Hard News by Russell Brown


From Zero: Drugs and popular culture

The third episode of From Zero, my RNZ podcast series about New Zealanders and drugs, looks at drugs and popular culture: music, movies, TV and magazines.

There is more of this than most people realise. New Zealand was a bit of a late starter – while American jazz musicians wrote and sang about drugs as a part of their lives and environments from the 1930s (I explain what 'Minnie the Moocher' is about in the episode), we didn't have our first honest-to-goodness pop song about drugs until Lew Pryme's 'Gracious Lady Alice Dee' in 1968.

There have been quite a few since – more than I could fit in the Top 10 New Zealand Songs About Drugs I wrote for Audioculture. In the episode I talk to Chris Stapp of Deja Voodoo about saying the unsayable in 'P' and Tom Scott about whether all the drug-taking in this video was real (spoiler: yes).

Also, Outrageous Fortune and Westside creator James Griffin talks about why Van and Munter just had to be this way:

And Geoff Murphy sheds some light on the weed scene in Goodbye Pork Pie.

All these and more have reached us without greatly troubling the censors. But there is one thing that will still reliably cop you a ban: the wrong kind of gardening tips. Chief Censor Andrew Jack explains why issues of Norml News and High Times have been deemed objectionable – and Norml president Chris Fowlie responds with indignation.

Some people might hear this ep as frivolous, or even as celebrating drug use. It's not, really: it's creative people reflecting society with the tools at hand. And you can be ensured that Episode 4, on methamphetamine, is considerably darker.

For now, here's that time Billy T. James went on TV and taught small children how to roll a joint ...

Episode 3 of From Zero, Drugs and Popular Culture, is available here on the RNZ website. You can also subscribe to the podcast via the iTunes Store.

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