You may have heard of the expression “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll”. It first appeared in a 

Time Life

 article in 1969 and was a description of sorts of the social revolution that took place in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It surfaced again in another article, this time in 1971. And, there’s the song of the same name by Ian Drury and the Blockheads in 1977. I first encountered the term in the early 1980s and it was in a work-related context.


I was working in a labor relations role for a large company that specialized in retailing and distribution. My colleague received a telephone call one day from the General Manager of a large retail operation. A criminal operation had been uncovered in one of their larger grocery stores. It was multi-layered.

The pharmacist was selling behind the counter drugs without a prescription to employees working on the midnight shift. The pharmacist would show up during the shift and take orders from the employees and then fill them. The transactions were cash only. The employees got what they wanted at a discounted price and the pharmacist pocketed some extra money. His second job was servicing the night shift.

In addition, the employees on the night shift were engaging in a number of types of misconduct:  sleeping on the job, theft, horse play, goofing off, and fighting to name a few. The few that did work, did so to the beat of rock ‘n roll music they piped into the store over the rigged PA system.

When management got wind of the transgressions, an investigation was initiated and the police called in. A number of employees, including the pharmacist, were terminated for cause. The police also laid a number of charges. The union, in an attempt to save as many jobs as possible, filed a stack of grievances and fought the charges with gusto. It was a hot mess.

Several months went by following the conclusion of the investigation and my colleague got a call from the General Manager. One of the clerical staff had been vetting the telephone bills for unauthorized telephone calls and found a disturbing pattern. A large number of calls had been placed to 1-900 telephone sex lines in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and they all came from the midnight shift. Some of the calls were quite lengthy. I forget what the cost was but it was significant. Not a lot of work got done on the midnight shift between buying and selling drugs, listening and perhaps dancing to rock music, killing time, and partaking in telephone sex conversations.

The General Manager wasn’t surprised by  the 1-900 calls. He was expecting the other shoe would drop, but didn’t know when and what that shoe would look like. He told my colleague that the case now had all of the elements of a great story: Sex, Rock ‘n Roll and Drugs. Maybe the employees had read the Time Life article!

You couldn’t make this stuff up. The truth is often stranger than fiction!