Archive for June, 2012

Supertzar is in the house!!!

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Oh YES!!! My 1,000 Supertzar CDs have arrived. Write to peter@hoflich.com to order yours, five dollars only (less than the price of a beer).

Supertzar has arrived!!!

Supertzar has arrived!!!

Supertzar's debut EP on the shelf

Supertzar's debut EP on the shelf

My (not so) big bad Thin Lizzy page

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

A while back I saw a friend’s band play. One of the songs he played was by Ocean Colour Scene; I thought it was Thin Lizzy, though, and it got me thinking of what a great old band Thin Lizzy was, and how Phil Lynott is the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll… and I also got to thinking that it’s been a long time since I listened to Thin Lizzy. So I set out to do something about that.

Turns out my timing is impeccable – last year was some sort of anniversary apparently, because they reissued all of the Thin Lizzy CDs in expanded editions. Bonus! So I’ve started snapping them up, starting with Johnny The Fox, then Chinatown and Jailbreak. My wife went to Japan, and managed to get me Live And Dangerous, since it’s not available here at all.

TLj

TLj


Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak”, Expanded Edition – A great album full of tough guy songs like the clobbering title track, but the album is a bit uneven. “Angel From The Coast” is a funky number that doesn’t really stand out, “Running Back” is a poppy boppy number that comes off as a bit silly (songs like this, and the direly icky funk ballad “Romeo And The Lonely Girl” would never have appeared on later albums like Chinatown or Thunder And Lightning). Happily, Phil Lynott’s lyrics and vocal delivery are what keeps even weaker numbers alive, so it’s not such a big deal, but “Warriors” brings back the tough guy theme of the album. It’s a menacing, brooding rocker, all menace and savagery. Nice, with funky vocal effects. “Death has no easy answer for those who wish to know.” Awesome! “The Boys Are Back In Town” everyone knows, with its simple riffs, its breathless lyrical storytelling, there’s a whole movie in there, and some funky double guitar blazery. Their biggest hit, according to the liner notes they weren’t originally considering it for a single, but the suits knew one when they heard one. Nice, since a hit single was so badly needed for a band somewhat stuck in a rut in terms of their fan base and potential. “Fight Or Fall” is a bit wimpy-sounding, despite the tough name, and “Cowboy Song” is simple silliness that takes a while to warm up. Meanwhile, “Emerald” is pure Irish torch fire – what a crackling number! Totally unknown on Canadian classic rock radio programming I listened to growing up. Only four minutes long, but pure madness – some proto Iron Maiden twin guitar attack, and what a solo!!! Rock ‘n’ roll!

At 94 minutes, Jailbreak actually warrants the double disc format it comes in (unlike so many other double CDs, where the combined running time comes under less than a single CD – why not combine them onto one CD?), and it’s generous with its extras, including two additional versions of the release’s biggest tracks, “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Emerald.” The remix of “Jailbreak” starts off with Phil yelling out “okay, we know you’re in there – come out with your hands up!” Most of the versions are pretty regular, but the extended version of “Fight Or Fall”, in a rough mix, has some pretty cool touches, and the “brother brother” stuff at the end, with its growling, just kind of goes on and on and on and on… The band also has a song called “Blues Boy”, a truly bluesy number that sweeps and sways with some silly improvised lyrics, along with “Derby Blues”, an early version of “Cowboy Song”.

TLJTF

TLJTF


Thin Lizzy, “Johnny The Fox”, Expanded Edition – This album was recorded when Phil Lynott came down with hepatitis, too big to go on his potentially world-crushing world tour opening for Deep Purple on the success of Jailbreak. Well, we may not have had a world tour out of Thin Lizzy at that stage, so we got this album instead. More tales like “The Boys Are Back In Town”. Opening track “Johnny” is about a doomed gangster, full of darkness and violence, it rocks. “Rocky” is loud and squeezed out, with a dark, funky groove, somewhat restrained, a bit listless (like the album). “Borderline” is a pretty little number with nice acoustic guitar and screaming leads, and dark lyrics about a gangster and his girl – kind of an early power ballad, that closes out with some wicked solo guitar. “Don’t Believe A Word” kicks out the jams, though, with a love song from a liar, it’s cool, wicked and short (2:20). Love it. “Fool’s Gold” is a spooky, scary tale of fools being betrayed into going to the New World where what awaited them was… death!!!! Deep and spooky song, but with a catchy chorus. “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed” is a cool, weird song about gangsters, all arty and jazzy, funky. Something pretty weird for Thin Lizzy, showing also how versatile these guys were. “Old Flame” is a glistening ballad song, nothing special, while “Massacre” is a righteous, angry song (Iron Maiden covered it on a B-side), “Sweet Marie is the band’s most saccharine song ever, and album closer “Boogie Woogie Dance” is wacky funk that gets pretty aggro, nice closer. Some love this album, but it sounds to me like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, and outside of a few really awesome tracks (“Don’t Believe A Word”, “Massacre”) the album is a bit weak.

The extras are so-so, mainly alternate versions of the songs that we heard on the regular album, along with instrumental run-throughs that are really nothing special, other than historical, archival documents, and geek curiosities. They evidence the fact that they scraped the bottom of the barrel to put this together. At least the fans can be satisfied. There’s a funky little jam called “Scott’s Tune” on the album, which is nice. It funks, it rocks, it rolls. It funks. Yeah… it funks.

The CD comes in a nice cardboard pack with cool photos and a nice booklet full of groovy photos. Of course, there’s less than 72 minutes of music in the collection, meaning that all this music could have easily fit onto one disc. Hmmm…

TLC

TLC


Thin Lizzy, “Chinatown”, Expanded Edition – Thin Lizzy just kept getting better and better as a band, and this one really hits home. It opens with “We Will Be Strong,” which doesn’t really have a heavy riff, but is full of great anthemic stuff, and nice vocal production stuff. The second song is the killer, “Chinatown”, the title track, full of tales of drugs and mystery, with one of the best opening riffs and delivery of all time. Wicked. Beautiful, beautiful solo, with the rhythm guitarist and the lead guitarist trading licks, awesome. Living in Singapore and playing in a band, this is one of the songs that we should cover (along with “Chinese Rocks” by the Ramones and “China White” by the Scorpions). “Sweetheart” is a bit weird and sappy, with its nonsense rhyming, but it’s also a nice, thick, dense, driving, catchy rock song. Love it. “Sugar Blues”, the fourth number, is the first (and maybe only) so-so song on the album, although it’s funky in its own rude way – great solo, though! “Killer On The Loose” is about Jack the Ripper, that eternal topic of hard rock songs, with a sweeping, evil backbone that throbs, roars and moans, with spooky dynamics. “Having A Good Time” is Thin Lizzy’s answer to Queen’s “Don’t Stop”, a good raucous fun, happy song, with Phil talking to his bandmates, “we like to party, we like to go out and get drunk.” The next song, “Genocide (The Killing Of The Buffalo)”, is a more sombre affair – a dark, spooky riff, and deep, rumbling vocals about the killing of the buffalo… but really it’s about the killing of the native Americans. “There are people around here who get it right, there are people around here who can’t sleep at night, there are people around here who go slow, there are people round here who don’t take kindly to the killing of the buffalo.” And he fits it all into a great vocal metre – and it just goes on and on and on… awesome! “Didn’t I” is a bluesy, mellow song with some cool lyrics. The last song on the studio album, “Hey You”, has a reggae start-off, then it gets going and going and going. Nice and nasty. “Hey you – you’re heading for a life of crime!!!” It slows down from time to time to be reggae-ish, that’s all right… nice.

