Thursday, March 19, 2015

2002, Bang Your Head by David Konow, Guns N' Roses section

In my EvenSpot Speaks blog
I posted the Alice Cooper chapter on March 12, 2015 

This book covers all of the metal bands mostly seen on MTV.
The book's not much on photos (the few printed are black & white)
but gives you plenty of stories behind the scenes.

This section starts off when Guns N' Roses was touring with The Rolling Stones
and then goes back to the origin of Guns N' Roses.

(photo above does not appear in "Bang Your Head" book)

"Bang Your Head" 
The Rise And Fall of Heavy Metal
by David Konow


Back Cover

Guns N' Roses
Pgs 256 - 264

“Guns N’ Roses is the most exicting new name to happen in our

business for a while. They will go on to break the whole

world. And in 1988’s bleak musical landscape, they stand out

to me like a beacon.”

—U2 Manger Pall McGuiness, speaking at the
New Music Seminar in 1988

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, it should have been a great night. Two of the
biggest bands in the world, the Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses, were
playing together at the Los Angeles Coliseum on October 18, 1989.
Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction, had a slow start
when it was released on August 1, 1987, but it went to No. 1 on the Bill- 
board charts a year later and was now the best-selling debut album in
history. Guns N’ Roses had risen above the hair bands that dominated
the Los Angeles music scene. If any L.A. band had the potential to be-
come the next Rolling Stones, it was G N’ R.
Shortly before the Coliseum gigs, Guns N’ Roses had been offered
the chance to jam onstage with the Rolling Stones for one song in At-
lantic City. The band members were big fans, and wanted to play an ob-
scure song called “Salt of the Earth,” None of the Rolling Stones could
remember how to play it, so shortly before the show, both bands
crammed into a trailer to learn the song again. They played the song on
a ghetto blaster, and Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics on a sheet of paper so
he could memorize them. Guns N’ Roses guitarist lzzy Stradlin and 
Keith Richards played along on acoustic guitars. “This is so cool,”
Stradlin thought to himself while strumming his guitar. “This is where
we could be in ten years”
Guns N’ Roses was everything the Rolling Stones used to be: loud,
violent, arrogant, and inelegantly wasted. Guitarist Slash once said that
Jagger should have dropped dead after the 1978 Some Girls album. With
a great show tonight, Guns N’ Roses had a good shot of killing him off.
Only two shows were booked for the Rolling Stones to play the Coli-
seum. When Guns N’ Roses was added to the bill, demand for tickets
was so great that two more shows were scheduled. Guns N’ Roses was
to be paid over a million dollars for all four Coliseum shows. The
Rolling Stones hadn’t toured in seven years, and they expected to gross
close to $100 million by the tour’s end.

