Houston Press — October 20, 2011
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Lauren Marmaduke

Music’s Top 5 Dubious “Dr. Feelgoods”

To say that Dr. Conrad Murray had a bad day in court last week is probably something of an understatement. In addition to viewing graphic pictures of Michael Jackson’s autopsy, jurors in the involuntary manslaughter trial of the King of Pop’s former physician heard damaging testimony from L.A. County Medical Examiner Christopher Rogers, who told the court he found Jackson to be healthier than most 50-year-old men, and not directly responsible for the overdose that killed him.

The pathologist went on to call the basis of the doctor’s defense — that the patient had self administered the fatal dose of Propofol while Murray was in the bathroom — highly implausible due to the fact that Jackson was already too heavily sedated to perform the act unassisted, and even had he been able to self-administer, the drug would have taken longer to circulate through his system than the two-minute period the physician admits to being out of the room.

Rocks Off learned enough from the Casey Anthony trial to know that juries can be unpredictable, but between the EMT testimony, the audio tapes, the character-assaulting parade of mistresses and Murray’s questionable behavior immediately following Jackson’s death, well, suffice to say things do not look promising for the Houston-based cardiologist.

Sadly, Conrad Murray and the outlandish quantity of drugs he dispensed are nothing new, prominent musicians having a long, sordid partnership with “Dr. Feel goods” — personal physicians and other drug-pushers (both licensed and not) more interested in money and personal gain than in the health of their clients. And if the jury finds Murray guilty in the coming weeks, he will no doubt take a place among the five shadiest professional pushers listed below.

5. “Spanish” Tony Sanchez Nicknamed “Spanish” by “Keef,” the late Tony Sanchez was the go-to guy fueling Keith Richards’s (massive) addictions in the early days of the Stones and a constant fixture during the ’71 Exile on Main Street period at Nellcote. Marianne Faithful, who had an alleged sex-for-heroin exchange with Sanchez from time to time, described him as “a lowlife, a small-time spiv, but a weakling at the same time. He was as enchained as anyone else, completely hung up on his own particular illness.”

In 1996 Sanchez published Up and Down with The Rolling Stones, a tell-all account of his days with the band. While Richards admits there are elements of truth to the book, the facts are grossly exaggerated (“I couldn’t plow through it all because my eyes were watering with laughter.”) Sanchez is also credited with starting the rumor about Keef’s infamous blood transfusion, which Richards and other biographers would later discredit.

4. Dr. Larry Badgely

Once the tour physician for Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, a man whom Truman Capote described as “[passing] through the plane with a big plate of pills, every kind you could imagine, everything from vitamin C to coke,” Dr. Laurence Badgely is now a rural physician and holistic healer based out of California, and, according to his Web site, “provides medical examinations and counseling services to patients with chronic pain and other conditions alleviated by cannabis.” Go figure.

3. “Dr. Robert”

In the Beatles song, he’s the man “who’ll pick you up” with “a drink from his special cup,” but there has been much speculation over the identity of the mysterious “Dr. Robert.” According to Barry Miles’s biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, the song refers to Robert Freymann, a tall, white haired physician in New York City known as “The Great White Father” who was known to dispense B-12 shots and amphetamines to the rich and famous from his 78th Street Clinic.

At one point, John Lennon even came out and declared that he was the real “Dr. Robert” referred to in the track, but many theorize this was done to steer focus away from Freymann, who lost his medical license in 1968.

2. Dr. Eugene Landy

Just as the Barenaked Ladies song indicates, the legendary Beach Boy and father to Carnie and Wendy of Wilson Phillips spent much of the late ’70s lying in bed, a prisoner to substance abuse, alcoholism and deep depression. At her wits’ end, Wilson’s wife Marilyn contacted clinical psychologist Eugene Landy, whose unorthodox 24-hour-a-day treatments — which included padlocking the refrigerator and dousing his patient with cold water if he refused to get out of bed — are widely credited for Wilson’s slim meddown, sobered-up comeback in the early ’80s.

But by the later part of the decade, those close to Wilson were beginning to grow concerned about the nature of the relationship between doctor and patient, as Landy began asserting control over Wilson’s career, the pair collaborating on a record and book company called Brains and Genius and Landy working as executive producer on his patient’s 1988 solo album Brian Wilson. But when the psychologist was named a beneficiary in Wilson’s will, the family took the matter to court, and in 1989 Landy was charged with “grossly negligent conduct” by the California Board of Medical Quality, and willingly surrendered his license for two years.

1. Dr. George Nichopoulos George “Dr. Nick” Nichopoulos was Elvis’s personal doctor for the last decade of his life, and prescribed the cocktail of uppers, downers, laxatives and hormones to which many attribute his death in 1977. According to the UK’s Guardian, the doctor wrote prescriptions for more than 10,000 doses of assorted narcotics in ’77 alone, allegedly because he “cared,” but according to a therapist that would treat him later in life, Dr. Nick didn’t know how to say no.

