Do artists really do a deal with the devil? Oh, you've heard the legends about the occult and castles. Perhaps, but I suspect like most things its a bit more pedestrian.
From Crowley, you at very least get the idea of "do what you will" or "do your own thing."
The proponents of this idea range from Ozzie Osborn, to Jimmy Page, and John Phillips of the Mommas and the Poppas. (He also wanted you to "not work as hard as you play" and "go where you want to go; do what you want to do." I bet you never thought of him as a decadent.)
And, on the surface, the it all seems harmless and even appealing. As you get older you realize that not everyone can do whatever they want at just anytime, because each of us have to take responsibility. Obviously, you can't have Sid Vicious doing violent things. But, in a larger context, we've all experienced the impact derivative bankers doing what they wanted to do just to make a little more money.
Crowley, like few others at that time, experimented with drugs, but I think even he'd agree it didn't work out too well. David Crosby said, "It was fine until the bad drugs, like heroin and cocaine, hit." Some did have creative sparks, but the under 25 mind is not fully formed as Peter Green and Syd Barrett can tell you.
Crowley, like Goebbels, enjoyed manipulating the media and the citizens. Colonel Tom Parker was good, and the Beatles' people, especially when combined with their record label (Ever see the hype drummed up for Sinatra or Dean and Jerry? Go look at film and compare it to acts today.) were and, still are, masters (Even "broken up", ever notice how the Beatles coordinate press releases?) as are Madonna, Spears, and Lady Gaga. I think Micheal Jackson manipulated everyone so much it was part of what led to his own destruction. (Just imagine if he'd kept things a bit more normal.) Tweaking the hype machine for sales can be great, but, if the record company is lucky, you'll live up to the hype.
Could a "deal with the devil" simply mean catering to the lowest common denominator or fad instead of being uplifting? "Sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" sounds good when your 16, but life gets more complicated over time. Soon, you realize the emptiness of this philosophy. Thus, many ubiquitous artists are soon forgotten.
Artists that simply trade on their looks go out of style or, sadly, get old.
What about using sex? Yes, many see sex as a sin and turning it into a seductive forbidden thing is all around us. But, is sex really evil? And, with all of the pornographic content surrounding all of us, does it carry much weight anymore? Even if artist "A" is the hot momma of the moment, will she be able to hold our attention when artist "B" makes a new video. Besides, we're running out of shocking things to do. Let's just shave and pierce everything and pose totally nude on the cover of Rolling Stone fucking the whole staff. Sex appeal without a connection never lasts with partners or the public.
Certainly, some artists have lived hellish and dangerous lives thinking that it would somehow inspire or inform their writing or guitar playing. However, were they really better than when they sobered up? Other than living in such a way is terrible, what wisdom did these artists gain? As Paul Simon once sang, "I've paid all the dues to want to pay." Some point to coincidences saying trades have been made. Only time will tell.
Have you ever considered some of this is simply misdirection? The real truth is learning a craft like music is hard work on many levels like any job. (One reason people want their freaking royalties.) If you can get inside other musicians heads, the critics, and the public, and convince them you have found "the secret" along with a "special" guitar to play it on, it becomes a powerful manipulation. For one thing, your product can be regarded as unique and irreplaceable.
In the end, it is about the song not the manipulations. Oddly, authoritarian Joe "The Bank Robber" Stalin said it best, "Give the people a song they can sing from the heart and one they can dance to and they will be happy."
You have "two roads to choose", so why not pick the one that actually leads somewhere?
Besides, why would you want to let satan have power over you?
Well, I have to go now and put the band back together protect the trademark and make that last bid of bread...oh, I mean get together for the fans and some charity, LOL.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181875/ An interesting "behind the scenes" movie.