But a lot more than money was riding on these shows, more than
most people realized. Guns N’ Roses had set up these shows to bring
the band back together. Drugs were destroying everything the band had
worked so hard to build. Just five years earlier, when the band lived in
their rehearsal space, singer Axl Rose had drawn up handwritten con-
tracts with the other band members in which using drugs was a serious
breach. Unlike many who hid their substance abuse, Rose was unusually
candid about the band’s drug problems “Our drug use is not in the
past,” he said at the time. “We scare the shit out of each other.”
Not long before the Rolling Stones concerts, Rose received a birth-
day present from Stradlin, an expensive Gretsch rockabilly guitar. Try-
ing in his own way to wake up Stradlin about his cocaine problem, Rose
smashed the guitar to pieces and sent the shattered remains back to him
with a note attached reading: COCAINE SUCKS.
Guns N’ Roses did two warrn-up shows before the Coliseum-gigs
The first was at the Cathouse in Los Angeles, where Guns N’ Roses had
established their local following; the second was at a downtown club
called the Scream, where Jane’s Addiction also got their start. That night
RIP Magazine, one of the country’s top metal magazines, was having its
third anniversary party. Although it had not been formally announced,
everyone knew Guns N’ Roses would be the surprise guests.
Few in the audience that night knew that backstage the band mem-
bers were at each other’s throats and threatening to cancel the show. The
last billed band ended their set at midnight, and the audience waited
until two in the morning when Guns N’ Roses finally came onstage—
and played a great show. The Cathouse and Scream shows were impres-
sive performances. “The Cathouse show was more than a club show,”
said the Los Angeles Times review “This was a full-fledged stadium show.
This band’s ready.”
The morning of the first Rolling Stones show. Izzy was on pins and
needles. He was facing six months in jail because he had violated his
probation from a drug-possession charge by urinating in the trash can
of an airplane (the line for the bathroom was too long). The incident
earned him the nickname “Wizzy.” At 6 A.M., he received a phone call
from Axl Rose, completely drunk, telling him that he was quitting the
band. Stradlin then called the rest of the band. “It’s gonna be a long four
days, fellas.”
Guns N’ Roses went on at 7:30, following the band Living Colour.
After their first song, Rose announced to the audience, “I don’t like to
do this onstage, but unless certain people in this band start getting their
act together, this is going to be the last Guns N’ Roses show. I’m
sick and tired of too many people in this organization dancing with
Mr. Brownstone.” The 80,000 fans in attendance were stunned.
Slash nearly stormed off the stage. As they tried to continue the show,
the other band members stayed in their little boxed areas of the stage. Rose
ended the concert by announcing that he was quitting the band. During
the Rolling Stones set, Jagger dedicated the song “Mixed Emotions” to
In the Los Angeles Times review of the show. Robert Hilburn wrote
that the Rolling Stones “could go on convincingly for another 10 years.
Guns N’ Roses ... made you wonder ... whether they were going to
survive the concert.” If they were to perform again, it was obvious that
Guns N’ Roses had a long way to go before dethroning the Rolling
The next night, Rose threatened not to go on unless Slash first went
out onstage and talked to the audience about drugs. At first Slash re-
fused, but, reluctantly, he went on. “There’s been a lot written about this
band and drugs,” he said, standing by himself in the spotlight. “A lot
of it is bullshit; a lot of it is true. Last night, you almost saw the last
Guns N’ Roses gig.”
Slash had been coming to the Coliseum since he was a kid to see Van
Halen and Aerosmith, hoping he’d be up on that stage one day. “Last
night I was up here, and I didn’t even know it. Smack isn’t what it’s all
about . . . and we’re not going to be one of those weak bands that falls
apart over it.” With that, the other four members came out onstage, and
Guns N’ Roses was a band again. The first song they performed was “Pa-
That night no one could predict if Guns N’ Roses would ever reach
the level of the Rolling Stones or completely self-destruct. As the past
two nights had shown, it could go either way. When asked by a reporter
what he thought were Guns N ‘ Roses’ chances of surviving, Keith
Richards said, “Hey, it’s not my gig to weigh up others’ chances of liv-
ing or dying, baby. That’s what people do to me!”

The Most obvious comparison between Guns N’ Roses and the Rolling
Stones was that Rose and Slash were the band’s Jagger and Richards.
Like Mick and Keith, Axl and Slash were either making great music to-
gether or about to kill each other. As one might expect, the pair’s child-
hoods couldn’t have been more different.
Saul Hudson was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, on July 23, 1965.
His father, Anthony, was a graphic designer and met Saul’s mother, Ola,
a costume designer, in Paris. Anthony Hudson set his sights on the
music industry and moved the family to L.A. in the early ‘70s, where he
began designing album covers for David Geffen. Saul grew up among
celebrities; frequent visitors to his home included Joni Mitchell and Ron
Wood of the Rolling Stones. After his parents divorced, his mother
dated David Bowie for a while. One of the celebrities that was often at
the house, character actor Seymour Cassel, kept calling Saul Slash, and
eventually the name stuck.

