January 24, 2020

Drinkin’ Songs 1: Kiss the Bottle by Lucero

One of the more interesting things I do in the “science” part of my job is examine how environmental factors influence drinking behavior.  One environmental factor that is particularly interesting how music influences drinking.  Of the handful of studies out there, here’s what we know: 

  • Listening to music while drinking increases the likelihood of risky decisions
  • Songs with references to substance use (regardless of genre) increase substance abuse
  • Songs with lyrics about drinking increases drinking in bars 
  • Rap and country music have the most songs with drinking lyrics
  • Loud music leads to heavy drinking
  • The faster the tempo of a song, the slower people drink

It has been suggested that lyrics about drinking often reflect the artist’s experience or portray a composite of what they commonly experience in their own lives and social circles. Still other researchers (and journalists) have suggested that alcohol serves to fuel the creative process. That is, alcohol is a muse at times, and others it is just part of the most common stories being told in songs.  That music effects the listener’s own drinking shouldn’t be surprising—but it isn’t something we commonly think about when we drink.  The fact many of my favorite artists pepper their music with alcohol-related lyrics probably says something about me.  

Since I love music and find alcohol lyrics and themes interesting, I decided to add an occasional blog related to the main podcast called “Drinkin’ Songs”.  Since the internet is full of lists of drinking songs (think Red Solo Cup, Gin and Juice, Margaritaville), I’ll feature songs and artists here you probably won’t find on any list.  I hope you enjoy!

Drinkin’ Song #1: Kiss the Bottle

The first Drinkin’ Song is Kiss the Bottle.  Originally released by the punk band Jawbreaker in 2002 on their album ’17 Reasons: The Mission District’ 3×7 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZTvqUvgYCI).

So, what is the song about?  The meaning of lyrics are often up for interpretation by the listener, and you can read some listeners thoughts on what the song means here:  https://songmeanings.com/songs/view/33196/. When I first heard the song, I was struck by some experiences working with youth who were living on the streets.  I remember one interview with a particular kid, who described his desire not lose his girlfriend over his drinking.  He was just as worried about her drug use but he also had no intention of stopping drinking or panhandling or looking for permanent shelter.  He told me he belonged on the streets.  That was his truth and this song really makes me think of him and other kids like him.

Here are the lyrics:

Kiss The Bottle

It gets loneliest at night
Down at the liquor store
Beneath the neon sky
Our moonlightSix a.m. the floor comes alive with lice
The pan’s dried up so tight
With hardened beans
We’re hungrySo, I lean on you sometimes
Just to see if you’re still there
Your feet can’t take the weight of one
Much less two
We hit concreteHow were we born into this mess?
I know I painted you a prettier picture, baby
But we were run out on a rail
Fell from the wagon to the night train
I kissed the bottle
I should’ve been kissing you
You wake up to an empty night
With tears for two
Cigarettes they fill the gaps
In our empty days
In our broken teeth
We’re jonesin’
Say mister, can you spare a dime?
Some change could make a change
Could buy some time
Some freedom
Or an ear to hear my story
It’s all I’ve got
My fiction beats the hell out of my truth
A palm upturned burnt blue
Don’t call it sunburn
You’ve been shaking on the job
Just one drink ahead of your past
There’s a white light coming up
You draw the blinds hoping it’ll pass
I kissed the bottle
I should’ve been kissin’ you
You wake up to an empty night
With tears for two

The song was covered by Lucero and quickly became a fan favorite at their shows.  When Jawbreaker reunited in 2107 (the originally broke up in the mid 90s), Lucero stopped playing the song live. You can find their version of the song on their album the Attic Tapes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ydB8fG8Csg).   

The Foo Fighters also covered the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY4e2wM9hcQ) as did Rise Against (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWMa01n5EBg).

Other covers of the song have been done by Brandon Kelly (available on Spotify) and The VanSanders (also on Spotify).  

I am personally partial to the original and the Lucero versions.   What do you think? 

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