Amy Winehouse showed the world how rock stars are supposed to party

Now that the corpse is cold, the funeral service has been paid for, and Back to Black has resurfaced at the top of the charts, it’s time to congratulate Amy Winehouse for a job well done.

Take a bow in heaven sister, for showing the Twitter generation exactly how a real rock star is supposed to behave. We haven’t seen that kind of performance since Kurt Cobain burned out in Seattle 17 years ago.

Making Winehouse’s above-and-beyond effort doubly commendable was that she wasn’t even a rock ’n’ roller, except in attitude. What the beehived U.K. soul singer was, however, was a real, honest-to-god, genuine throwback to a time when being famous was a licence to stagger through life completely fucked up.

And, admit it, we all found it fascinating because there’s nothing we love more than a fuck-up. We always have, and we always will.

Winehouse was flat-out incredible in her devotion to kicking things old-school. One of the major downsides of the modern-era music business is that you can no longer get away with being a sad, drug-and-booze-addled mess. The reason? To the everlasting chagrin of those asswipes in Metallica, no one buys records anymore. Instead, they pull them off the Web for free, which isn’t exactly great for the old bank account when you’re relying on royalty cheques to pay your bar tab.

Back when everything went platinum, rock stars were truly blessed. The fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers sold mega-millions in the’90s enabled singer Anthony Kiedis to disappear for months on end to do enough smack to paralyze a donkey. Keith Richards wouldn’t have had the luxury of sitting around snorting his father’s ashes if he’d had to worry about being on the tour bus at 9 a.m. every morning. Same goes (minus the snorting-their-parents part) for an endless list that includes Elvis Presley, Axl Rose, Keith Moon, Nikki Sixx, Sid Vicious, Scott Weiland, that guy from the Butthole Surfers, and every long-gone member of the fabled 27 club.

If you want to make money as a musician in 2011, you have to commit to hitting the road and playing live. And—unless you’re a heritage act like the Rolling Stones or the Who—you can’t tour if you don’t have a new product to pimp. As a result, downtime becomes a luxury that few can afford. It’s write an album, tour, write an album, tour, and then repeat endlessly, taking the odd day off here and there to pray that someone likes one of your songs enough to stick it in an iPod or Volkswagen commercial.

Think about that for a second. The days of shambling around 15-bathroom mansions with a bottle of Jack in one hand, a syringe in the other, and a feedbag of blow strapped to your face are now officially gone.

Except, that is, unless you were Amy Winehouse. To be fair, she had the luxury of having a record that skewed old enough that fans actually bought it on compact disc rather than pillaging it from the Pirate Bay. So, with plenty of disposable royalty cheque income, she did exactly what rock stars were once supposed to do: partied her fucking brains out.

We’re talking sucking back enough vodka to make Ronnie Wood wide-eyed. Smoking enough to make Alison Mosshart seem like Luba. Doing enough drugs to impress, in no particular order, Bob Marley, John Frusciante, Shaun Ryder, Stevie Nicks, and Fatboy Slim.

And not only did Winehouse give ’er like Mí¶tley Crí¼e back in the Bullwinkle, hairspray, and dink-revealing Spandex days, she didn’t try to keep it a dirty secret. She obviously didn’t give a shit who knew. This explained why, on any given Sunday, you could find her staggering around Camden barefoot in a bra, looking like she’d just crawled out of Pete Doherty’s crack shack. And why she seemed on a mission to redefine the term trainwreck, slurring through live sets in Serbia, punching out fans at Glastonbury, and puking all over the stage at Rock in Rio in Lisbon (where she added extra flavour to the mix by giving a glassy-eyed performance charitably described as totally fucking out of it). And why, when she would overdose, she didn’t half-ass it, but instead loaded up on cocktails that were a shit-mix of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol.

It all added up to the kind of ongoing, real-life performance that, amazingly, overshadowed anything that the singer—who was one of the monster talents of her generation—ever did on-stage or in the recording studio. So take one final curtain call, Amy Winehouse. The entertainment business has produced some fascinating substance abusers over the decades. Few ever had the balls to go as hard as you did.

And even fewer have flamed out so brilliantly that they’ve become instant icons. If there’s a happy hour in heaven, Cobain should be showing his admiration by buying.

Comments (39) Add New Comment
Jack*
Thanks, Mike. Amy won our hearts by making her mess her message
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for real
What a disgusting piece, Mike. What a cheap, easy way to jump on the bandwagon and glamorize and overemphasis one sad facet of an otherwise amazing artist's life.

Pitchfork did it so, so much better: http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/8011-appreciation-amy-winehouse/
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Standing Water BA LLD MBA BBQ WTF
An amazing artist, lollerskates.
Pretty girls with decent voices are a dime a dozen, and if the public schools actually had a program to produce them, they'd be a dime for three-dozen.

