21 Nov 2016

From Zero - Drugs In Popular Culture

From FROM ZERO, 10:17 pm on 21 November 2016

It's OK to depict drug-taking on TV or slip cocaine references into songs, but publishing the wrong kind of gardening tips can still get you into trouble with the censors.

Drugs don't just exist in society, they are pervasive as a theme in popular culture: music, movies, TV and magazines. What is it about our artists and illicit drugs? And why is depicting drug-taking on TV or slipping cocaine references into songs OK, but publishing the wrong kind of gardening tips will get you into trouble with the censor?


New Zealand composers might have lived the life, but they didn't notably write about it until 1968, when clean-cut Kiwi pop star Lew Pryme released a song called 'Gracious Lady Alice Dee'.

In fact, Pryme had not lived the life – he only pretended to have taken LSD for publicity purposes. But the song's composer, Bryce Peterson, very definitely had.

The pace picked up from there. Who'd have believed Aunty NZBC would have permitted this in the early '70s? (NB: the clip below is one made in 2010, but you can see clips from Blerta's TV show here on NZ On Screen)


In the early 80s, Billy T James and Peter Rowley taught kids how to roll a joint.

But in general, dramatic drug use generally had consequences. Until these two came along and smoked all the weed they liked …



Outrageous Fortune co-creator James Griffin joins us to explain why it couldn't have been any other way – and to muse on why so many of his characters take drugs.

Home Brew's Tom Scott tells the story behind the video for 'Yellow Snot Funk'. Was that all real, bro?


Deja Voodoo's Chris Stapp explains why his band said the unsayable in their song 'P':


And we pause to admire the artistry of Lawrence Arabia's 'I've Smoked Too Much':

So, does anything go? Is there nothing that can't be said or shown? Actually, there is. Chief Censor Andrew Jack talks to Russell Brown about one thing that will still reliably get you banned in Aotearoa. And that's … gardening tips.

All this and a never-before-heard Home Brew song!

This story was produced by Russell Brown. The Executive Producers were Justin Gregory and Tim Watkin.

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Listen to other episodes of From Zero

From Zero: Episode one

From Zero: Episode two