Although the official cause of death was listed as a heart attack, an autopsy found traces of 14 different drugs in Pres ley’s system, resulting in a 1979 20/20 investigation and the Tennessee Medical Board filing charges of gross malpractice. In 1980, Nichopoulos was tried on 14 counts of overprescribing controlled substances and acquitted of them all, but in ’92, the case was reopened, and concluded three years later with Dr. Nick stripped of his medical license.

Oh Jesus!

Rock’s Top 5 Religious Conversions

Rocks Off understands the need for a good detox now and then, as our evening antics often leave us feeling less than bright-eyed and bushy-tailed come morning. We also imagine the damage inflicted by a lifetime of hard partying and endless touring in the company of morally compromised music-industry execs and other unsavory characters would be considerably harder to erase. Certain circumstances might even require a soul-cleanse.

Perhaps that’s why so many musicians take solace in a higher power, seeking some sort of absolution for the sins of stardom. Five of the most memorable faith-swapping artists are listed below.

5. Prince Proselytizes Door to Door

As hard as it is to imagine The Purple One in any sort of religious context, the man behind sexed-up songs like “Pussy Control” and “Sexy M. F.” has been a devout Jehovah’s Witness for more than a decade now. Prince joined the nontrinitarian sect in 2001 following a two-year-long debate with friend and fellow Witness Larry Graham, describing the move as more of an awakening than a conversion.

In a 2008 interview with The New Yorker, His Purple Majesty described his new found faith as “a realization,” adding, “It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix.” As for the whole preaching door-to-door practice the denomination is famous for, Prince does that too, saying, “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it.”

4. Isaac Hayes Hearts Xenu

Had it not been for South Park, most of us would’ve never known that Isaac Hayes, once a devout Christian, was a faithful follower of L. Ron Hubbard. The soul singer began lending his deep baritone to the character of “Chef” in the controversial animated series shortly after converting to Scientology in 1995, lampooning every race, religion, and public figure imaginable. But when his own religion was satirized in “Trapped in the Closet,” a 2005 episode portraying celebrity followers of the faith as alien worshiping weirdos, Hayes pulled the plug.

In an interview following his 2006

Departure, Hayes says he told creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, “Guys, you have it all wrong. We’re not like that. I know that’s your thing, but get your information correct, because somebody might believe that shit, you know?”

Hayes remained an active and influential member of the Church of Scientology until his death in 2008, and “Shaft” remains one of the most badass, funkalicious songs of all time.

3. Little Richard Renounces Rock and Roll

Before the flamboyant sequined outfits, quivering pompadour and outrageous piano pounding performances, the artist born Richard Wayne Penniman had dreams of becoming a preacher, and by the early age of ten was already gaining fame as a faith healer in his hometown of Macon, Georgia.

These devoutly religious roots were in constant conflict with the reckless, drug-addled, anything-goes mentality of the music industry — not to mention a number of homosexual encounters — and in 1957 Penniman publicly renounced the genre he is credited with laying the foundation for and enrolled in Bible college to become an evangelist, recording nothing but gospel for a number of years.

However, the lure of the British Invasion proved too strong, and Little Richard was back thumping out the devil’s music within five years, and spiraled into deep drug and alcohol addiction before returning to the faith in 1977. He has since changed his position somewhat, saying that rock and roll can be used for good and evil, and continues to produce rock-inflected gospel tunes he refers to as “messages in rhythm.”

2. Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam

The popular ’70s folk singer converted to Islam and changed his name in 1977, allegedly following a near-drowning off the coast of Malibu and receiving the Qur’an as a birthday gift from his brother. While his Muslim spiritual leaders were in support of a continued career in music, the artist now known as Yusuf Islam felt the vanity and greed associated with the music business were in conflict with the teachings of the Qur’an, and retreated into near obscurity for more than 20 years.

Yusuf re-emerged as a spokesperson against Islamophobia following the 9/11 attacks, but was put on a no-fly list and denied entry to the United States in 2004 for what would prove to be unfounded allegations of affiliation with the Palestinian Hamas. His ordeal with Homeland Security is chronicled in “Boots and Sand,” a 2008 song featuring Paul McCartney, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton and Terry Sylvester that could possibly go down as the most passive politically motivated song of all time.

1. Bob Dylan Finds Jesus

When Bob Dylan found Jesus in the late 1970s, he made damn sure everyone knew about it. Described as his “Born Again” period, Dylan’s divine revelation resulted in a five-month enrollment at Vineyard Christian Fellowship and three gospel albums. Slow Train Coming (1979) was a commercial and critical success, featuring the Grammy-winning song “Gotta Serve Somebody” that inspired a musical response from John Lennon titled “Serve Yourself.”

However, Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were not, and by the time Infidels hit in 1983, Zimmy had returned to the teachings of the Torah. By 1984 Dylan seemed to be moving away from religion altogether, telling Rolling Stone the only faith-based establishment he belonged to was “The Church of The Poison Mind.”