Even though my real home was on the road [in the mid '70s], I still needed a place to hang my hat in Boston, so I kept an apartment at 21 James Street, near Coolidge Corner. My landlord was Mr. Chin, who used to come by every month and bang on the door. "Joe Kramah! You pay rent today?!" This was a huge first-floor space with stained-glass windows and high ceilings and enough mahogany for about a dozen cabin cruisers. It was so big that, part of the time I was living there, Raymond [Tabano, the former Aerosmith guitarist who was replaced by Brad Whitford, and who did marketing for Aerosmith at that time] and his wife, Susan, lived with me. My girlfriend Cindy Oster, the Playboy bunny, was there, too, and there were a lot of parties with so much constant drug intake that we were really living right on the edge every day. I remember, we had a dentist friend who used to let us use coke in his chair. One day he came to my apartment, and it was all I could do to drag myself to the door. I had been taking Quaaludes and God knows what else, and I could barely move. He saw that I was all but down for the count, so he stuffed some coke up my nose to keep me from going comatose. If he hadn't shown up . . . hard to say what would have happened. All I know is that it's a fucking miracle that none of the five of us are dead.
Once while I was on tour, a friend of mine named Scott Sobel was doing some work on the place, and Cindy was there sort of supervising and painting some of the walls. Cindy was epileptic and had to take medication to control it. She and Scott were, of course, also consuming quite a bit of blow, and Cindy had forgotten to take her pills. Scott described to me how he heard this crash, ran into the next room, and there was gorgeous Cindy, lying on the floor frothing at the mouth, her eyes rolled back in her head. Scott immediately called 911, but then when the medics and the cops arrived, he remembered the huge pile of blow sitting on the coffee table, lines all laid out. So he left Cindy shaking on the floor and the cops banging on the door while he ran around the apartment and hid all the coke.
By the mid '70s, the drugs, which had started out as a way to cut loose after a lot of hard work, had taken over. Back then, my idea of a Friday night was to hook up with somebody along with an ounce of cocaine, and a nice big quart bottle of Stoli that I kept in the freezer. We would sit, and we would snort, and we would drink, and then we would snort some more. Friday night would turn into Saturday morning, and Saturday morning would turn into Saturday afternoon, and we would still be drinking and snorting — another shot, another line. Saturday afternoon turned into Saturday night, and Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, and before I knew it, three days of my life had gone by. I was sitting in the same fucking spot on Monday morning as I was on Friday night.
My wake-up call with drugs — at least in terms of the music — came when we played Boston College in 1984. For the three or four nights prior to that, I had been swallowing Tuenols and putting cocaine up my nose and not sleeping at all. By the time I got out to BC, I was fucking blotto. My drum tech, Nils, had to help me take my street clothes off, put my stage clothes on me, tape my hands, prop me up behind my drums, and wrap my fingers around the sticks. "Joey, this is all I can do," he told me. "The rest is up to you."Drums and drugs really don't mix — the timing, the physicality — so I didn't play well that night, and my partners weren't very happy about it. I took heed of that experience, though, and I never again took drugs directly before a performance. On the other hand, I was always able to make up for lost time afterward. As soon as the last note was hit, I would be off stage and catching up to wherever I might have been if I had been snorting like a maniac all along.
After a while it should have been clear that the drugs had become obsessive, addictive, and destructive. But when you're doing drugs, nothing is clear — that's the whole point. Looking back now, I realize that even just thinking about doing lines had become an obsession. I enjoyed simply the thought of drugs, relishing the anticipation, then feeling the actual sensations. There was pleasure in all of it, from the first moment the coke burned into my sinuses, as the chemicals slammed into my brain cells, and until I was racing along all grandiose and invincible. I loved the way it made me feel holier-than-thou and how I could sit and talk with anyone about anything as if I really knew it all. And then there was the sort of connection whenever I found somebody else who liked coke as much as I did. Trouble was, while there was pleasure, there was no real joy in it. After a while, drugging became as empty and gross as stuffing my face with cheeseburgers and greasy French fries, eating out of gluttony instead of hunger for nourishment. Eventually feelings of waste, excess, and anxiety crowded out all the feelings of pleasure, but by this time, I had no choice. I was no longer doing the drugs for a good time — I was doing them because I had to. And then the drugs started pulling the band apart.