The second CD is full of bonus tracks such as a song from the Killer On The Loose 7″ called “Don’t Play Around” (a great song about someone who plays dangerously – hard rocking, “He slipped that knife right into her gut / I wanna tell you she was lucky with what she got”, “If you give your love to someone and someone treats you bad / If you give your love to someone and someone makes you mad / Don’t play around”… screaming solo – best song on the set), we get a live version of it later on as well, a US edit, and a whole bunch of live songs, whether live in Cork, Dublin and Hammersmith in 1980/1981, or from an undated soundcheck. The live songs are great, and fully energetic, with plenty of cool Phil Lynott crowd talk (including some bad jokes at the Hammersmith – “Anyone out there with a little Irish in them? And of the ladies out there who want a little more Irish in them?” There’s also a great version of “Whiskey In The Jar” (recorded in Cork, crowd participation is fantastic – they sing most of the song!!) and “Are You Ready” (live in Dublin), both classic Thin Lizzy songs that don’t actually appear on the first disc, making this the expanded set with the most tidbits to offer! Absolutely stunning solo on “Got To Give It Up”, which is full of great rock moodiness. “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts” from Lynott’s solo album “Solo In Soho” turns up, it sounds… okay. Lynott is a master of crowd response, and the audience is fully under his control in “Killer On The Loose” – he has them in the palm of his hand!! The sound check versions that fill out the end of the CD can be kind of listless (they are also a lot longer than any of the other versions on the release), but the one for “Didn’t I” turns up a nice lyric that isn’t on the original, “There are people in this town that say I don’t give a shit / But the people in this town, there are people who are full of it, there are people who are full of it.” But those sound checks may surprise – “Hey You” speeds up eventually and finishes with a great, blistering (there’s that word again) solo. Rock ‘n’ ROLL!!!!!

Why they left “Don’t Play Around”, their best song from this era, off this album, though, I’ll never know…

TLLAD

TLLAD


Thin Lizzy, “Live And Dangerous”, Expanded EditionThe great live album… although the liner notes go on to dispute how live it really is and how much is added in production, some saying it’s 75% live, others saying that it’s 75% re-created. No matter, though, the album is good fun, starting off with “Breakout”, Phil appealing to the band “we need your helping hands!” He also indulges in crappy jokes, like “Is there anyone here with a little Irish in them? Are there any of the girls who’d like a little more Irish in them?” No matter, they then launch into “Emerald”, one of their best songs, with its rolling riffs and wicked soloing. “Southbound” is fairly chilled out, setting us up for the Bob Seger cover of “Rosalie.” “Dancing In The Moonlight It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)” features some nice saxophone from a member of the Graham Parker band, with which the band was touring with (they were also touring with a band called Clover, that featured a young singer and harmonicist called Huey Lewis), along with its groovy groovy tunes. “Massacre” is mighty and brave (yeah!!!), sounding for all its bluster like a lost Iron Maiden track. That’s followed with the masterful “Still In Love With You”, one of the most amazing songs the band ever recorded for its wandering emotionality and sentiment. That and the huge, huge guitar solos that flood its second half… wow! “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed” is funky strangeness, while “Cowboy Song” starts off CD 2, setting us up for a slam into “The Boys Are Back In Town” (the crowd goes wiiiiiild!!!), and a string of hard-hitting numbers “Don’t Believe A Word”, “Warriors”, and the superior rocker “Are You Ready?” Yes, we’re ready!!! “Suicide” is a slow boiler, sinister storytelling in the full Phil Lynott vein. “Sha-La-La” is a silly, funky song that is mainly a set-up for a drum solo – oooohhh…!!! “Baby Drives Me Crazy” is bluesy funk, and Phil introduces the band, including Huey Lewis on the harmonica. “We’d like you to make a lot of noise for the road crew!” The road crew?!?!? “We’d like to thank everybody for coming, especially if you came two or three times. Are you out there? I said ARE YOU OUT THERE?!?!?” That man was pure show! Album closer “The Rocker” warns little girls to stay out of his way, this is AC/DC territory with a bit less nose and flame. But it funks along with the rock!

The CD also comes with two bonus tracks, “Opium Trail”, which tell scary tales of the Golden Triangle (and has a fantastic wah-driven solo) and “Bad Reputation”, the growling rocker that has another drum solo in it (I guess that they didn’t include this one, seeing as “Sha-La-La” already had one, ha ha…

The set comes wit the Live And Dangerous DVD, which has previously been released along with a ton of other stuff. But, since it’s nice to have it all in one go, we get it all in one go! The beginning of the DVD shows a truck driving down the street to drop off the gear to get the show going, kind of like AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock, okay. But this is Live At The Rainbow, ’78. Band comes in over “Rosalie”, then kicks off with “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Things really get cooking with “Emerald”, probably Thin Lizzy’s best song (among so many standout tracks). Shot of Brian Robertson playing guitar with cigarette in hand is recycled. “If God is in the heavens, how can this happen here” line from “Genocide” is ultra powerful. “Still In Love With You”, Brian Robertson plays first solo, Scott Gorham the second, both amazing. Watching Phil Lynott peel off those lines is just great, even as he plays solid bass lines. Wow. Scott Gorham solo on “Are You Ready” also amazing, Brian Robertson takes a puff of a cig then does his solo. “Sha La La”, Brian Downey solos furiously, the band comes in, more soloing, at the end of the song Downey hits the gong, flash pots go off all right! Introduces band in “Baby Drives Me Crazy”, crowd follows along on that “b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby” stuff, funny. Band goes off, but comes back quickly for an encore of “Me And The Boys” (is this right? sounds like a different song) that is kicked off by Phil and Brian Downey, then Brian Roberston and Scott Gorham come running in, it’s the best song in the set! During the solo, you see a fan touch the headstock of Brian Robertson’s guitar (he often gets close to the crowd when he solos), he pulls back, the guitar stays in tune… and the day is saved.

Metal, Scott McFayden, Port Credit and me

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Far out, man, I watched three Scott McFayden movies over the past 24 hours, all of them on YouTube. Gotta love that. Scott went to high school in Port Credit where I lived; although I didn’t go to that school, my closest friends did, and I may have actually been at a few of the same parties; I may have even met the guy! I wonder if I’d been friends with him how my life would be different now, because he’s doing what I really wanted to do at the time. No matter, though, I’ve done amazing stuff in my life that I’m totally proud of, even if I didn’t get to go on tour with Iron Maiden, or do a documentary on Rush (okay, now I’m getting seriously jealous…).

The movies are good, even if they are filled with a certain kind of wide-eyed Canadian-ness about them. That’s okay, I guess, even if it does come off as a bit naive. Michael Moore he certainly ain’t.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey

Global Metal

Flight 666

Scott’s fourth movie is “Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage”, but that’s not available in full on YouTube. Never mind, though.

Hell’s Belles

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Went with my band’s ex-guitarist, James, to the Beerfest Asia 2012, great party! Beers from all over the world, including evil beers like Satan Beer and Delirium Tremens beer, and barfy beers like the stupid lychee beers. And cider! and Jack Daniels!! And beer girls with weird tattoos!!! And a chest hair contest!!!! And a freaky booby contest!!!!! It cost a lot of money to get in, but then when I was inside, three people just gave me beers, the last one gave it to me “…because you know your music.” Thanks, dude!

The best thing about the show was the music. Shaggy played great music (the male vocalist nailed Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends”, and the female vocalist nailed Whitney Houston. I’m IMPRESSED!!! But we were all really there to see Hell’s Belles, the all-female AC/DC revue, five women from Seattle who play AC/DC as good as the original Australians themselves. Wow!! We were at the front early, enduring 30 minutes of MC jabber to get within sweat-dripping distance of the mock-Angus Young and the quasi-Brian Johnson. Awesome!! They played my favorite AC/DC songs, “TNT”, “Let There Be Rock” and “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”. Beauty!

Satan, Satan, Satan - a devilishly delicious beer!!!!

Satan, Satan, Satan - a devilishly delicious beer!!!!

For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

Let There Be Rock!!!

Let There Be Rock!!!

Supertzar EP

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Wow, our debut EP is finished. Here are the tracks!!! Scroll down to read the lyrics.

