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A long, long way from a cheeky line at a dinner party in Notting Hill
June 14, 2009 3:45 PM   Subscribe

In his autobiography, published in 2007, Blur bassist Alex James admitted to blowing a million pounds on champagne and cocaine. This confession led to an invitation from Colombia's President Uribe to visit the country and see the damage being caused by the drug trade. He went, and the BBC filmed it (one, two, three).
posted by jontyjago (64 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
A million pounds? Was he buying it by the bump or something? I know coke is pricey but that's just ridiculous.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:49 PM on June 14, 2009


It's not the drug trade that's causing the damage, it's the drug war.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [26 favorites]


I wouldn't underestimate the price of champagne, especially if he's downing Cristal or vintage stuff.
posted by Decimask at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


so is he going to be touring french vineyards, too?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:57 PM on June 14, 2009 [32 favorites]


It's not the drug trade that's causing the damage, it's the drug war.

There's a whole lot of really, really grim stuff paramilitary groups are doing down there in the name of fighting drugs- cutting people up with chainsaws, that kind of thing. They're getting paid with US money, too.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is why I always make sure my cocaine is shade-grown, Fair Trade and organic.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:08 PM on June 14, 2009 [25 favorites]




A million pounds? Was he buying it by the bump or something? I know coke is pricey but that's just ridiculous.

The price goes up when the dealer realises who the client is and how much disposable income he has. And I'm sure James didn't care.
posted by fire&wings at 4:14 PM on June 14, 2009


Cocaine's a hell of a drug.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:17 PM on June 14, 2009


I get no kick from champagne
Mere alcohol doesnt thrill me at all
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you

Some they may go for cocaine
Im sure that if, I took even one sniff
It would bore me terrifically too
But I get a kick out of you
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


She don't lie,
She don't lie,
She don't lie....

champagne.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 PM on June 14, 2009 [25 favorites]


The price goes up when the dealer realises who the client is and how much disposable income he has.

Good point.
What really amazes me, then (assuming celebrities get ripped off like crazy for drugs) is that Amy Winehouse would settle for crack.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:24 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Amy Winehouse would settle for crack.

That's like saying you don't understand why someone would settle for whiskey when there's beer around.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


The price goes up when the dealer realises who the client is and how much disposable income he has.

No, the price of the drug stays the same -- it's the personalized delivery service that you're paying for.

Do you even realize how much profit I'm giving up by bringing this around to your mansion?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you even realize how much profit I'm giving up by bringing this around to your mansion? Not to mention that I'm keeping quiet about it when you know how much the tabloids would pay to hear me blab about it, Alex...
posted by SPUTNIK at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Trent Reznor on his cocaine addiction: With Teeth

She comes along
She gets inside
She makes you better than anything you've tried
It's in her kiss
The blackest sea
And it runs deeper than you
Dare to dream it could be

With teeth

Wave goodbye
To what you were
The rules have changed
The lines begin to blur
She makes you hard
It comes on strong
You finally found
The place where you belong

With teeth

I cannot go through this again

With teeth

She will not let you go
Keeps holding on
She will not let you go
Keeps holding on
This time, I'm not coming back
She will not let you go
This time, I'm not coming back
She will not let you go

posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


>: That's like saying you don't understand why someone would settle for whiskey when there's beer around.

My thinking is that she's paying through the nose for drugs anyway, why crack? At least if she'd been blowing lines she wouldn't have emphysema now.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:50 PM on June 14, 2009


How Scott Storch's Cocaine Addiction Made Him Spend $30 Million In Six Months [MTV]

Pffft, I've seen Richard Pryor spend $30M in 30 days.
posted by crashlanding at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


My thinking is that she's paying through the nose for drugs anyway, why crack? At least if she'd been blowing lines she wouldn't have emphysema now.

Thanks to you, I've come up with a new word.

re-misunderstand
posted by Alex404 at 4:55 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh, the bassline in "Coffee and TV"? Wooorth it.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 4:56 PM on June 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't know if the documentary mentions the period of time it took buddy to spend that much on champagne and coke, but it is certainly possible. Without giving too much detail, back in 1999, I was hanging out for 3 days with an Ibiza DJ who was one of the inspirations for the main character in It's All Gone Pete Tong. Although now 'retired', he told me he was putting 10 grams a day up his nose... an eight ball before noon every fuckin' day.
posted by gman at 4:57 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


My thinking is that she's paying through the nose for drugs anyway, why crack?

