When most people black out at work—say, forklift operators, or student aircraft designers—they endanger lives in the worst of cases, and at best they just embarrass themselves. But when your job is to create music, movies, or books, oftentimes no one will get mad if you show up completely wiped out on the substance of your choice as long as you get your shit done.
But as drug- and alcohol-addicted stars get more and more successful, they often go into blackouts that—they later claim—encompass the entire creation of some important piece of work. (They tend to make this claim when they're looking back on their lives after getting sober.) And in case you need another reason to check in with your own addiction, it sounds like it kinda sucks to forget some of your biggest artistic achievements to drug- or alcohol–induced amnesia. Here are some of the most notable examples of this phenomenon:
Eric Bell, the original guitarist from Thin Lizzy
What he forgot: Recording the album Thin Lizzy, 1971.
Bell, who was a founding member of Thin Lizzy, but wasn't in the band's most famous lineup, told Noisey last year that he was too wasted to remember the recording of the Irish group's self-titled debut. Bell left the band to get away from substance abuse. "I couldn't stop drinking, and I couldn't stop smoking dope. And I was taking Valium as well, which the doctor gave me. So I was walking about like a fried chicken," he told Noisey.
What he forgot: Recording the album Station to Station, 1976.
Bowie told biographer Nicholas Pegg in 2011 that in the cocaine-fueled haze of the 1970s, he blacked out almost the entire recording of his dark classic Station to Station. He told Pegg he could recall blurting out guitar instructions at one point, and that was just about it. "I know it was in LA because I've read it was," Bowie said. The late singer reportedly consumed heroic amounts of cocaine for ten years.
What he forgot: Writing the novel Cujo, 1981.
Seven years after he published his debut novel, Carrie, Stephen King had found that the world would buy any stack of 400 pages with his name on the front, and began putting away "a case of sixteen-ounce tallboys a night" without apparent consequences for his work. During this period, he completely forgot penning the majority of Cujo, a gripping and relatively un-supernatural King classic about a man-eating St. Bernard.
King later sobered up and ruminated about writers and booze in his 2000 memoir On Writing:
"Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn't drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it's what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look the same when we're puking in the gutter."
What he forgot: Recording and touring for the albums "Special Forces," "Zipper Catches Skin," and "Dada," 1981–1986.
Alice Cooper—no, not your mom's friend Alice Cooper, the heavy-metal circus ringmaster guy with all the eye makeup—drank too much in the 80s and forgot he recorded three of his albums and that he toured in support of them. It's worth noting that the albums—numbers 13, 14, and 15 out of his 26 albums in total—aren't exactly his most well-received. "I would actually like to go back and re-record those three albums because I never really gave them their due. I love the songs—I just don't remember writing them," he told the Quietus in 2009.
What he forgot: The 1990s.
Ozzy Osborne, a reality TV star who was once a heavy-metal musician, had an unusually long lapse in memory, and it came unusually late in his life. According to his own biography, he was "loaded all the time" through much of his first ten years in Black Sabbath—a time in which he recorded one of the all-time greatest songs about drug addiction—and was even fired in 1979 for his drug and alcohol use. He launched a successful solo career that carried him though the 80s, which were "fabulous," but the next decade is a blur. In a 2014 interview with the British magazine Q, he said, "I don't really remember the 90s. I don't know why. My drug addiction and alcohol addiction were absolutely fierce then. I was just going for it full bore, so there was a lot of blackout time."
That blackout time presumably meant the albums No More Tears and Ozzmosis. It also means he spaced on the creation of Ozzfest, the music festival named after him.
What he forgot: Filming seasons three to six of Friends, 1996–1999.
Matthew Perry played Chandler Bing on Friends, and somehow, he managed to embody that character—a wisecracking, emotionally paralyzed "transponster"—while completely off his ass on booze and opiates. One drawback, he told BBC 2 Radio in 2016, was that he can't remember seasons three through six, a stretch that includes "The One Where No One's Ready," widely regarded as a series high point.
What he forgot: The movie Eye of the Beholder, 1999.
In 1996, Ewan McGregor starred in Trainspotting, which is probably the best movie of all time about addiction. Then, in 1999, when he was already having a rough year, the Scottish actor was in a thriller called Eye of the Beholder with Ashley Judd. It was a very, very bad movie. But that's just as well because in a 2011 interview with Total Film, McGregor said he couldn't remember filming most of it, or ever seeing it at all. As of 2011, McGregor had been on a four-year hiatus from drinking.
What he forgot: Filming the movie Miami Vice, 2006.
In 2010, Colin Farrell claimed to Hot Press Magazine (later excerpted by The Mirror) that he can't remember shooting Miami Vice, Michael Mann's weird movie remake of his own TV show. Farrell added, "At least that's my excuse for all the people who thought it was shit." That may sound cagey, but for what it's worth, he really was so into booze and "whatever powder" during the Vice shoot that afterward he claims he got on a plane and went straight to rehab.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.