It Seems Like The Strokes Were Dragged Down by Drugs, Success, and, Uh, Ryan Adams?
At least, that's the scoop from a new book about rock and roll in the early 2000s.
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For those of us who grew up outside of it (that is, most of us), New York City in the first decade of this century felt like a mythical musical breeding ground. And that union of time, place and amazing music is now the subject of a new book—Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011—by NYC writer Lizzy Goodman.
Today Vulture has the first excerpt of the tome, and it concerns the downfall of perhaps the most seminal of all New York's early aughts rock and rollers, The Strokes. Delivered as an extensive oral history, it reveals the main stumbling blocks for the band, which appear to have been Albert Hammond Jr's brush with heroin, a level of critical success that didn't translate to commercial sales, and, erm, Ryan Adams:
Albert Hammond Jr.: I remember Julian threatening to beat Ryan [Adams] up if he hung out with me, as a protective thing. He'd heard that Ryan would come and give me heroin, so he was just like, "If you come to my apartment again with heroin, I'm going to kick your ass." I hadn't really been doing it in baggie form until Ryan showed up. He was definitely a bad influence.
It appears that Adams, with whom The Strokes initially shared a manager, Ryan Gentles, was not the most positive influence on Hammond Jr. He of course disagrees, and had this to say about his eventual forced exit from their scene:
Ryan Adams: It was very dramatic, the way it all went down. I was asked to meet one single person in a bar and I got there and it was the whole band and Ryan. I was more or less given a lecture, a hypocritical lecture, and then they told me that I was not going to be part of their scene anymore. It was very weird. It was easy to brand me as the problem. I would suspect that they soon learned that I was not the problem.
"I would suspect that they soon learned that I was not the problem" may well just be the most Nail Polish Emoji thing Ryan Adams, or indeed, anyone, has ever said.
Once Adams was out of the picture, the story seems to go much like many others of legendary rock-stardom: a mixture of success and the drugs that often come with it was their ultimate downfall. Ruined by third album resentment, commercial under-recognition and a member who was literally a heroin addict (Hammond Jr. at one point in the oral history simply states: "I'm sorry I killed everyone's dreams. I don't know if they're still mad at me" and everyone reading it dies of sadness, just a heads up), the band were at breaking point:
Austin Scaggs (journalist): I saw The Strokes' bubble burst when I went to South America and Brazil for a bunch of shows with Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire and The Strokes. I was like, "Ryan, I'll take the video camera, I'll document this trip, I'll just shoot everything and you can have whatever you want. I'll pay for my own ticket." Honestly, I was thinking it was going to be like Led Zeppelin, like you walk into the room and there's a bed full of women. I thought it was going to be a giant debaucherous orgy of booze and drugs. It was the absolute opposite. To be super-blunt about it, The Strokes were crumbling right in front of my eyes, right in front of the camera. There was a lot of resentment and there was a lot of tension. When I got home I was like, "Wow, that was not what I expected." I didn't see one naked girl the whole time.
Though they never formally separated, since that initial stint, The Strokes haven't really been the same since. That's why they're a perfect crystallisation of why, when time and place coalesce, with an extra-special band, it becomes iconic. This excerpt from Goodman does great service to that.
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