David Bowie: The Era When He Lived Off Cocaine, Peppers, & Milk

David Bowie is one of the greatest artists in the history of rock music. One of his most iconic albums was Young Americans. The success of the album introduced Bowie to new audiences. However, the period following the release of the album was one of the darkest periods in Bowie’s life.

In 1976, Bowie had to deal with the pressure of living up to the iconic album. Of course, he had reason to worry about pleasing music critics and his fans. Sadly, he heavily used drugs and subsisted on a bizarre, unhealthy diet during the creative process for his follow-up album.

David Bowie posing for a portrait in 1976 during a dark period of his life | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

David Bowie’s darkest period

Vibe reports during 1976, he heavily used cocaine and mostly ate peppers and milk. Needless to say, this diet did not have a positive effect on his life. His health took a sharp decline due to this behavior.

Bowie dropped to below 100 pounds. To make matters even worse, he rarely got any sleep. Instead, he preferred to work through the night.

David Bowie crafted Station to Station as a follow-up to Young Americans.

David Buckley, Bowie’s biographer, says there’s no way anyone could have subsisted on this diet for a long period of time. During this era of Bowie’s life, he suffered from mental health issues due to cocaine. Buckley explained “You could have one cocaine binge and suffer from paranoia and anxiety and paranoid delusions. But if you’re doing multiple grams a day it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to suffer from paranoid delusions at some point soon.”

Bowie’s diet and drug habit contributed to the darkness of his follow-up to Young Americans, Station to Station. Bowie did not even remember creating the album because he was using so much cocaine. The album features numerous references to occultism and death. Luckily, Bowie was able to get to a better place in his life. Bowie’s once dangerous lifestyle proved influential on another musician.

How the cocaine, peppers and milk inspired Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson performing on stage at the Roskilde Festival back in 1999 | Niels van Iperen/Getty Images

In 2017, Marilyn Manson revealed he had a similarly unhealthy diet when he crafted his most acclaimed album: Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). During his creative process for the record, he ate almost nothing but jello and cocaine. Manson isn’t sure why he did this to himself, although Bowie’s influence had something to do with it.

When asked why he lived this way, he said “I don’t know. I really couldn’t answer that question. I mean, Bowie’s diet during his period was peppers, milk, and cocaine. There’s always the food pyramid; I just didn’t have the third part.”

Or did he have the third part? Manson theorized the “third part” may have been his use of absinthe. Absinthe is a type of alcohol rumored to cause horrid hallucinations. Reflecting on this time, Manson said “I think I survived, though. A lot of temporal lobe damage could have occurred.”

Also see: Why David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ Doesn’t Have the Cover He Wanted

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.