Slash grew up around the music business and had seen all the crazi-
ness of the lifestyle long before he ever formed a band. “That’s the only
reason why I’ve been able to maintain any kind of sanity all the way
through my career,” he says “I’ve been around it so long, nothing really
fazes me.” Though he grew up in an intensely social environment. Slash
was painfully shy, something he carried into adulthood. He started
growing his hair out to cover his face because he had a hard time look-
ing people in the eye. Slash’s family moved around a lot, and he was pri-
marily on his own by the time he was thirteen. His nomadic childhood
made it easier for Slash to be on the road and harder for him to settle
down. After Guns N’ Roses became successful, he resisted buying a
house for years. He felt more comfortable living in apartments because
they reminded him of hotel rooms.
Slash met future Guns N’ Roses bandmate Steven Adler in the sev-
enth grade. Steven’s first instrument was a guitar that he would play
along to Kiss records, pushing his tiny stereo to the limit. Inspired to
play himself, Slash learned on a one-stringed instrument, unaware he
needed another five. As soon as he got a guitar with six strings, he
started a band. His grandmother, whom he was very close to, bought
him his first good guitar, a B. C. Rich Mockingbird, just like his idol. Joe
Perry of Aerosmith, played.” Unfortunately, I hocked it in my drug days. 
It’s one of my few regrets,” Slash says Looking back on his childhood, 
he says, “My parents were fucking great, and I’ve always had a lot of 
freedom. I don’t have any horror stories about my upbringing.” 
Axl Rose was born in Lafayette, Indiana, on February 6, 1962. His 
natural father left shortly after he was born, and he was raised by his 
mother and stepfather, Sharon and L. Stephen Bailey. When he was 
seventeen, Axl found some insurance papers and his mother’s diploma
and discovered he was born William Rose. He renamed himself W. Rose 
out of hatred for his stepfather, and legally changed it to W. Axl Rose in 
1986, his initials standing for WAR, a fitting coincidence. By outward
appearances, Rose looked like an innocent farm boy, with straight red
hair, clear blue eyes, and pale freckled skin. Looks were deceiving.

Rose always had a great deal of talent and madness in him. In his
high school placement tests, he scored in the top 3 percent of his class,
but when he was tested by a psychiatrist, there was also strong evidence
of psychosis Rose was brought up in a strict, religious household. He
was an altar boy, sang in the church choir, and taught Sunday school.
When he saw people being healed in church, Rose questioned why
nothing changed in his life. He often felt he was “cursed” and aban-
doned by God. “If there’s somebody up there,” he once said, “I don’t
know Him.”
As a teenager, he continually found himself in violent confrontations
with authority figures He went to jail more than twenty times during
his adolescence, once for an entire summer. Always distrusrful of the
legal system, he sometimes represented himself at his trials
To Rose, living in Indiana was a dead end. (He called Indiana
“Auschwitz” onstage when Guns N’ Roses played there in 1991.) While
still living in Lafayette, he started singing in bands Rose knew there
was a world beyond Indiana but had no idea how big it was. He had
known Jeff Isbell, who later became Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Strad-
lin, since high school. Even before Stradlin knew Rose could sing, he
thought to himself, Here’s a guy who’s completely crazy—he’d be a
great singer. Stradlin went to Los Angeles after graduating from high
school in 1979. He was the only member of Guns N’ Roses to graduate,
although bassist Duff McKagan was an honor student at one point and
even considered applying to Harvard.
Stradlin was quiet and kept to himself. He never talked about his
family and hadn’t seen his father for close to ten years before running
into him at a Guns N’ Roses show in 1988. A year after Stradlin arrived
in Los Angeles, Rose decided to join him. He got on a Greyhound bus
but ran out of money in St. Louis and had to hitchhike the rest of the
way. Not having any idea how big L.A. is, it took Rose a month to find
his friend. On a rainy Easter morning, Stradlin heard a knock at his
door. There was Rose, standing soaking wet in the doorway.

The five musicians who would eventually make up Guns N’ Roses all
met as members of various bands around L.A. Slash was working in ,
music store when he met Stradlin, who was playing with Rose in a band
called Hollywood Rose. Slash and Stradlin didn’t click musically at the 
time, but Slash knew he wanted to work with Rose, because “he was the
only singer in L.A. who could sing.” Live, Rose’s performance was ferocious.
“Axl didn’t have that little snake swag back then,” says Vinnie Stiletto, who
was friendly with Rose in the 1980s. “He stomped on the
stage like a kid throwing a tantrum, just balls out BOMP! BOMP! Atti-
tude from hell.” Stiletto wasn’t surprised when he found out that Rose
had endured a difficult childhood. “I could just picture it, because the
tantrum was how he projected himself on stage. All that frustration and
anger, he was so revved up.”
Stiletto and Rose sometimes spent time hanging out on top of the
Bank of America building right above Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip,
talking about their dreams. A lot of musicians would go up to that roof
to drink late into the night, as the Strip below them grew empty and
quiet. Rose once told Stiletto that his parents refused to let him watch
Alice Cooper’s appearance on The Snoop Sisters, a short-lived ‘70s televi-
sion show. “I fucking flipped,” said Rose. “I went up to my room
shoved my face in the pillow, screaming!”
At first Slash was uncomfortable playing with other guitarists. He
tried to lure Rose away from Stradlin and eventually gave up and joined
Hollywood Rose. As they often did, Rose and Slash had a falling-out
that led to Slash leaving to join another L.A. band named London. Lon-
don’s greatest distinction was that it was a training ground for musicians 
who would become successful in other bands. Nikki Sixx left the band
to form Motley Crue, and both Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin had been
members of London at one time, as was Cinderella drummer Fred
Coury. Rose and Stradlin later quit Hollywood Rose to join L.A. Guns.
At this point, Slash had been playing with Adler and Duff McKagan,
Slash and Rose eventually ran into each other again when they both
worked at Tower Video in West Hollywood.

