, Mike Ness announced that he’s got stage one tonsil cancer. A full recovery is expected utilizing surgery and then radiation. Send good thoughts his way.

I wrote yesterday about being cancer-free for 5 years.

I hope Mike writes about that in 5 years time.

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