“Her Satanic reign must fall, no Queen can have it all!”

Blood Horizon

Queen Of The Night

Love Juice

To Hell We Go

Lyrics

Blood Horizon
(Words: Hoflich, Music: Hoflich/Lee/Toh)

Virus mutates super strain, gonna discharge the cyber grain
People try to undo death, what will be the aftermath
Super-serum super gong, crash just like the atom bomb
Jump into a volcano, just to feel the afterglow

Millions living will not die, nowhere for their souls to fly
Writhing in the undertow, kiss me quickly kill me slow
Climbing up the golden tower, can you feel the burning power?
People do not understand, they think it’s Never Never Land

Paranoia, weak and feeble brain
Gonna shoot your life on down the drain
Listless feeling need to make it right
Or I’m gonna end it all tonight, that’s right

[Guitar Solo]

Please take me far from Heaven, far from Heaven, far from Heaven
Please break me into pieces, into pieces, into pieces
Grind through carnage, I won’t tarnish, I won’t damage in the rampage
Soulless torment, just won’t relent, it’s too garish, I won’t perish

Frankenstein is gonna eat my brain
Doctors, medics, driving me insane
My eyes have drained I cannot even cry
They tell me that I have no right to die, we fly

Queen of the Night
(Words: Hoflich/Lee, Music: Lee)

She rides through the night, she’s Satan’s chosen bride
She’s gonna take your soul, you’ll lose all control
She flies out of Hell, she casts her magic spell
The time has come to flee your fate of misery

She’ll crush you like a fly when you catch her evil eye
She’ll suck your life away as you fall under her sway
The night is deep and black she’ll crawl over your back
Just crack a sickly grin, the sin is closing in

Queen of the night… Queen of the night — got no soul
Queen of the night… Queen of the night — rock and roll

The Queen controls the flood, you’re covered up in blood
Her hair is full of flies, the night fills with your cries
She treads the path to Hell, her body starts to swell
She’ll sacrifice her child to society’s funeral pyre

Queen of the night… Queen of the night — got no soul
Queen of the night… Queen of the night — rock and roll

[Guitar Solo]

Her skin is going to sag, she’ll wither like a hag
We’ll pass her on the street, or grind her beneath our feet
Her Satanic reign must fall, no queen can have it all
But with her infant’s cries, another one will rise

Queen of the night… Queen of the night — got no soul
Queen of the night… Queen of the night — rock and roll

Love Juice
(Words: Hoflich/Lee, Music: Lee)

Oh!
Yeah!

Start me up
Ram it down
Shoot to thrill
Lick it up… tonight…

So give me some of that

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice – setting my body free
Love juice – I just need your touch

Hot blooded
Jungle love
Tease it up
Slide it in… tonight…

So give me some of that

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice – setting my body free
Love juice – I just need your touch

[Guitar Solo]

So give me some of that

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice – setting my body free
Love juice – I just need your touch

Do me raw
Sink the pink
Bang a gong
Get it on… tonight…

So give me some of that

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice – setting my body free
Love juice – I just need your touch

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice – setting my body free
Love juice – I just need your touch

Love juice – running all over me
Love juice – can’t get enough
Love juice!
Yeah!

To Hell We Go
(Words: Hoflich/Lee, Music: Lee)

To the gates of death we go
Gonna find your soul, take back all control
We’re the ones who’re born to rule
The time has come to stop putting up with fools

You just need to play your role
Find your way today, recover what they stole
Rage into the inferno
Where else can I go? The bastards got to know

To Hell we go
To Hell we go

[Guitar Solo]

Life’s a game of deception
We will find the truth, amid all confusion
Turn our backs on the land above
Come with me down to the fields of burning love

To Hell we go
To Hell we go

To Hell we go
To Hell we go

Rock ‘n’ roll weekend

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Good weekend – we finished our EP!!!! I went for a 6 kilometer jog on Saturday morning, 12 kilometers Sunday morning. Awesome!!! But that is hardly the best news – the best news is that Saturday we laid to rest our EP! It’s DONE!!!!! Four songs, and all of them sound awesome. Now we have to think about marketing them. I can’t wait until the day we get our first gig based on someone hearing our songs!

Big bad news – my computer crashed and I lost all of my data. Yes, it finally happened to me too. Luckily I made a backup of my most vital stuff over the last few weeks, so it’s all safe. Yay. But I still have to re-learn my applications and re-learn how to use things, lots of things don’t work the way they should. Big bummer, man…

Sunday we went out for a benefit concert, hoping to play. Only the drummer and me could go, so we hoped to pick up a guitarist and a bass player willing to play songs that we knew. That didn’t happen exactly, but we had a good time, made new friends, and heard some great music! We should have showed up later, but that’s okay. I hope Baby Nur, who we were all raising money for (each member of my band put in $20 each) will be okay.

I also wrote a song. My company wants a song on water conservation, so I gave it some thought over a few days and came up with something! I used the simplest of chords, and it sounds great! This morning as I was jogging the lyrics came to me, and so did the melody (although by the time I got around to playing it I’d forgotten how to play it – never mind, at least I had the words).

My big bad Guns N’ Roses page

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

CDs

GNRAFDx2

GNRAFDx2

Appetite For Destruction -

GNRL

GNRL

The idea of reviewing Appetite For Destruction in this day and age seems pretty silly, since anybody who likes dirty rock and roll has probably heard this album a million billion times. Perhaps I can make a few observations:
- for certain moods, nothing other will do
- it’s probably the best rock and roll album of all time
- it’s awesome how some songs are either led by Duff’s bass, or feature it prominently (his punk roots, where bass guitars are high and prominent)
- Stephen Adler was the right drummer for the band
- As a ballad, Sweet Child O’ Mine is perfectly acceptable; the ballads on the band’s later albums are generally unacceptable
- Night Train’s lyrics are tops
- Paradise City is the best song on the album; I think it’s pretty cool that they filmed the video while an opening band for Aerosmith; talk about opportunism!
- My Michelle is vicious; I’d hardly heard the song before, since it was not on the early “greatest hits” mix tape that I had from friends
- Think About You is a pretty decent rocker, but the production values are pretty cheesy during the choruses; I wonder if they ever played it live
- Axl’s singing style on the album is pretty unpretentious
- Anything Goes is an undiscovered gem
- Rocket Queen is probably the best album closer ever

G N’ R Lies – Probably the first Guns N’ Roses song that I really liked was “Patience”, probably their wimpiest… but at the end of the day still one of their very good ones. I got a kick out of the video, the shot of Stephen Adler sittin’ around with his drumsticks looking bored, nothing to do (there’s no drum track on the album). Altogether, the album is a bit hollow, what with it only being eight songs, two of which are covers, one of them being a re-recording. Interestingly, the first four (live) songs were released before Appetite For Destruction when the band was getting restless about not having their dream producer and studio lined up so Geffen Records okayed a mini-release that looked like an indie release with its own fake indie label Uzi Suicide. Nice. Smart move, though, because by the time Appetite For Destruction took off like a rocket they had half of a new LP already in the can. Of the three new songs, “Used To Love Her” is a throwaway item, recorded in half an hour. “One In A Million” is one of those great songs that is both really subdued while being really angry at the same time. Sure it has those controversial lyrics, but I sometimes wonder if they even existed in the early versions, and Axl put them in later just to be controversial. I love playing “Patience” and “One In A Million” on the acoustic guitar, and not just because they both have Duff leading in with his “one – two – one, two, three, four”.

Of the other songs, it’s cool to hear “Move To The City”, probably the only Guns N’ Roses song with a horn section (Slash writes about it in his book), and “Mama Kin” probably has the most sleazy rock ‘n’ roll intro to any song ever – “this is a song about your fuckin’ mother.”