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sigh
this is trash.
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KeeperoftheDerp
this is soooooo fucking callous

but that was the point, right?

since you can't get anyone to read your tripe otherwise.
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dave ramone
i wonder how much of the drugs she allegedly did was bought off the minions of CIA agents who use the drug money to finance black op projects like AREA 51
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Elle
this is the worst article i've read in quite some time. is this vancouver's version of a poor man's the onion?
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Cesaria
Obviously this was written with a desire to generate a little shock value. Gee, how clever. But honestly, Mike, it is very clear that you have never experienced addiction in your family or seen someone close to you destroy themselves due to alcohol or drug addiction. It's a disease, and it's a tragedy. Whether the person is a rockstar or not.
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Sandy73
I liked Amy as an artist, but why glamorize her lifestyle? This is what it really does http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G43DnaU9qPM That's the real picture. I've lived it, there ain't nothing pretty, glorious or glamorous about it, just slow death by self destruction.
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Mike Useless Slinger
As usual Mike, classy, classy stuff.
While she might have been a mess, her music was pretty bloody decent.
At least she will be remembered for her death, at most she will be remembered for her voice.

You..uhh...write for the Straight..not VICE.

I can't wait till you are delivering papers again.

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CC
Loved the article..still laughing! RIP Amy you were one of a kind and will be truly missed..yes Kurt will be buying for sure! Great review of the other rockers who led many generations to turn to drugs, alcohol and self-destructive behaviour for answers to their problems..definitely not where to turn and I really wish people would stop glorifying those who had it all and treated themselves and those they loved as disposable. I really loved her as an artist but as an individual I don't think she set a good example at all!
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bobo
Dave Ramone - get a grip on reality.
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Jon2
Mike, thanks for writing this. When you are so grief stricken that you want put a golf club through the television or throw vases across the room to deaden the pain, this piece captures that feeling. It is the first piece to make me laugh about Amy since her death and is my second favorite to Russell Brand's tribute. If it isn't quite satire it is catharsis... sincere thanks...
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Fred Nurke
Usinger, do you think you are "clever"? (you are NOT). You come across as not only tactless, but your writing is boring, repetitive, and pointless. What WAS the point of this piece? Oh yeah, to note that Amy Winehouse got loaded and died young? For this, we need your childish "op-ed"? TWAT.
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Sad
A song bird died, too bad, for us, we miss out on the her future.
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dexm
Love the article man. Well-written & I think you have half a point -- which is all you really need for internet journalism.
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Duncan Kennedy
Thoughtful and realistic piece.

She was pathetic.
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Nestor
What a refreshing eulogy, for a change. Of course, it comes as no surprise in health-crazed granola central, where even smoking a cigarette is considered a capital offense, that the most indignant comments on this piece are also the most popular.
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Mr Nogatco
@ Nestor
Yep...no fun city indeed. Puritanical fucks with no sense of humour or anything else fun for that matter.

Being the unapologetic boozed up, cracked out, smack fiend hedonist that she was, Winehouse probably would have gotten a chuckle out of this piece. Kurt always seemed like the gentlemanly type and I'm sure he's more than happy to take care of the first round or two.

Excuse me while I have another shot of fine Cuban rum chased with a fat line of premium HA blow and a small bump of Vancouver's favourite Afghan import. Here's to the hedonists, dead and alive, and the chosen few who rock as hard as they roll.

To the stinky patchouli and granola crowd: pull the pole out of your collective aresholes and learn how to have a little fun or, at least, you know, crack a smile once in a while and ditch the fucking earnest act at least for a night or two. Who knows, y'all might end up learning to appreciate good music, hard drugs and some hot and nasty shagging.

Peace out.
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MR
I see people complaining about glorifying rock stars' tragic lives, and people complaining that if you don't support drug use then you're just not having "fun". I don't see anyone considering the fact that this article is a disgusting mockery and misinterpretation of drug abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, and mental illness. Amy Winehouse was not out partying and having the time of her life, and she isn't mid-60s like Keith Richards (who I assume probably did have the time of his life) living comfortably and enjoying his old age. She was a junkie abusing incredibly serious hard drugs, she was practicing self harm, and she very obviously was suffering from illness(es) that instigated the problem. I recognize that obviously this article is written with the intention to draw readers via cheap shock value, and that the writer's response would likely be something along the lines of, "I know she's mentally ill, that's the punchline" but there is a limit to what point you can be "just kidding" about something as severe as this. This isn't an edgy newspaper, it's the goddamn Georgia Straight that lines bird cages of grandma's budgie and is packed between plates and Ikea wineglasses of college students on moving day. That said, even if this was published with a more appropriate audience in mind, the concept of satire is lost on this humourless piece. Try writing the same thing about the state of the downtown East Side and see how funny it is. I wish I could say this article is an embarrassment to Vancouver journalism, but it's not like anyone outside Vancouver will even read it.
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