Recreational drugs in professional reviewing
May 19, 2021 4:33 PM   Subscribe

We know that certain artworks (e.g. movies or music) are intended for people under the influence of alcohol or other recreational drugs. But what about professional reviewers? Do they ever acknowledge using recreational drugs before or while forming their opinion? Should their opinion be more or less valuable on this basis?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head, certainly the music critics Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer acknowledged using drugs while writing reviews and/or listening to the music they were to review. IMO they are two of the greatest music writers, as their writing is good enough that it doesn't matter if you care about the subject matter at all.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 5:00 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Which drugs specifically did they admit to?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:03 PM on May 19, 2021

Aw gee, I'd have to go paw through the library and I'm powerful tired. But Bangs died of some combination of alcohol and downers, and referenced their consumption frequently in his writing. There's a long Lou Reed interview where they're both drunk, for example.

Meltzer is alive but pretty old and for some reason I think I recall he may be sober by now. I can't think of specific examples from his writing, but if you have read him or choose to I'm sure there will be examples, because his writing often makes you feel like you're on drugs!

This also makes me think that old music magazines like Bull Tongue, Arthur, Chemical Imbalance, Bananafish, Forced Exposure, etc, are probably rife with examples of this. I have to think Byron Coley has referenced being high or something at least once in his reviews (he writes for The Wire, as well as some of this others). Bananafish was so non-linear and about such marginal music that the whole thing came off as an elaborate art prank, or indeed the work of people trying to publish a magazine while, say, high on LSD the whole time.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 5:28 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hunter S. Thompson wrote about counterculture, including reviewing music and musicians of the day, and claimed to write under the influence of various drugs. I don't know if his opinions are made more or less valuable by that fact, but he was explicit about the lack of absolute objectivity in what he wrote, and that this approach to journalism is a different way to truth or accuracy in reporting.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:33 PM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I feel like Hunter S Thompson belongs in here too, even though he's generally thought of as a journalist rather than a reviewer

On edit: jinx
posted by SystematicAbuse at 5:34 PM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

I also recall perhaps fragmented memories of art critic David Sylvester interviewing painter Francis Bacon at various times, and a bit of drinking and smoking going off and on — perhaps de rigueur for those days, though Bacon notably abstained from teetotalling, so it might be situational.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:42 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nick Kent comes to mind as somebody who didn't need to tell you he was imbibing; it was pretty obvious.

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music is a great read.
posted by philip-random at 9:49 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Your question made me think of a few articles about drugs and movies by well-respected film critics.

J. Hoberman's The Cineaste’s Guide to Watching Movies While Stoned.

In his article, Hoberman cites critic Andrew Sarris' reassessment of 2001 after smoking pot: "I must report that I recently paid another visit to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 while under the influence of a smoked substance that I was assured by my contact was somewhat stronger and more authentic than oregano on a King Sano base. 2001 is indeed a major work by a major artist. "

Similarly, see Jonathan Rosenbaum's What Dope Does to Movies, originally published in High Times.
posted by cursed at 6:04 AM on May 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

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