UYII

UYII


UYIII

UYIII

Use Your Illusion I and II – This is the real thing – 30 slabs of savage rock ‘n’ roll. I had selections of this release on a tape many many many years ago, but it left off 10-12 numbers that I’d never heard until I finally finally got both CDs. The funny thing is that I couldn’t get Use Your Illusion in any shop in Singapore, I had to ask my wife to bring them back from Japan with her. Go figure!

I love all the songs. Use Your Illusion I (gold color) starts of with “Right Next Door To Hell”, not a great to song, but it does have a great bass intro, like so many of the band’s best songs (a punk layover – Duff played in punk bands, which tend to enjoy using the bass to set up songs). “Dust N’ Bones” is a weird, slow sleazy groaner, whiskey-soaked, really perfect, although maybe Axl does lay the experimental vocal stuff on a bit thick (some of it sounds like Tuvan throat singing – what is this, the Mekons?!?). “Live And Let Die” is the inexplicable Paul McCartney cover… well, it sounds okay, but I tend to skip over it a lot, since it is very repetitive. “Don’t Cry” on the first disc is nice, sorta, but over-played (especially since we get a second version of it on disc two (I can’t tell them apart, maybe need a few more listens – musically they’re identical, but with different verses and vocal metre…). Nice, I should try the same thing with my band, just burn a bit more studio time. “Perfect Crime” kicks out the jams, sounding screechy like underdeveloped songs from the 1986 EP, while “You Ain’t The First” is some sort of weird cow punk novelty song that wouldn’t quite feel out of place on the Doctor Demento show, her yuck. Hey, it’s a double album, lots of room to try goofy new things, no reason to write a tight, punchy album like Appetite For Destruction. But it’s still a fun-enough song. Hah. “Bad Obsession” is sleazy slide guitar-fuelled harmonica rock, also something a bit different. “Back Off Bitch” is a catchy song that rocks and steams. Nazty “bitch-bitch-bitch-bitch” thing happening at the end of that. Very dramatic. “Double Talkin’ Jive” is a groovy tune that nearly sounds like it could have been on Appetite For Destruction. Great solo, love this song, especially the Spanish guitar at the end. Unfortunately, it’s followed by the annoying “November Rain”, with its orchestras, backup singers, grand pianos, seas of roses, and all sorts of other crap. Well, whatever. Confusingly, this is followed by two songs about gardens – “The Garden” and “Garden Of Eden.” The former starts off less praising, but then Alice Cooper comes in and it gets sinister. Nice. “Garden Of Eden” is high octane, but not all that nice as Axl jibbers and jabbers and chatters. No matter, all of these songs, whether they’re good or not, have a sensationally blustery Slash-driven solo. “Don’t Damn Me” is a damn good song, even without the weird cartoon-character-getting-hit-on-the-head googly sound Axl makes at the beginning. “Bad Apples” gets off to a jazzy start before hitting out into some wicked honky tonk (this album sometimes sounds more like a Rolling Stones album than a Guns N’ Roses album somehow, y’know?) “Dead Horse” is a catchy song that starts off mellow and then gets blazing. Nice. The last song on the album is probably the best – “Coma.” It is also the longest, and with its tricky ending probably also the most challenging to perform – legend has it that the band only performed it four times (one of which was captured for the Live Era CD). Simply and spooky intro, weird drama through voices of medics and nurses, more drama with sighs and snatches of dialogue as the dying Axl Rose’s life flashes before his eyes (and our ears). The breathless singing at the end is really a wonder to behold. Who would ever want this 10 minute-long song to end?

Use Your Illusion II (blue cover) starts off with “Civil War”, probably one of the all time greatest Guns N’ Roses songs, and the first one I heard from this song. Great use of lines from “Cool Hand Luke”, awesome acoustic intro, whistling, bass, low-key singing, before the song goes mental. Better than “You Could Be Mine”, which is saying a lot; not sure how I feel about Axl’s “planning civil war” rap – how does it fit in? – but the song is marvelous. Next up, “14 Years” is sort of a parallel to the second song on Use Your Illusion I, “Dust N’ Bones”, although “14 Years” steps it up with a bit more life, a bit less sleaze. “Yesterdays” is a pretty little song, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is the Bob Dylan song… sorry, I just don’t feel the magic. “Get In The Ring” is one of the best songs on the album in the way that it keeps you guessing what it’s really about – first there are crowd sounds, then a sleazy little groove rocker, that picks up pace to some hard hitting rock ‘n’ roll and some hate-drenched Axl lyrics, and a rant against journalists who print lies about Guns N’ Roses, specifically Nick Wall of Kerrang, Andy Secher of Hit Parader and Bob Guccione Jr of Spin magazine, challenging them all to get into the ring to fight Guns N’ Roses, which is “weighing in at 850 pounds”. Good luck – I don’t think anyone took up the offer (although Wikipedia says Guccione Jr did accept the offer, with no fight occurring). The song ends with a mysterious “… and to all those who oppose… well?” “Shotgun Blues” is a big piece of sass against some asshole who pissed Axl off (old story by now). Great solo by Slash. “Breakdown” is one of those long, sprawling songs, with several musical sections, that proceeds well and nicely, starting off like a honky tonk with some piano, nice melodies, great singing, a wacky ending with all sorts of bizarre stuff coming from the singer, especially after the solo, “there goes the challenger”, doing some sort of radio DJ/monster truck rally announcer schtick. And the closing words, “If the evil spirit arms the tiger with claws, Rama provides wings to the dove.” “Pretty Tied Up” is a cool tune, starting off with some movie vamp, “the pearls of rock ‘n’ roll decadence”, or something like that. “Locomotive” is pretty funky and metallic, it rages and rages. The song also refers to “use your illusion” in its lyrics. “So Fine” is initially a lame pretty song, made interesting because that’s Duff McKagan singing (an ode to Johnny Thunders!) the rocking choruses that follow Axl’s pretty boy singing. It’s a good, stripped down tune. It’s followed by the bombast of “Estranged”, which could easily have become another “November Rain”, but it’s a pretty great song, with four or five amazing solos from Slash. Love it. After that, another raging hit, “You Could Be Mine”, which blasts into our memories via the Terminator 2 soundtrack (images of Arnie barreling down at us on his Harley Davidson, shotguns blazing, are quite awesome. Okay, then we get another version of “Don’t Cry” (been there, done that), and then “My World”, one of the strangest, most self indulgent tracks on any group album – Axl spewing ugly lyrics over an industrial beat and sound sampling the like of which has never been attempted on any industrial album, that simply doesn’t suit Axl’s shrill vocal chords. Apparently, the other members of the band had no inkling this had been dreamed up and were surprised to hear it when they played the CD for themselves for the first time.

And why do I keep comparing this album to its predecessor? It’s hard not to, especially when that album was the biggest-selling debut album of al time, at a time when having a smash debut is so rare (Van Halen, Boston… uhhh…).

So, in the end, how many of the songs on this album are as good as those on Appetite For Destruction?

GNRLA8793

GNRLA8793

Live Era ’87-’93 – While the artwork is chock full of Guns N’ Roses live concert posters going all the way back to the beginning, no show here is really earlier than June 28th, 1987 when the band played London (I don’t know what the “93″ refers to, since the latest show on this release was September 4th 1992, a Houston show when they played Black Sabbath’s “It’s Alright”). Overall, there are more songs from 1992 (16 of the 21 total songs); most of the second disc is 1992 songs, although to be fair those are evenly divided between Use Your Illusion songs and songs from other albums (including the Black Sabbath cover, as a bonus). Many of the songs are highly faithful to their original album versions, while quite a few others are extended (in a good way, in the case of “Move To The City”); the only real failures are “Patience”, which doesn’t benefit from the added drums (and has some off-tune whistling courtesy of Axl, and an ickyly over-done version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, a song I wish they never covered. The band plays shows from

Buenos Aires, Las Vegas, London (1987, 1992 and 1992), New York City, Paris and Tokyo (1988 and 1992). The Japanese version of the collection has a version of “Coma” (which they have reportedly only ever played live four times) from Omaha in 1993, so I guess that’s where the “93″ in the title comes from…

The magic of the show is the glorious crowd sounds, although when the band is wallowing in its most pompous and grandiose Axl Rose moments (“November Rain”, Dizzy Reed piano solos, the reggae moment of the over-the-top “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, etc), the giant stadium crowd bellow reminds us of how over-indulgent and out of touch they were (or at least Axl was) during those years. Funnily enough, you don’t hear Axl being the notorious asshole that he is; to the contrary, he tells the audience not to get too worked up because they have a long concert ahead of them, that they were adding songs and extending the concert, and asking for people to take a step back so that those at the front don’t get too creamed (“Phil, turn on the house lights”).

