“Sex, No Drugs, & Rock & Roll”

By Dave Iozzia
Photos by Phil Laskowski

When I embraced a lifestyle of total sobriety on January 8, 2005, I had to change a very popular phrase just a bit.

Prior to that day, “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” was a 1979 rock song by the late English singer-songwriter Ian Dury.  It was also a tenet, a mantra, and a credo that defined me from the late 70s to 2005. It was my philosophy of life.

Looking back, the sex was great and plentiful. The rock and roll was both awesome and affordable. If I would have removed the drugs and alcohol then, I’d definitely remember more details of all the great rock and roll performances I attended in New Jersey and New York City.

Flash forward ahead to 2015, and “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” is a new seriocomic television series premiering July 16 on FX that features actor and comedian Denis Leary. I recently attended a press preview of the show’s first three episodes, where Denis and two of his castmates talked about the show and fielded questions from the audience.

Given a near relapse I almost had in May 2015, maybe my decision to attend placed me on thin ice.  The event was held in New York City’s Webster Hall. From 1980 to 1989, it was a concert venue dubbed The Ritz. I attended many a show there. Never sober. But I decided to attend the screening of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” anyway. All for the love of rock and roll. So my friend and wingman Phil Laskowski and I made the trek. I’m glad we did! We laughed, we reminisced, and Phil took some great photographs to document our adventure.

Without spoiler alerts, the premise of the show is that Johnny Rock (Denis Leary) fronted a band called The Heathens that broke up on the day their debut record dropped twenty five years prior.  The breakup was fueled by dysfunction, drugs, and Johnny Rock’s sexual exploits with his bandmates’ wives and girlfriends! A daughter that Johnny Rock didn’t know about, Gigi, as portrayed by Elizabeth Gillies, shows up over two decades later.  She has lots of money, an appreciation for The Heathens’ only record, and a desire to get the band back together for her to front. Johnny Rock’s role is to mentor her and write songs for the new band, The Assassins.

The Assassins are lead vocalist Gigi (actress and singer Elizabeth Gillies), lead guitarist Flash (actor and singer John Corbett), bass guitarist Rehab (actor John Ales), drummer Bam Bam (comedian Bobby Kelly), and backup vocalist Ava (actress Elaine Hendrix).

Having watched the first three episodes, I can assure you that the laughs during “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” are abundant and well-placed. The acting is superb. The music so far reflects a band in progress, but it leaves me yearning to hear more. What impressed me the most was Denis Leary’s writing. The jokes were expected, yet Denis has an amazing rock and roll acumen. He has an ability to joke about well-known songs and A-list bands like The Beatles and Bon Jovi, while referencing obscure songs and details about lesser-known bands. That gets a big tip of the hat from this rock and roll encyclopedia.

During the Question and Answer session with Denis and two castmates after the screening, I grabbed a microphone and complimented the cast on the laughs so far. But if you know me, my question was about the show’s music. I asked Denis if he had plans to release the songs on CD, and he replied, “There will be a fucking vinyl album available in limited release on July 16, the day the show premieres.”

“As the show goes along, you’ll be able to buy and download the songs from each episode. A full album will be available at the end. That will include the serious songs as well as comedy songs.”

“A guy named Chris Phillips wrote a four-song medley that our bass player Rehab references early in the show. It’s fucking insane! He put strings and bagpipes on the record.”

Denis Leary’s plans for the show’s music sound great. But Denis, fucking vinyl?

“Fuck vinyl. I hate records. I know vinyl is making a big comeback, but I hated them back when. They’d get scratched; they’d get warped. They were really great (mockingly) when my brother was listening to Rick Wakeman’s live double solo album. Do you remember that? Rick Wakeman was the keyboard player from YES. He was touring as a solo keyboard act and selling out arenas. My brother had the album. We lived in the same fucking room with one record player. No headphones! The good thing was that I could and did melt that fucking record, and he couldn’t play Rick Wakeman anymore.”

Good to hear that I’m not the only rock fan that didn’t like Rick Wakeman and YES. The music rivalry I created in my own mind between YES and my favorite band, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, was epic. It reached New York Yankees versus Boston Red Sox status. I love the Yankees. Keith Emerson was Derek Jeter, and Rick Wakeman was Manny Ramirez.

It’s time to run to my turntable and pick up the needle when the song, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression – Part 2,” ends. That song is from E.L.P.’s fucking vinyl record (sorry Denis) “Brain Salad Surgery.” For that song, Greg Lake wrote the memorable lyric “you’ve got to see the show, it’s rock and roll.”

It’s time to run to your remote and turn on the television set. Tune to FX Network on July 16, 2015. You’ve got to see the show, it’s “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.”


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