As one would expect, rock ‘n’ roll is a tumultuous business. It’s arguable that the post-9/11 New York City rock scene, although a saving grace for a city with an angsty youth, was one of the most volatile music scenes in recent history. Even the genre’s most beloved acts were not immune to the drug-filled restlessness of their surroundings. In an excerpt from her new book Meet Me in the Bathroom published in New York Magazine Monday, Lizzy Goodman chronicles the build-up of bad blood between The Strokes and Ryan Adams, stoked by a concoction of the New York rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere, Adams’s personal habits and general industry malpractice.
It seems the drama began in 2003, when Strokes manager Ryan Gentles began helping Adams with his record Love Is Hell. It was then that The Strokes enforced the exclusivity clause in Gentles’s managerial contract, which specified that he couldn’t work with other artists while working with the band. According to Adams, this was not because The Strokes felt neglected by Gentles, but a result of Julian Casablancas’s distaste for Adams and his close relationship with guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.
Casablancas claims that Adams was giving Hammond heroin. The Strokes’ frontman doesn’t remember if he “specifically told Ryan to stay away from Albert,” but he does say that Adams giving Hammond heroin was equivalent to someone “trying to give your friend a lobotomy,” which is why he felt the need to intervene. Hammond recalls that Casablancas told Adams if he ever came to his apartment again with heroin, he was going to “kick his ass.”
Adams, however, has another version of the story. He claims he never attempted to give Hammond heroin. In fact, he says he was “incredibly worried about him” while Adams himself was doing speedballs. “I didn’t do drugs socially, and I don’t remember doing drugs with Albert ever,” he adds. Whether it’s the drug use or the passage of time that has fogged his memory, Adams appears to be outnumbered on this one.
Another thing Goodman makes apparent is that no amount of commercial success could satisfy the members of The Strokes. In the excerpt published Monday, they’re described by photographers and writers who were close to them as a sad band who couldn’t quite figure out why they weren’t more famous. Still, they remain one of the most critically successful rock bands of all time. As Vice Media co-founder Suroosh Alvi put it, they’re “the last imprint of that particular brand of rock cool.” Regardless of their faults, they represent the gritty early-2000s NYC rock scene in all its imperfect glory.
The full excerpt from Goodman’s book can be found here. You can listen to an Adams concert found in the Paste Cloud below.