The album starts with a concert opener, where we hear the crowd, we get some wrestling announcer coming out sneering “You wanted the best? Well they couldn’t fuckin’ make it. Instead, straight from Hollywood, Guns N’ Roses” and a nice choo choo whistle, before the band launches into searing version of “Night Train”. The first four songs are from the debut album and they just blister and are spot on, and “Welcome To The Jungle”, from a Buenos Aires concert in 1992, is totally spot-on. So is Duff in his vocal turn in “Dust N’ Bones”. Strangely, the version of “You’re Crazy” that they play sounds like an electrified performance of the chilled-out acoustic version from Lies, not my preferred version personally. “Used To Love Her” starts off with a lame opening “this is a joke song” excuse from Axl, the song is kind of limp. “Patience” doesn’t really work either, from Axl’s off-tune whistling, to the weird sound of drums coming in mid-song, and Axl’s freaky extended moan and groan at the end of the song. That’s followed by a Dizzy Reed piano bit, before the group breaks into “It’s Alright”, which is mainly Axl and Dizzy. Then there’s another long Dizzy Reed solo before a particularly endless 12-minute “November Rain”. “Move To The City” is quite magnificent, in a resplendent 8-minute version of the song (more than double the original) that has a long break with a great horn segment, then a cool organ and piano bit (followed, of course, by a blistering solo courtesy of Slash). Very nice!!! “You Could Be Mine” is pretty damn nice. There’s a long delay on “Rocket Queen” when the band boogies for a while, and Axl does a bit of audience management – it works out nicely, because it is a great song to build up tension on. Wow! Slash does a bit of backup vocals, Axl at one point yells out “smile!” The solo’s quite extended, with a bit of talk box guitar from Slash (or is it Gilby Clark?). “Sweet Child Of Mine” has a freaky deaky extra ending, when the band grunges out and Axl adds some extra “Sweet chillllllld… sweet chilllllllld…. sweet chillllllddddd…” Sounds kinda weird, actually… “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is a regular big bad song, with some audience interaction, some reggae… a little bit of everything, really (and more of it!). “Don’t Cry” is a pretty regular version of what’s on the album (not sure which of the two it is, but it doesn’t matter – it’s just the lyrics that are different anyway). “Estranged” is the same, except for the bit where Axl introduces the keyboardist, “ladies and gentlemen, on the keyboard, Mr Dizzy Reed.” There sure is a lot of Dizzy Reed on this album, actually… he’s also the only member of the band to be introduced (except for the horn section, which is not introduced by name, merely as “the Band”, on “Move To The City”). Appropriately, the set finishes off with “Paradise City”, with huge crowd roars and bombast at the end. “LAS VEGAS!!!!”

The CD booklet is a fun little thing, with great early photos of the band, Axl onstage with cigarette in hand and tussled hair; it’s cool seeing Izzy Stradlin still in the band. At one point you see a pic of Slash arching back more than 45 degrees, and you see a shot of his shoes – could those be the famous moccasins that he wore when he tried out for Poison all those many many years ago (the moccasins cost him the job – good thing too)? The most tantalizing thing about the package is the great gig posters shown throughout the booklet – there are 24, including some for “The New Hollywood Rose”, and one that has them co-headlining with “the wettest, wildest bikini shake off of 1986 with a $50 cash prize to the winner”.

Only missing song – “Get In The Ring”, which was sheerly written to be played live. I wonder if they ever did?

CD
Chinese Democracy – So Guns ‘n’ Roses finally released their new album.  I remember just out of high school when they released Use Your Illusion, their last album of original songs, and now I’m nearly 40 years old.  A lot of musical careers have come and gone in the meantime, and then up pops Axl again as if it’s the 1980s still.  Wow.  After 17 years, expectations are high, so we set our sights low.  The album doesn’t start off well, with the first four tracks scratchy and rocky and not memorable.  “Street of Dreams” sounds like an Elton John song.  The fifth track “If The World,” which is sort of like a James Bond sountrack-type song, sets off a run of good songs that lasts most of the album.  Axl uses about four guitarists – although on one song six guitarists, including Axl himself, are credited – and it’s hard to tell which one of them has that gutsy, bluesy Slash sound that appears on some albums, but Slash’s absence is quite apparent here.  And yet, “There Was A Time” closes with just such a screaming wah-heavy guitar solo.  Nice.  “Catcher In The Rye” is another catchy number that is generally quite well-constructed.  “Scraped” is a gnarly rocker.  “Riad N’ the Bedouins” is nothing special, but “Sorry” is a pretty cool little number with a Gary Moore-like guitar solo that floats across a room.  “IRS” may be one of the best songs on the album – it starts off with a bit of trip hop, then some sparsely-produced dirty rock ‘n’ roll that builds in momentum to become a piece of searing guitar work and vocal sandpaper screeching that would not have sounded out of place on Use Your Illusion.  But then again, if “Chinese Democracy” had been as good as “Use Your Illusion” or “Appetite for Destruction,” this would have been one of the lesser pieces on the release.  “Madagasgar” starts off with pretentious ELP keyboards that project the melody that starts to sound like soundtrack music until Axl starts croaking.  Just over a minute into the song, it picks up and moves forward in a slow burn of majestic rock fury, completing with a suite of movie (Cool Hand Luke, Mississippi Burning, Seven and others) and Martin Luther King samples.  “This I Love” is a guitar-less orchestral ballad composed by Axl that is so-so.  Album closer “Prostitute” is, again, nothing special.

SSIFOS

SSIFOS

Slash’s Snakepit, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – A nice little album that somehow manages to sound like sheer rock ‘n’ roll without sounding obviously Guns N’ Roses. It’s Slash’s own little recording (even if it does sound like Bon Jovi in parts, or maybe Mindfunk. Opening song “Neither Can I” is a nice little number, that starts off with mellow guitar and harmonica, with some groovy bluesy tuneage, before it cranks up quite a lot. “Dime Store Rock” is very much like a Mindfunk song, and the singing voice of Eric Dover (of Jellyfish fame) is sometimes a bit similar to Mindfunk’s Patrick Dubar), it’s a high speed rocker that sounds great, and has a cool, funky, psychedelic outro jam. Two great songs to open the album that come just before the “hit single,” “Beggars And Hangers-ons”, which starts off with a bit of funky slide guitar-sounding weird funk. There’s a Bon Jovi-esque opening vocal bit, and then that winning chorus. “Good To Be Alive” is sturdy rock ‘n’ roll, as is “What Do You Want To Be”, “Take It Away”, “Doin’ Time”, “I Hate Everybody (But You)” (with its great lyric “If I end up getting screwed, well I might as well get screwed by you”) and “Monkey Chow”.

“Soma City Ward” is a song that has a bit of a promise of a real Guns N’ Roses riff, and the song is good fun and has beat (albeit some strange background vocals from the band itself). Great solo! “Jizz Da Pit” does too, sorta, and it has a great stomping beat… but it’s just an instrumental jam-around! “Lower” is moodier and scummier, about drugs and all that. “Be The Ball” is a very good, clean, punky rocker, written by Slash. “Back And Forth Again” starts off with nice keyboards and acoustic guitar, and seems to be the only mellow song on the album.

