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Just Let the Music Do the Anti-Drug Talking

June 16, 1996|Steve Hochman

While many high-level members of the music industry bicker over what can or cannot be done to stem drug abuse, some of their lower-level employees have banded together to simply do something.

Stimulated by an idea proposed on the Velvet Rope--the private music business "chat group" on the America Online computer network--a committee of industry staffers has drawn up a proposal for an album featuring new versions of some of rock's notable anti-drug songs. The project would benefit drug education and rehabilitation programs. A series of benefit concerts with the same concept is also under discussion.

"What we hope is the artists will speak through the music," says Lisa Derrick, co-hostess of the online feature and an employee of Atlantic Records' video department. "There are a lot of songs that give an anti-drug message, from Neil Young's 'The Needle and the Damage Done' to the Dead Kennedys' 'Too Drunk to F---' to even Jimmy Buffett's 'Margaritaville.' . . . The music is happy, but the lyrics are a real bummer."

The notion of such a collection was suggested by Alec Peters, a former Mercury Records A&R executive who now works independently in Boston, as a response to his frustration over the recent heroin death of Sublime singer Bradley Nowell.

The idea quickly took off among the Velvet Ropers, who submitted song suggestions, including the Rolling Stones' "Sister Morphine," Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" and U2's "Running to Stand Still"--and plotted strategy on how to bring the project to fruition. Derrick drew up a formal proposal that is now being circulated to artists, managers and record company executives.

Even with the project in the very early stages, Derrick believes the work done so far could provide a lesson to music industry leaders who, going into a major meeting Thursday to discuss the drug issue, seem divided into warring camps about what can or should be done.

"Most of us involved have never met or [had] even talked on the phone before we started this--we'd only communicated by computer," she says. "And there are many things about this project that we still disagree about. But we're pulling together and organizing because getting something done is more important than any individual's agenda. We just hope there are people bold and brave enough in the industry to say profits be damned."

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