Cocaine (song)

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Not to be confused with Cocaine Blues.
Single by JJ Cale
from the album Troubadour
Released September 1976
Recorded 1976
Genre Rock
Length 2:48
Label Shelter
Writer(s) JJ Cale
Producer(s) Audie Ashworth

"Cocaine" is a song written and recorded in 1976 by JJ Cale, who was until then a little known country blues singer with a particular relaxed style. Both Cale and the song became famous when a cover version was recorded by Eric Clapton. AllMusic calls the latter "among [Clapton's] most enduringly popular hits" and notes that "even for an artist like Clapton with a huge body of high-quality work, 'Cocaine' ranks among his best."[1]

Glyn Johns, who had previously worked with The Who, Faces, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, produced the Clapton recording, which was released on the 1977 album Slowhand and as a single in 1980. The live version of "Cocaine", from the Just One Night album recorded in Tokyo, charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side of "Tulsa Time", which was a No. 30 hit in 1980. "Cocaine" was one of several of Cale's songs recorded by Clapton, including "After Midnight" and "Travelin' Light".


Single by Eric Clapton
from the album Slowhand
B-side "Tulsa Time" (original)
"Lay Down Sally" (Re-issue)
Released November 1977
Recorded May 1977
Genre Blues rock
Length 3:41
Label Polydor
Writer(s) JJ Cale
Producer(s) Glyn Johns

JJ Cale version[edit]

Chart (1977–1979) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[2] 45
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[3] 5
Germany (Media Control Charts)[4] 22
Italy (FIMI)[5] 17
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[6] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[7] 10
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[8] 2

Eric Clapton version[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
Canada (CHUM)[9] 2
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 30
Preceded by
"After the Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck
New Zealand number-one single
March 6, 1977 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"After the Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck


Eric Clapton describes "Cocaine" as an anti-drug song. He has called the song "quite cleverly anti-cocaine", noting:[12]

It's no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be "anti"—which the song "Cocaine" is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought ... from a distance ... or as it goes by ... it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.

—Eric Clapton

Because of its ambiguous message, Clapton did not perform the song in many of his concerts; over the years, Clapton has added the lyrics 'that dirty cocaine' in live shows to underline the anti-drug message of the song.[13]

Other cover versions[edit]

A live cover by the Scottish rock band Nazareth appears on their albums The Fool Circle and 'Snaz. Guitarist Andy Taylor of Duran Duran recorded it for his 1990 solo album Dangerous.

In 2008, country singer Gretchen Wilson quoted the melody from the tag end of the chorus ("she don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie") for her song "Work Hard, Play Harder" (which also borrowed from The Black Crowes). The hard rock band Black Robot covered the song on their 2010 self-titled album. Post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd included a cover as a bonus track for their 2011 covers-album Re:(Disc)overed. The band Old Lady Drivers released a cover of the song on their 1988 self titled debut album.

In popular culture[edit]

The song was featured in the 2004 film Starsky & Hutch, and in the 2005 films Lord of War and Bad News Bears.


  1. ^ Gilliam, Richard. "Eric Clapton – Cocaine – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  3. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  4. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  5. ^ "Indice per Interprete: C" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  7. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Singles Top 60. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  9. ^ CHART NUMBER 1229 – Saturday, August 02, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 29, 2007). CHUM. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0234a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "Eric Clapton – Artist Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  12. ^ The Best of Everything Show, with Dan Neer
  13. ^

External links[edit]