Gunners Gilby Clark and Matt Sorum contribute to this project, and Duff gets a songwriting credit on “Beggars And Hangers-on”, although the main contributors are still the members of the band (minus bassist Mike Inez, who just played).

Books

Both Slash and Duff have autobiographies out at nearly the same time. Well, not exactly… Slash’s came out in 2005 when he and Duff were still in Velvet Revolver, Duff’s came out in 2011 when that band was a thing of the past. Duff’s book even comes out after his association with Jane’s Addiction had become a thing of the past, although he doesn’t bother to mention it in his tome. No surprise – there’s probably a lot that was left out of these books, mostly for legal reasons. Yes, sigh, this is rock ‘n’ roll.

Slash

Slash

Slash – I love Guns N’ Roses, and I especially love Slash, this cool and generous rock star who just drips rock ‘n’ roll style, with his top hat, his Keith Richards cool, the hair covering the eyes like some character from the Munsters or the Fat Albert comic strip, and his ever-present Les Paul – awesome. The book was so good, I read it twice.

It’s lucky this book ever happened, given Slash’s suicidal use of drugs and alcohol, but given his extensive use of day planners through even his darkest drug-soaked periods, it’s able to tell his whole life story quite carefully, even if there are chapters when you can tell that his lawyers have advised that he re-write certain pieces to explain a strange legal predicament he has found himself in (or to be specifically vague, like saying “at least that was my take on the situation”). This comes about specifically around his relationship with Axl, and also something about the fact that he has his own manager with in Velvet Revolver (and what about the nonsense about how the chose the name Velvet REVOLVER, not ever mentioning that a REVOLVER is a type of GUN!!!). Oh well.

Axl hasn’t written his own autobiography, which would be interesting to see – he may have one in the works, as a notorious motormouth who takes ages to decide on anything – but Duff McKagan (with whom Slash plays with in Velvet Revolver) has, and it’s interesting to read both to see how the stories corroborate (some things will differ, of course – Slash’s book came out in 2005, when Velvet Revolver was still a band, while Duff’s book has come out in 2011 when Velvet Revolver looks broken up). My biggest beef with the book is the short shrift he gives to his brother Albion (who goes by the name “Ash” – Slash and Ash… Sheesh…), who he shows in baby pictures, but only mentions two or three times. What’s up with that, man?

The book has a section of color photos, but there are also great photos throughout the regular pages in black and white, which you don’t see too often in bios or auto-bios. These pictures include some of Slash playing guitar as a teen when he had a bit of an afro and looked more like Todd Bridges than the Slash we know. I especially love hearing the story of how he got the name Slash from actor Seymour Cassel, and how he sometimes refers to himself as “the Slasher” (kind of like how Jeff Bridges, playing Jeffrey Lebowksi in The Big Lebowski, calls himself “the Duder” in one scene). Ha ha ha… Nearly every page has at least one great anecdote on it, or some sort of cool/weird insight into being at the top of the music world.

You get all of these great anecdotes about growing up in Los Angeles, hanging out with David Bowie and Iggy Pop (Slash’s mum dated Bowie once), on top of all sorts of nutty delinquent stories about BMX battles/injuries and all sorts of other shenanigans. Slash’s dad is an artist, who has done album covers for Joni Mitchell and others, and Slash adds illustration to his many other talents. It shouldn’t matter, but this artistic skill was instrumental in getting the band to form, somehow: below you can see the picture of Aerosmith that Slash drew for his friend Mark Canter that attracted the interest of Izzy Stradlin, an Indiana transplant in Los Angeles, and set things in motion for Guns N’ Roses to form (seeing how it also attracted another Indiana transplant that Izzy knew from back home by the name of Bill Bailey, aka W Axl Rose):

SA

SA

Slash tells his tale chronologically, albeit with a single page at the front of the first chapter told from the perspective of near-modern day (the rest of the chapters in the book have these really beautiful mission statements – I love them all, they are often better than the whole chapter), before jumping back to before he was born. His childhood is interesting – both of his parents seem really cool, and California is not such a bad place to grow up, but eventually it gets strange, and Slash enters a bizarre period of gypsy life the is only grounded by his love for life, guitars, and rock ‘n’ roll (he started off BMX-crazy, but that changed when he found music). Eventually he meets the guys that form the band, disjointedly. First Stephen, then Izzy, then Duff, then Hollywood Rose, then LA Guns, then Poison (which became Guns N’ Roses’ most despised band eventually, heh heh – and Slash once auditioned for them), then Megadeth, and then, finally Axl.

Here’s what kind of tone the preludes set:

Prelude to Chapter 6

We weren’t exactly the type of people who took no for an answer. We were much more likely to give no for an answer. As individuals, each of us was street-smart, self-sufficient, and used to doing things his way only – death before compromise. When we became a unit, that quality multiplied by five, because we’d have one another’s backs as fiercely as we’d stood up for ourselves. Our group willpower drove us to succeed on our own terms, but never made the ride any easier. We were unlike the other bands of the day; we didn’t take kindly to criticism from anyone – not our peers, not the charlatans that tried to sign us to unfair management contracts, not the A&R reps vying to hand us a deal. We did nothing to court acceptance and we shunned easy success. We waited for our popularity to speak for itself and for the industry to take notice. And when it did, we made them pay.

Of course, the relationship between Slash and Axl is the core of Guns N’ Roses – and probably the reason many of us are reading this book – and there are several episodes where he talks honestly about his relationship with Axl, but the first is interesting – Izzy had the world’s worst demo tape of his band at the time, with a young Axl as its singer, that he played for Slash:

It sounded like they were playing deep inside a jet engine. But through the static din, way in the background, I heard something intriguing, that I believed to be their singer’s voice. It was hard to make out and his squeal was so high-pitched that I thought it might be a technical flaw in the tape. It sounded like the squeak that a cassette makes just before the tape snaps – except it was in key.

They eventually get to know each other, but Slash never really gets to understand Axl’s way of thinking – and especially not when Axl jumped out of a car that was moving at 40 mph to avoid a confrontation with Slash (Axl had told Slash’s cherished grandmother to fuck off and Slash was trying to figure out what happened). After jumping out of the care, Axl showed up four days later and acted like nothing had happened. “It was pretty clear to me from that point forward that Axl had a few personality traits that set him very far apart from every other person I’d ever known.” Later he continues to describe the hotheadedness of W Axl Rose:

Axl is a dramatic kind of individual. Everything he says or does has a meaning, a theatrical place in his mind, in a blown-out-of-proportion kind of way. Little things become greatly exaggerated, so that interactions with people can become magnified into major issues. The bottom line is, he has his own way of looking at things. I am a pretty easygoing guy, so I’m told, so when Axl would fly off the handle, I never followed suit. I’d be like, “what?” and blow it off. There were such dramatic highs and lows and extreme mood swings that being close to him always felt like a roller-coaster ride. What I didn’t know then was that this would be a recurring theme.

But Slash also offers a great description of what made Guns N’ Roses such a great band and how they worked together, the reason why it was all worth it:

As a unit, the entire band had a simple but effective way of playing together. Steven would watch my left foot to determine the tempo, and he’d look to Duff to cue every drum and bass fill. These two had a really cohesive relationship – they would communicate the changes and subtleties of every single song through eye contact. Meanwhile, Izzy played all around the riffs that I’d be playing beside Duff: he and I would do Led Zeppelin-style single-note riffs while Izzy brought simple chord patterns that fell around the beat instead of on it. For every downbeat, Izzy had an upbeat. It made for a pretty complex-sounding rock and roll band, but at its core it was very simply executed.

Great tales of hanging out in LA, with bikers in the Hell House, which was “so raucous that from a distance it appeared to be vibrating.” (great use of the words “raucous” and “vibrating” in the same sentence) In the early days of the band, they learned to live like animals in the jungle where they played, and there are years where their foot to mouth living was legendary (and which the BBC, its interview with Duff, called “abysmal”, but which the guys obviously had no problem with. Things got better when they got their six-figure advance from Geffen.