It's great. It's crack. It gets you really high.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 4:58 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


My thinking is that she's paying through the nose for drugs anyway

In a thread about cocaine? I see what you did there...
posted by hippybear at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2009


My thinking is that she's paying through the nose for drugs anyway, why crack?

She'd rather pay through the nose than with her nose.
posted by gman at 5:01 PM on June 14, 2009


It's not so bad when you consider the horribleness of the cocaine part is balanced out by the champagne part, which is all sunshine and smiles, tooling round the French countryside in a classic convertible Jaguar with Oz and May.
posted by PenDevil at 5:02 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This Alex James' documentary was on BBC America a few weeks ago. Very interesting.

I also suggest watching the documentaries 'Cocaine Cowboys' and 'Cocaine Nation' making "the rounds" these days on cable television.
posted by ericb at 5:31 PM on June 14, 2009


Sadly, the BBC did not film James' all-expenses-paid trip to the Champagne province of France on the invitation of Nicolas Sarkozy, to report on how wonderfully its economy and people are doing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:32 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Drugs Won the War
posted by homunculus at 5:33 PM on June 14, 2009


From dhammond's link about Scott Storch:

"[I had] 15 to 20 cars at all times," he continued. "That's not smart. I would take one of 15 half-million-dollar cars I owned and go to the mall and spend that much money. Stupid, stupid stuff. It's like it didn't make a difference. They were ego investments. I would have been great with three or four cars!"

If only more celebrities and millionaires would just learn to sacrifice like this! It's too bad that Storch had to learn the hard way that its really the simple things in life that make you happy, like your modest, unassuming 4 half-million dollar cars.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2009


Wrong Britpop band, but this seems as good an excuse as any to post this.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2009


Another heart-wrenching quote from the Scott Storch article:

"It started affecting me where my own son would be like, 'Dad, what's up? When's the next hit record coming up?' " Storch recalled. "I didn't have a answer for him."

It was pretty tough for me to read that, especially considering the really traumatic relationship I had with my father. It just hits a bit too close to home, you know? Opens some old wounds, brings up some bad memories...
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:07 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude has balls for going there. Any recommendations on a good Blur album?
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:35 PM on June 14, 2009


Now someone from Suede will claim they blew £2 million.
posted by klangklangston at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


In the film he says that 200kg of cocaine would have a street value of £24 million. Which means half a million (if the other half went on champagne) would buy you roughly 4kg. Which is 2 grams a day for 5 or 6 years. Which doesn't seem that far-fetched for someone with a big habit especially given gman's DJ anecdote.

And lukenlogs - Parklife is the definitive Blur album, even if it isn't their best (try Blur or 13).
posted by jontyjago at 7:30 PM on June 14, 2009


Any recommendations on a good Blur album?

DEFINITELY Parklife (pshaw, it IS their best.. though you can't go wrong with any of them.. except Think Tank which was Damon Albarn's indulgent drivel)! Still, there's no shame with going with the Best Of album. There's not one bum track (well, except for 'Song 2').

No mention on how much caviar Alex James scarfed down and what he claimed to use as his serving bowl?! Luckily, he's now settled into being a harmless fromage snob. A Bit of Blur, Alex's autobiography, is a very entertaining read.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:06 PM on June 14, 2009


This confession led to an invitation from Colombia's President Uribe to visit the country and see the damage being caused by the drug trade.

In a just world, that tour would be guided by the members of parliament most responsible for the UK government's disastrous policy of drug prohibition.

If drugs were legal, coca would not be the insanely profitable crop it is today.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:02 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may be evil of me, but I would've loved to see him faceplant himself into that tasty pure white snow. ;-)
posted by markkraft at 9:05 PM on June 14, 2009


In the film he says that 200kg of cocaine would have a street value of £24 million. Which means half a million (if the other half went on champagne) would buy you roughly 4kg.