Guns N’ Roses officially came together on June 6, 1985. Stradlin and
Slash wrote their first song together, “Don’t Cry,” and after a few days
of rehearsal, McKagan booked the band on their first tour. The first
date was at theTroubadour in West Hollywood. Before Guns N’ Roses
played the Troubadour, Stradlin couldn’t afford the club’s cover charge
and had to watch the bands through the front window. When he rode
the bus to the Troubadour, he’d often get off a block early so no one
knew he didn’t have a car.
The day after the Troubadour show, the band and a three-person crew
left for Seattle in a beat-up Oldsmobile with a U-Haul trailer behind it.
The car gave out somewhere near Fresno. “So we grabbed our guitars
and told the crew, “Get the car fixed and meet us in Seattle,’ “ remembers
Slash. For the next several days, the band hitchhiked their way north.
Their first ride was from a truck driver who kept stopping to take speed.
Driving for days without sleep, he finally passed out when he stopped
at a park. The band tried to wake him up, shaking him and screaming:
“Wake up! We gotta get to Seattle!”
The driver eventually dropped them off in Portland, Oregon, and
“two of the most adventurous women I’ve ever met picked us up and put
us in the back of a fuckin’ Pacer,” Slash continues “It was very generous
of them.” The band had missed all but one of their scheduled shows by
the time they arrived in Seattle. Fewer than twenty people showed up at
that show, and the band was never paid. Then they partied for an entire
week, and as Slash recalls, “this chick we were all fucking drove us back
to L.A. We’ve been together, more or less, ever since.”
By this point, the band members were ready to quit their day jobs
and make the band their first priority. The last nine-to-five job Slash
ever worked was the first one he was fired from because he spent all his
time on the phone taking care of band business
The entire band moved into their rehearsal space on Gardner Street,
off Sunset Boulevard, and “we all sold our souls as a unit at that point,”
says Slash. Located in a rundown building, their rehearsal space was a
dank 12-by-12-foot room with no shower or toilets. The band built a
loft from stolen lumber so they had somewhere to sleep. “That’s where
we all had sex in big groups because there was nowhere else to go”
The band never worried about living in poverty—in fact, they had
fun surviving on next to nothing. “It was no rules, no parents. no pass-
ing judgment, no ‘just say no,’ “ remembers Del James, a longtime friend
of Rose. “We were all very protective of each others’ backs. We didn’t
have much, but what little we had was kill-or-be-killed kind of stuff.
People came and went. Some lost faith, some died, some got too strung
out to even hang out with us, and that’s really something. Then there
was this small, loyal circle that was pretty tight.”

Like many bands trying to make it in L.A., for Guns N’ Roses even
eating was a struggle. When they could scrape together three bucks, it
was biscuits and grits at Denny’s. On Saturdays the local mission served
free food to the homeless, and a gay club called Rage served a five A.M.
all-you-can-eat buffet. NightTrain fortified wine was the drink of choice.
At a dollar a bottle, five bucks got the whole band wasted. Even during
the recording of Appetite for Destruction, the band lived on McDonald’s
coupons. Slash recalls, “We used to trade coupons with each other: ‘I got
one for a Coke’, ‘I got fries’, ‘Trade you fries for a Coke . . . ‘
“Every time a label would approach us about signing, they would
take us to lunch. Even the labels we didn’t want to work with, we had
them take us to lunch anyway.” After the band signed to Geffen Records
in 1986, they often pretended they were still available so they could
take advantage of lunch offers.

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