Songs to help you stick to Dry January

Stay sober with the help of the worst hangovers in music

A popstar, a metalhead, a rocker, an indie band and a country singer all walk into a bar… Everyone has a great time.

The strong stuff has been the lifeblood of music since the classical era. Bach apparently ran up a bar tab of 18 gallons of beer. Liszt drank a bottle of cognac a day. Schubert put Mötley Crüe to shame. But as another Dry January rolls around to remind us that drinking definitely isn’t good for us, it’s time to look at the ways music celebrates sobriety with the songs about the very worst mornings after. 

‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do?’ – Janis Joplin

What Good Can Drinkin' Do - 1962 Young Janis Joplin [Live]

“Lord, I start drinking Friday night / But then I wake up on Sunday, child, there ain’t nothin’ that’s right”. If you ever need a reminder of the power of the demon drink, just play this next to literally anything else Joplin ever sung – her gravel-throated blues here sounding like the bottom of a beer mat. 

‘Tubthumping’ – Chumbawamba

Chumbawamba - Tubthumping

It might sound like a great drinking song but anyone who’s ever mixed their whiskey drink with their vodka drink, lager drink and cider drink knows ‘Tubthumping’ is a horror story waiting to happen. The song was also apparently written about a real incident where the band watched their drunken neighbour repeatedly fall over trying to get into his own front door – a timely reminder that every time you do something stupid on a night out you’re at risk of going viral. 

‘The Good Times Are Killing Me’ – Modest Mouse

The Good Times Are Killing Me

Every great night distorts into regret. Every “we talked all night” turns into “what the hell did we say?” “One more” turns into “twenty more one-mores”. In the end, all you’re left with is “enough hairs of the dog to make a whole rug”.

‘Alcohol’ – The Kinks

The Kinks - Alcohol

A classic bit of Davies brothers R&B storytelling, sounding like it could have come straight out of a Mississippi vaudeville show in the 1920s. As a Temperance anthem, it’s hard to beat, full of floozies and skid rows and gutter regrets, and you can even move on to ‘Death Of A Clown’ when the Berocca stops working.

‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’ – Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson & Johnny Cash - Sunday morning coming down (1978 Johnny Cash Christmas Show)

Ironically the song that Kristofferson credited with helping him “quit working for a living”, the saddest bottom-of-the-bottle ballad ever written launched his career, gave Jonny Cash another signature cover and made millions of bleary eyes start weeping. Far more tragic than Sunday Brunch

‘Last Night (Beer Fear)’ – Lucy Spraggan

Lucy Spraggan - Last Night (Beer Fear) (Official Video)

How bad can last night really have been if you still manage to rhyme “I want your babies” with “it’s not nice to drink Baileys”? It might sound good on TikTok but Spraggan’s list of regrets runs to verbal assault, accidental marriage proposals and waking up a police cell. 

‘Drunk Girls’ – LCD Soundsystem 

LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls (Official Video)

Things drunk girls do, according to James Murphy: cause heart attacks, are “boringly wild”, steal from cupboards and “wait an hour to pee”. Drunk boys don’t come off much better, but the song’s final line might as well be the slogan for the entire Dry January campaign: “unless it hurts, why do it?”.

‘Hangover Days’ – Jason Collett

Hangover Days - Jason Collet

Less of a bitter swipe at whatever happened last night than a tender paean for a time when everything hurt a bit less, this elegant 2005 track from Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett (with help from Feist) sounds like the kind of hangover that’s a lot harder to shake. 

‘Killer Parties’ – The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady traditionally finish every gig with this poignant ode to mornings defined by confusion and pain, like a warning to their fans not to stay out too late. With the regret of someone who has aged beyond their wildest nights, Craig Finn discovers that the operative word in killer party is “killer”.

‘Who Are You’ – The Who

The Who - Who Are You (Promo Video)

Somewhere in the mid 70s, Pete Townsend went out with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and wound up slumped in a Soho doorway, with a policeman asking him who he was. The question triggered some kind of existential crisis in Townsend, giving The Who their signature song.  

‘Too Drunk To F*ck’ – Dead Kennedys

Dead Kennedys - Too Drunk to Fuck

Well, no one wants that.