Well there's his problem. He was massively overpaying for his coke. By like 250 or 300%
posted by Justinian at 9:33 PM on June 14, 2009


BLUR: ARE SHITE 1 2
__________________________________________________________________________
1Cf. Stuart Braithwaite: “It's factual and if there's any legal problems about it I'll go to court as someone who has studied music so I can prove they are shite.

2Also: BLUR: ARE SHITE ONCE AGAIN, DAMON ALBARN: TALLER THAN A CHINESE TREE, GRAHAM COXON: NOT A BUMBLEBEE, DAVE ROWNTREE: DIDDY DOO DIDDLY DOO LABOUR LOSER DOO DIDDLY DOO, and ALEX JAMES: CHEESE MASTER IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.

posted by koeselitz at 9:50 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, champagne and cocaine?

Taj Mahal

"Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own"

Cocaine don't make me crazy,
champagne don't make me lazy.
Ain't nobody's business but my own.

posted by telstar at 9:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cocaine enhances your personality!
posted by Gravitus at 10:05 PM on June 14, 2009


Lukenlogs: Any recommendations on a good Blur album?

Yes. Let us know if you find one.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


If drugs were legal, coca would not be the insanely profitable crop it is today.

True, but that tells you how much the demand would spike at a fraction of the cost, and no amount of tax would cover the damage it does. If cocaine were legal then growers would cut down most of the forests and grow mostly coca, the market being practically unlimited for addictive substances. Society would be paying much more for rehab, lost productivity and the costs of care and special education for those with birth defects related to cocaine use during pregnancy. Prisons would have more violent criminals that acted under the influence of drugs. All that for an imported product. There's no winning, especially on the supply side, which is what the drug war was. The alternative is to spend the drug war money to maintain a lower demand, instead of wanting to increasing the supply after the drug war's failure.
posted by Brian B. at 10:08 PM on June 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


koeselitz quoting Stuart Brathwaite of Mogwai: “It's factual and if there's any legal problems about it I'll go to court as someone who has studied music so I can prove they are shite.”

Don't get me wrong, I love Young Team and My Father, My King was a fine record but Mogwai... well... they're not all that great anymore.

Anyway, this reminds me of an old NME article called, I believe, "The Blur Witch Project" which was about all the musicians who'd gotten into verbal spats with Damon Albarn and how pretty much the moment that happened the musicians' quality started sliding. Mogwai, Oasis, XTC were among the bands I remember being featured in that article. I found it amusing.
posted by Kattullus at 10:33 PM on June 14, 2009


Oh and since we're sharing songs here's C.I.A. by American Sneakers.
posted by Kattullus at 10:56 PM on June 14, 2009


Kattullus: Don't get me wrong, I love Young Team and My Father, My King was a fine record but Mogwai... well... they're not all that great anymore.

Hell, I don't really like anything of theirs but Young Team. But Stuart's damned right that Blur are shite, and he's right about why: both because their music is pap and egregiously annoying pap at that (the people who made this abomination should really be made to suffer) and because they're self-righteous, pretentious assholes. Alex James' introduction of himself in that video above? “Hi. I'm Alex James, and I'm a farmer.” Good fucking god. And the height of Blur's obnoxiousness, the thing that inspired Mogwai's whole campaign against them, was the moral equivocation that came with their album 13: Damon Albarn took all the angst and anguish he had from a breakup with his long-time girlfriend and put those things into songs that he made quite clear were about her. These were pop songs, mind you, intended for general consumption and aiming at selling as many copies as possible; it's such a severe act of cynicism to put somebody you care about and somebody who means something to you and with whom you're going through something difficult into something as public as a pop song, to say things to them like: “I hope you're with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleep” and to do all of this in the process of trying to rack up another top-ten single, another notch in your belt…well, I just can't fucking stand it. Sorry.

Anyway, this reminds me of an old NME article called, I believe, "The Blur Witch Project" which was about all the musicians who'd gotten into verbal spats with Damon Albarn and how pretty much the moment that happened the musicians' quality started sliding. Mogwai, Oasis, XTC were among the bands I remember being featured in that article. I found it amusing.