We actually got a bit domestic for a moment and went out and rented some furniture – two beds and a kitchen dinette set. We rounded out the decor with a couch we found in the alley behind the building and at TV that Steven’s mom donated to our cause. When we first moved in, Steve’s mom also kicked us off with some groceries. It was the only time that we ever had them – for maybe a week, if you opened our fridge it actually looked like somebody lived there.

Evictions and domestic destruction followed for years and years. Who knows why these guys destroyed so many rooms and so much furniture. Annihilation of vans and hotel rooms ensues:

One night, while we were on tour somewhere, I decided to end the evening by throwing my bottle of Jack into the TV set in my hotel room before I passed out. It exploded, of cousre, and [security guard] Ronnie came in. We were a number of stories up, but Ronnie decided that we weren’t going to pay for that TV. He climbed out of my window, across the ledge of the building, and into an adjoining room, where he stole that TV and replaced it with the one I had broken. Now that’s dedication!

A similar thing happened later on when several people close to Slash tried to stage another intervention to stop his drug use:

To illustrate his “seriousness”, [manager Doug Goldstein] threw a bottle of Jack Daniel’s through the television. When he left, I retrieved that bottle, which hadn’t broken, and poured myself a stiff drink to get over his intervention.”

In the early days, the band’s rehearsal space wasn’t so great either, and Slash describes it with his characteristic precision and self-deprecating wit: “This little box was about eight feet by twenty feet, just very narrow and long, and was lit up by unpleasantly bright, hospital-strength fluorescent lights. Basically it was like rehearsing in a 7-Eleven.”

Crazy shit kept happening, like the time Slash got arrested just metros away from his home:

[The cops] stuffed Danny and me in the back of the patrol car and continued on with their unstated mission to bust every long-haired “vagrant” in sight on their way back to the station. Less than a mile down the street, they picked up Mike Levine, the bass player from Triumph [probably in town recording The Sport Of Kings with Mike Clink, whom we'll hear more about later; PH], who was exiting a 7-Eleven and heading to his car with some beer under his arm, on the premise that he intended to drink and drive. They put him in the back and continued on.

I used to loooooove Triumph as a kid, it’s cool that Mike Clink produced a Triumph album just before he did Appetite For Destruction (meanwhile, Duff McKagan, in his autobiography, takes time to note that he really hates Triumph, although he likes Clink).

The quest for the right producer is also amusing. One guy, who had produced Motley Crue and Ted Nugent, among others, did a U-turn when he heard how loud these guys played in practice. Paul Stanley of KISS was also shooed away with his crappy rockstar approach. “‘First thing is first,’ he said. ‘I wanna rewrite ‘Welcome To The Jungle.’ According to Paul, the song had real potential, but it lacked an impactful structure. What it needed was a chorus that was more memorable, more singsong, more anthemic – in a word, more like a KISS song.” All this while Slash and Izzy were nodding on a heroin high. Next!

Slash mentions a weird distaste for Great White, and it was always a problem that Guns N’ Roses’ manager Alan Niven was also associated with Great White (“there really wasn’t a band other than Poison that stood for everything we hated more than Great White, and our manager, Alan Niven, managed them. This enraged Axl on a daily basis, particularly after Alan forced Guns to fill in for them at the Ritz in New York at an MTV concert in 1988″). We get all sorts of trivia as well – apparently the girl moaning in Rocket Queen is Adrianna Smith, and she’s really getting it on with Axl for some extra drama during a long bridge. Wow. Here she is hanging out with Slash ‘n’ Axl.

ASSAR

ASSAR

Great anecdotes of touring with the Cult, Motley Crue, Faith No More (whose album “The Real Thing” Guns N’ Roses loved listening to when they were trying to record in Chicago, but who ended up slagging Guns N’ Roses from the stage), Iron Maiden (who Axl got confrontational with – but it was on this tour that the band started to get a sense that people were coming out to see them, from the reaction when they had to stop a set because of an Axl act-up), Metallica (who they let down the night in Montreal that James caught on fire), Nine Inch Nails and dozens of other great bands.

Or in Canada on the Cult’s Electric tour, Slash fell asleep in the lobby of the Cult’s hotel, pissed his pants, and found himself unable to get back to his own room.

The staff at the hotel would not help me at all, probably because I was soaked in pee and smelled like a bar. I headed out into the Canadian cold; it was freezing, and I wandered around, just hoping I’d find my way. The only hotel that I could see once I got outside was a long way away, but lucky for me it turned out to be ours. I was even luckier to be wearing my leather pants, because I wasn’t as frozen as I might have been [if I'd been wearing something else]. That’s a wonderful side effect of leather pants: when you pee yourself in them, they’re more forgiving than jeans.

He compares the early Guns N’ Roses touring machine to movies like Slapshot (playing in hockey arenas) and the Bad News Bears (for being disorganized), hee-yuk. “I imagine that The Cult looked at us like a volatile piece of equipment: we were interesting to some of them because we had a unique timbre; but we were a machine that might crap out at any moment.”

Slash is famous for saying that if one of the LA groupies had AIDS, all of the LA musicians would get it because they all slept with the same girls, and the AIDS scare does set in… sorta. “It started a strange hysteria among rock musicians; everyone was alarmed, but most of us still felt immune to the whole thing. We figured that no one need to worry about it until David Lee Roth got it.”

The album is out a year, and before they know it they are mega-stars:

The truth is, all we ever cared to do was top the bulllshit hair metal bands that enjoyed undue success for this subpar existence. We – well, I at least – never wanted to be Madonna; that kind of pop-star reality had nothing to do with what our band was about, according to me. But before I knew it, that’s where we landed almost over night.

(incidentally, there’s a nice example here of Slash repeating himself – “before I knew it”… “overnight.” He’s also fond of forecasting [you'll read more about this later] and tedious back-referencing [as I mentioned previously...], kind of the way my dad would when he tells a story. He also uses phrases like “excessively overindulgent”, and “I was literally out of my mind.”))

The band gets to Japan on an early tour, but is alienated by the language barrier and “watered-down drinks and bad blow”, meaning that “my memories of that tour come down to three things: sticky rice, sake, and Jack Daniel’s.” Slash also mentions an incident that’s in Duff’s book – someone smashing a Japanese camera at customs and getting a bad rep with US customs; Slash claims it was Izzy, but Duff admits that he was the perpetrator. Hmmm…

Most of my dealers had started avoiding me.

Slash probably doesn’t talk enough about his drinking and drugs, but he does talk about a few bad episodes, and the heroin addiction that did in friends like Todd Crew and West Arkeen. In the end, though, it probably amounts to him finally growing up, getting married, and having kids. Seeing him at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, though, he looks like he’s in better shape than Duff, though, so he couldn’t have been that bad. But he was bad. A lot of people didn’t make it, but Slash did (same with Keith, Ozzy, Lemmy, Aerosmith, Motley Crue and a few other Rock ‘n’ Roll survivors).

Then there’s the time he’s so strung out on drugs that his mom talk to David Bowie (David Bowie – his mom’s ex-lover!!!!) about getting into rehab:

David was engaging, and wise in the ways of chemical abuse. He asked me about what I was doing drug wise and what I was going through emotionally, psychically, and with the band. I rambled on for a while, but once I started talking about my little translucent friends, David interrupted me. The conversation as a whole was way to involved to have with someone that he hadn’t seen since they war eight years old, but he’d hear enough.

“Listen to me,” he said. “You are not in a good way. If you are seeing things every day, what you are doing to yourself is not good at all. You are at a very spiritual low point when that begins to happen.” He paused for a moment. “You are exposing yourself to the darker realm of your subconscious being. You are making yourself vulnerable to all kinds of negative energy.”

I was so far gone that I didn’t agree: I thought of my hallucinations as my good-time entertainment.

“Okay, that’s cool.” I said. “Yeah, I suppose that’s bad… Duly noted.”

