Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

Sex & drugs & rock & roll”  I remember Ian Dury sang some time ago. A mantra which has constituted for more than one generation the antidote to the homologation to middle class morality and values: family, a good job, a responsible life. Dull!! I am sure any of us has enjoyed a more or less long “sex & drugs & rock & roll ” phase in their life, the rebellious phase, when you want to break the world of OLD RULES, advocating one with NO RULES, till without even realizing it, you find yourself banging your head against the wall of NECESSARY RULES (better known as compromises), so the Hegelian phase of growing up comes to an end and you have become an adult, brand new middle class, of course.

This fight against the bourgeois system of values is nothing new and actually dates back to the time when the middle class world definitely imposed itself on the old aristocrat model of society. Profit, utilitarianism, success, respectability united to a massive dose of prudery and hypocrisy became the totems of the age of the triumph of the middle class: the Victorian Age. And you know what kind of lifestyle did the rebels of the time dream of? Sex & drugs an& rock & roll. Nineteenth century style, of course.

These peculiar kinds of rebels were called “dandies”. They were easily recognizable, as they exhibited a unique refinement, which was their way to express their contempt towards the triviality, hypocrisy, materialism, in a word, the ugliness of the Victorian bourgeoisie. Aesthetics was for them a religion and as they believed that the Victorian society was desperately in want of beauty, they defied it trying to make of their lives something different, just as beautiful as a work of art and if a prudish, respectable kind of behaviour was required, well, they chose to devote themselves to the god of pleasure. Dandies never followed fashion, they did not seek for homologation, for sure. They made it. They embodied such models of elegance and sophistication, which were to be seen unattainable by anybody and no amount of money could buy.

Hence, the dandies chose to fight the system creating an antithetical model, thus proving the mediocrity of the Victorian standards of behaviour. Did they succeed? Well, yes, of course, till they banged their heads against the above mentioned wall (sooner or later it happens). However, they were not the only voices against those standards, there were some others, who were called: Bohemians.  They were, as William Makepeace Thackeray said, “ artists or littérateur who, consciously or unconsciously, secedes from conventionality in life and in art” rejecting permanent residence and surviving on little material wealth. They were exactly like the hippies of the end of the nineteenth century. In Paris many of them lived at Montmartre, not far from the “Moulin Rouge”, while in London they could be seen at Chelsea or Soho. They lived solely for art and literature’s sake and their dissolute lives were often characterized by alcohol and drug abuse, as well as open sexual freedom.  The Bohemians, in fact, felt the need to express and assert themselves, being at such a social and economic disadvantage. They aimed at defying the system, flaunting their marginality. They were actually sex and drugs & rock & roll.

Did they succeed? You know the answer. Rebellions bring new lymph to any society but their life is short and their fate is inevitably homologation. Therefore, once the disuptive impetus has gone, what remains is a sort of quietness, better known as adulthood, and in this new land only the memory of a refrain remains: “sex & drugs & rock & roll”.

 

16 thoughts on “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

  1. For those who love patterns and structures, you could almost call it a regular heartbeat, Cyclic? As in revolutions? That, in the end, is maybe the main contribution to revolt.
    Ah, but it’s fun while it lasts, and there is precious little of that about Most of the time.

  2. I’m so far removed from stuff that I don’t even know what is the equivalent of SD&RnR for the current generation entering that phase of their life. I imagine that it involves a phone and not interacting with real people (pretty much cuts out the S, at least in the traditional sense).

  3. Hah! For me as a music student in the sixties it was more like desks and digs, more Baroque than Soul. But I do remember thinking I never want to smoke, own a polluting car, increase the world’s population by having kids and be shackled to a mortgage as part of the capitalist system. How I compromised on some of those principles…

      • I don’t smoke, and have never done so; we do have a car but have always bought secondhand (the present one was new but we’ve had it for a decade); we had three children, yes; and yes, we are house-owners but all our houses have been old properties, not new-builds. So, definitely compromised — but how can you not be?

  4. Great post, Steffi. It reminded me of Shaw’s Alfred Doolittle, who abused middle-class morality and then found himself trapped in it after Prof. Higgins interfered. I never thought of him living the life of sex-and-drugs-and-rock-n-roll, but he’s a perfect model of it before he’s forced to reform.

  5. Pingback: 11/02 – 17/02 incl. The Bear Attack, Lou Reed & Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll | Observation Blogger

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