Sounds about right. That is amusing; I never thought about it that way.
posted by koeselitz at 11:11 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The BBC spent a shitload of money to make this and all they got was "The Dummies Guide to Cocaine: It's Bad"? Complete with helicopters taking off to the sound of Bloc Party? What, they couldn't afford "Ride of the Valkyries"? This could have been great, considering the access they got, but when you're spending government PR money (just an educated guess) you apparently don't have do do any real journalism. I guess it's the Drug War 2.0 version of this.
posted by tighttrousers at 11:19 PM on June 14, 2009


Although now 'retired', he told me he was putting 10 grams a day up his nose... an eight ball before noon every fuckin' day.

Bear this in mind though, I've never met a fiend who didn't present the largest amount that they've ever used as being their average daily intake.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:21 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


True, but that tells you how much the demand would spike at a fraction of the cost, and no amount of tax would cover the damage it does. If cocaine were legal then growers would cut down most of the forests and grow mostly coca, the market being practically unlimited for addictive substances

The market is in no way unlimited for addictive substances.

Cigarettes are one of the most addictive substances known to man. They are completely legal; you can buy cigarettes as easily as bread so long as you are over 18. Is it your contention that the market for cigarettes is unlimited? Despite the fact that cigarette use in the united states has been on the decline for quite some time and is likely to continue that decline?

Prisons would have more violent criminals that acted under the influence of drugs.

Are you seriously putting forward the idea that our prison population would get bigger if we decriminalized drugs?
posted by Justinian at 11:56 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just popped in to say that Government Comissions is an excellent Mogwai album, and their soundtrack to Zidane is also pretty great. A return to their CODY sound.

The Hawk is Howling didn't do much for me, neither did Happy Songs. But Rock Action was a fine piece of ass.

Live, they're still bangin'.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:02 AM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do you really think 13 is pop? Granted, it's not Peruvian nose-flute gabba but Coffee and TV & B.L.U.R.E.M.I. aside, it's a dark piece of work, especially considering the aimless post-britpop wasteland that was British music in 1999. Damon and Justine were the indie couple for years, sad as that sounds. The very bored music press didn't need any prompting from Blur's camp to make the narrative about 13's release the Damon and Justine show.
Alex James has always been a knob though, even if A Bit Of A Blur is a a great read.
posted by minifigs at 1:04 AM on June 15, 2009


PeterMcDermott: Bear this in mind though, I've never met a fiend who didn't present the largest amount that they've ever used as being their average daily intake.

I agree, but I will say that he had nothing going on upstairs. Totally stunned.
posted by gman at 4:34 AM on June 15, 2009


Damon Albarn took all the angst and anguish he had from a breakup with his long-time girlfriend and put those things into songs that he made quite clear were about her.

Not the first, not the last. It's a staple of pop music. If you want to try Blur, btw, start with Parklife or Modern Life is Rubbish - The Great Escape has some great songs, but is largely ruined by over-production and was rush-released. Blur is good but patchy for me, 13 I could never get fully into, and Leisure sounds a bit derivative of the baggy scene these days.

Alex James worked out that in 1995, he had drunk 1% of the entire supply of champagne in the UK. I love Blur (I have listened to Parklife literally hundreds of times) and Mogwai ain't bad either, but I can't help feeling like Alex James has become a bit of a twat in recent years. Your teenage pin-ups shouldn't be doing a Roger Daltrey and farming cheese. They should just disappear from view once the beer gut starts poking through.
posted by mippy at 4:56 AM on June 15, 2009


Uh, the bassline in "Coffee and TV"? Wooorth it.

'Do you feel like a chainstore? Practically floored'

Oh COME ON. That's a perfect lyric right there, up with 'Her laugh no less wooden, she varnished on a smile'
posted by mippy at 5:01 AM on June 15, 2009


