It’s no secret that I’m a rock and roll biography enthusiast so reading about one of my favorite guitarists was a no-brainer – even if the book is over 450 pages. Because I’m a huge fan of Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Slash’s Snakepit, and the albums Slash recorded with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, I wanted to understand the backstory of how Saul Hudson became Slash and how the bands I love came to fruition and why they experienced such demolition.
Although the book was incredibly interesting and featured some anecdotal gems, it was way too long and went into way too much detail about Slash’s drug and alcohol problems. While heroin and vodka clearly hindered his path over several decades and understanding their impact was important, some of the details were unnecessary. That being said, the details and events that explain how he became who he is as a person and musician, and how he met the members of his bands, are fascinating.
What I learned:
- Slash grew up around rock and roll royalty –his mother designed Joni Mitchell’s clothes while his dad designed her album covers. His mother eventually left his dad for David Bowie while the family was living in Laurel Canyon.
- He credits future original Guns N’ Roses member (and childhood friend) Steven Adler for being the reason he picked up the guitar.
- Aerosmith, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, and Hanoi Rocks have always been and continue to be the most influential bands in his life and music.
- Actor Seymour Cassel gave Slash his nickname because he was “always coming or going” and “perpetually in motion.”
- Slash’s very first band was called Tidus Sloan.
- Before Guns N’ Roses was even a thought on anyone’s mind, Slash drew a sketch of Aerosmith as a birthday gift for a friend. The next time he saw the drawing was when a guy came into the music store he was working at, drawing in hand, asking if he was the artist behind it. That person was future original Guns N Roses member Izzy Stradlin.
- Izzy also brought Slash a horribly distorted tape recording of a singer’s voice that “sounded like the squeak a cassette makes just before the tape snaps – except it was in key.” Turned out to be Axl Rose.
- Steven Adler and Slash put an ad in the local L.A. newspaper looking for a bass player “influenced by Aerosmith and Alice Cooper.” Future Guns bassist Duff McKagan answered the ad.
- The very first time Slash saw Axl sing live was as the lead singer of a band called Hollywood Rose.
- His iconic top hat was found in a store called Retail Slut (you read that right) and he explains that he wasn’t sure how he was going to steal it but he had to have it.
- The members of Guns N’ Roses wrote “Night Train,” “My Michelle,” and “Rocket Queen” in a garage.
- Dizzy Reed and Axl became friends because Dizzy was playing keyboards for a band called the Wild that was rehearsing next door to Guns N’ Roses.
- Geffen (the band’s record label) got so many complaints about Appetite For Destruction that it was banned before it was stocked on the record store shelves.
- On September 24, 1988 – over a year after its release – Appetite began a three-week stint at the top of Billboard’s album chart.
- Guns N’ Roses was the only band to have two albums in the top five at the same time during the 1980s – Appetite and G N’ R Lies.
- Les Paul made a guitar called the Slash Signature which is an exact replica of the 1988 Standards he bought and used throughout the 1980s.
- Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon sings backup on “Don’t Cry.”
- Slash made sure that Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II could be purchased separately in case fans didn’t have the money or didn’t want to spend it on both. Use Your Illusion I ended up selling more than Both records went to number one and two the week they were released – no other artist had done that since the Beatles.
- After Guns cancelled a show in St. Louis, the crowd tore the building apart in protest resulting in over $200,000 worth of damage. As a result, the band was forbidden from playing in St. Louis ever again.
- Guns N’ Roses sold out London’s Wembley Stadium – a 72,000-person venue – faster than any other artist or group in history.
- When Guns played for 50,000 people in Israel, it was the biggest concert the country had ever seen.
- After two and a half year on the road, the band returned to Los Angeles in 1993 after completing the longest tour in rock history. They played 192 shows in 27 countries with seven million fans in attendance.
- Slash describes his children as being just like their parents – “defiant and sweet.”
Although musicians always have help when writing their biographies (in this case author Anthony Bozza lent a hand), I was impressed with some of the prolific comments that came from this book:
- “It takes years for the emotional dust to settle as you do your best just to see through the storm.”
- “Time is such a powerful catalyst for change; you never know how kindred souls will end up – or where they might see each other again.”
- “Whatever you put into the world comes back to you one way or another.”
- “It was pretty clear to me that Axl had a few personality traits that set him far apart from every other person I’d ever known.”
- “Axl has the kind of presence and star power that threatens authority figures; they see someone like Axl as nothing but a ‘ringleader.’”
- “Restlessness is a fickle catalyst; it can drive you to achieve or it can coax your demise, and sometimes the choice isn’t yours.”
- “Every day I’m glad I found the strength to take the high road.”
Because this book was published in 2007, a few things have changed since it initially hit the shelves. It’s funny to read Slash talking about how the idea of Gun n’ Roses reuniting is asinine and yet we have tickets to see them later this year. I also think it’s cool that 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Appetite For Destruction. However, it’s horribly sad to read about how much he enjoyed being in a band with Scott Weiland who is no longer alive.
Slash on Guns N’ Roses:
- “We were passionate, with a common goal and very distinct sense of integrity. That was the difference between us and them.”
- “Our group willpower drove us to succeed on our terms but never made the ride any easier…We waited for our popularity to speak for itself and for the industry to take notice. And when it did, we made them pay.”
- “We were the lunatic-fringe rock and roll band…and Guns’ die-hard fans were misfits who’d made their outcast status their stance.”
- “All things considered, between our crew and our inexperience with touring on a professional level, our operation came off like the Bad News Bears.”
- “There was a fever pitch to everything and I didn’t want to miss a thing. I felt like if I slowed down, time would catch up and then all of it would stop.”
- “Success fragmented that bond by giving us everting we wanted and a lot we didn’t need – all at once.”
- “Whenever we earned ourselves some peace of mind, the same restlessness that fueled our success threatened to destroy it all.”
In addition to the bands he’s been a part of, this book made me realize that Slash has lent his guitar skills to many songs I like that are unrelated to his rock groups. And now I know why! A few examples:
Michael Jackson – “Black or White” and “Give in to Me”
Lenny Kravitz – “Always on the Run”
Alice Cooper – “Hey Stoopid”
Motorhead – “You Better Run”
Carole King – “Hold Out For Love”
Ray Charles – “God Bless America Again”
Chris Daughtry – “What I Want”
Hollywood Vampires – “School’s Out/Another Brick In The Wall”
While there is no question that Slash is a rock and roll guitarist who will always be revered and remembered for his excess as much as his musicianship, it’s also clear that he wants it that way. His book is well-written and exciting and it shows that there is more to being a rock and roll guitarist than booze and drugs – but they do play a significant part. Slash has come a long way in his journey to be great and reading all the backstories makes me even more excited for the show in August – if that’s even possible.