Stuart Lesley Brathwaite HND. Call him by his name!
posted by ninebelow at 5:37 AM on June 15, 2009


alex james definitely is a nob

anyway pricewise, the most he'd likely be paying would be £50 a gram; he could pay more or less depending on quality&amounts but seems a fair price. Thats £50,000 per kilo, not £125,000 as he claims (although he's probably talking about after they've added dog wormer and cockroach insecticide and local anasthetic and caffeine and speed and a bit of glucose and something else thats got that yellow sparkle and pharmaceutical smell but i still think its a dishonest way to price up a huge amount of coke. On that basis you could say that dog wormer has a street value of £50,000 a kilo). So that would be 10kilos of coke he's bought, and more he's sniffing of others peoples, so over five years, 10ks, 2ks a year, 5.5 grams a day. No wonder he's such a nob
posted by criticalbill at 6:22 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Life for me is a riverboat fantasy
Watchin' the sun go down
A rock & roll band, with a reefer in my hand
Now look at that wheel go round

Cocaine kisses and Moonshine Misses
That's the life for me
I'm sailing away from my heartache
On a riverboat fantasy

posted by not_that_epiphanius at 6:51 AM on June 15, 2009


Very random trivia fact:

Damon Albarn took all the angst and anguish he had from a breakup with his long-time girlfriend and put those things into songs that he made quite clear were about her.

In the Radiohead song Karma Police, it is this very same girlfriend of Damon Albarn that the line "arrest this girl, her hitler hairdo is making me feel ill" is about.
posted by Windigo at 7:21 AM on June 15, 2009


Isn't it expected that these celebrities would be providing coke and champagne to their not-as-rich friends and hangers-on?
posted by orme at 8:31 AM on June 15, 2009


I'd be surprised if Suede hadn't written a song about Justine Frischmann either. I'm still convinced that 'She's In Fashion' is about Zoe Ball?
posted by mippy at 8:36 AM on June 15, 2009


Now someone from Suede will claim they blew £2 million.

Well, Brett Anderson has a massive crackhead.
posted by ninebelow at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2009


Finally, a chance to post Justine Frischmann's wedding photos!
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:49 PM on June 15, 2009


Thank god koeselitz showed up to inform us how much our favorite band sucks, and with informative links to NME (lol) along with an incredibly miscategorized analysis of "13"--have you actually listened to "13"? It's about as far from pop as you can get, except for one or two songs.
posted by nonmerci at 8:30 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


nonmerci: Thank god koeselitz showed up to inform us how much our favorite band sucks, and with informative links to NME (lol) along with an incredibly miscategorized analysis of "13"--have you actually listened to "13"? It's about as far from pop as you can get, except for one or two songs.

I've listened to "13." It had a huge audience, and Albarn knew it would; that's the only pop aspect of it that mattered to my analysis. And regardless of anyone's notion that “it's a staple of pop music,” the insensitive move of writing such deeply personal songs about a recent ex without telling them about it and without disguising it isn't negligible. Note this 2002 interview of Frischmann from the Guardian:

The oft-quoted [lines from the song “Tender” from 13] ‘The ghost I love the most/hiding from the sun, waiting for the night to come…when you're coming down, think of me’ tended to suggest that the break could be directly attributed to the drugs, but those close to the pair will insist that her refusal to have children at that point was more central to their problems.

The object of the hit single “Tender” will confess that she cried the first time she heard it, then became irritated and embarrassed, although her attitude has now softened…

“It was very difficult. It's actually very taboo to stop and say, ‘OK, I'm in a band and I'm really successful and my boyfriend's a pop star and he's really handsome and lots of girls fancy him, but I don't want to be with him.’ I was just thinking: ‘This just isn't the life I want.’”
And it's not derisive to presume that financial success, or at least popular success, was part of Blur's formula; we are talking about a band that publicly had a battle with Oasis to see who could produce hit singles fastest.

Sorry, but Blur are the worst kind of pop stars: vain, pompous, and full of ego. Also, my quotation of the fantabulous ‘blur: are shite’ t-shirts is as much an advertisement for Mogwai—a far superior band who's done more for music in the last ten years than Albarn & co. will ever manage, producing beautiful and haunting records that actually have great emotional resonance without guile—as it is an indictment of Blur.

And, for the record, I'm not just a Britpop hater. There are a fair number of Pulp songs that I really like; but Jarvis Cocker has always had a sense of humor about himself. That's more than you can say for Oasis, Blur, or most of the Britpop groups of the era. I don't mind Elastica much, either; as cover bands go they're not bad.
posted by koeselitz at 12:53 PM on June 16, 2009


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