In Chicago, when the band tried to get together do record songs for a follow-up to Appetite For Destruction, the boys have lots of free time as Axl hardly shows up for sessions:

In our plentiful free time, Duff and I also did our personal best to stay in shape. I had one of my BMX bikes out there and I used to ride it between the apartment and the rehearsal space, bunny-hopping over everything in sight, riding on the sidewalk. It was a good workout. Some days Duff and I even went to the gym, usually just after our morning vodkas. We’d go down to one of those big public YMCAs with our security guard, Earl, to pump iron. We’d be down there in our jeans, doing sets between cigarette breaks – it was invigorating. We’d usually cool down afterward with cocktails at a sports bar.

Weird for Slash to admit his “lifelong obsession with cooking shows,” though “to this day, I don’t cook at all. At night we’d order out.”

Slash makes new friends:

Duff and I ran into Iggy Pop during our down time and he asks due to play on Brick By Brick. We went down to meet him at the Rainbow, where we got into his car and listened to the demos, which was very cool. Iggy is Duff’s ultimate hero and there was a little bit of history there on my end because of Bowie – he and my mom had gone to visit Iggy at the Cedars psych ward. We showed up in Hollywood and laid down some tracks with him: “Home Boy”, “Pussy Power”, and a song that Iggy and I co-wrote, “My Baby Wants To Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It was one of the most fun sessions I’d ever had. Not long after that, we also did the video with him for “Home Boy.”

Slash makes even more new friends:

At the end of the [Freddy Mercury] tribute concert we all did “We Are The Champions”. It was a monumental gig, but the most memorable part of the evening was when I took my pants off in front of Liz Taylor: I was in the green room changing and she opened the door, her entourage in tow, and caught me in a T-shirt with no pants on at all. She didn’t have a look of embarrassment in the least; she was absolutely devilish – I could feel it in my loins that she was having a look.

That was the gig that Duff, in his book, describes as being carried onstage by Elton John, who propped him up between two other famous musicians so that he could even do his bit… because he was too drunk to do it under his own power.

Great descriptions of the tour with Metallica, who were riding high on The Black Album even as Guns N’ Roses were touring Appetite For Destruction. Not all happy stories, though, as the Montreal audience rioted following a gig: James Hatfield had been burned by pyrotechnics, but instead of filling in for the injured James, Guns N’ Roses only goes on four hours later, with Axl pulling the plug early due to voice strain; riot.

In the book, Slash mentions the cameramen who followed them from gig to gig for two years. Wow – what those tapes must have in them!!! I guess no one but Axl and the lawyers will ever see them.

Those guys were close friends, so we really let them in and they really got it all. They captured the kind of history that anyone aside from the members of the band would never see. One night the cameras caught Izzy and me jamming on our acoustic guitars, just hitting loose stuff the way we did when no one was around. We fell into the pocket so naturally, and it felt comfortable and so great, that I’d love to see a tape of that. We have two years of footage, in fact, all of which is in a vault that will remain shut forever unless Axl and the rest of us get our differences ironed out. That footage is the Holy Grail of Guns N’ Roses; seeing the film that would result from condensing the best moments into two hours would be the be-all and end-all of knowing exactly who we were and who we are.

There’s a great anecdote about puking all over an Italian restaurant after too many grappa shots.

It flowed across the plates and everything and started dripping on the floor. I don’t know what was wrong with the owners of the place, but they found it charming. They were so honored to have us there that me puking up my meal at the table was A-OK. I commemorated the night by signing their guest book: “Of all the restaurants in the world, this is definitely one of them!” That line, by the way, was definitely stolen from Mike “McBob” Mayhew.

The end of the Use Your Illusion tour was the end of an era, and it would never be re-captured again.

When we returned to LA, we had the honor of having done the longest tour in rock history. We’d played 192 shows in two and a half years, spanning 72 countries. Over seven million people had seen us perform. I don’t really keep track of my achievements, but if I did that is the one I’d point out first and foremost.

At this point back in the US, he tells the hilarious story of how he inadvertently carried a bindle of coke that he’d forgotten about through customs in many of those countries, buried in his jacket. “I had actually brought coke into South America and back, which is ridiculous, because that is the last place where you need to bring your own coke.Luck?

Another great quote: “If you ever wondered what the sound of a band breaking up sounds like, listen to Guns N’ Roses’ cover of ‘Sympathy For The Devil.’” I seem to remember thinking the same thing at the time. But here Slash’s book just validates that (the later song, “Oh My God”, from End Of Days, just cements that theory, as hardly an original member is on that).

“Axl had eliminated and replaced everyone who had helped the band build from the ground up back in the day. He always had a reason: I believe in Tom [Zutaut, former manager]‘s case, Axl claimed that he caught him trying to pick up Erin [Everley, Axl's wife] at some point. But don’t quote me on that.

It gets silly, but only on a technicality: how can you say “don’t quote me on that” in an autobiography? Did the lawyers clear that one?

And, of course, even Slash gets involved with Michael Jackson:

When I showed up to record, the staff was as hospitable and robotic as a bunch of bellboys at a five-star hotel.
“So, what would you like to play on?” I remember some guy asking me.
“We have a wide selection of guitars here,” the guys said. “Which would you like to use?”
“I brought my own,” I said. “I’d like to play on that.”

Great passage with the Rolling Stones, who he watched recording Bridges To Babylon. Keith he calls a “profound narcissist”, which is okay, because he was already friends with Ron Wood (his first son London was conceived in Woodie’s house). Slash has great humility when he talks about recording with Ray Charles, who probably didn’t know who he was, and on the Ray soundtrack with session guys who were “way out of my league, big band old-time blues jazz players”.

The book is wicked – I just love reading about Slash’s experiences. Even though so many of them were so dark, they are still fascinating because you always get the sense that he’s writing this from a cleaned up world, and that he’s become the Slash that he always was and that we always want him to be. Whether this is the real truth, we’ll never know until we get Axl’s experience (or maybe Poison’s, or Great White’s, etc). But there’s one thing he never gives the impression of – that it’s never so easy (or at least mots things aren’t).

SMISOEAOL

SMISOEAOL

It’s So Easy (and other lies), by Duff McKagan – having read Slash’s autobiography, it’s easy to say that this one is not really much more than a boring book by a nerdy rocker with an identity crisis (and other issues). His attempts at humor and literary style – by writing out panic attack episodes, for example, or by jumping around in his chronology for the first third of the book – come off as a bit trying-too-hard. But it is interesting to compare and contrast it a bit with Slash’s book, especially since they were in two bands together. Book-wise, this is his Tony Iommi book to Slash’s Ozzy book, or Bill Wyman’s to Keith Richards’ respectively. But that’s okay, especially when you realize what a nice guy he is – Slash comes off as a nice guy too, but there’s a different, especially when you read how Duff truly agonized over the death of two fans at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donnington, whereas Slash merely noted it (Slash is larger than life, Duff is just Duff, the former King of Beers).

We get all the details of how he grew up in a big family in Seattle, there was never much money, mum ‘n’ dad grew apart, dad was found one afternoon in bed with the lady next door, and life splintered. School life was nonexistent, even at an alternative school founded by hippies. “You had to have somebody at least eighteen years load as an off-campus counselor who certified your work. The only other requirement was to show up at school for half an hour every two weeks. After a while I didnt manage to make those appearances and got thrown out. It was 1982.” McKagan drifted into petty crime, drugs, booze, and music – meaning down ‘n’ dirty small town punk rock – often referencing people like Henry Rollins (who not only saw/played with every punk and non-punk band that has ever existed, but wrote about the experience in his extensive diaries, which he can’t seem to stop sending to the printers), who wrote positive things about both Duff’s early Seattle punk band Ten Minute Warning (Rollins mentioned that they “sounded like a punk-rock version of Hawkwind. We took this as high praise”) and a young Guns N’ Roses, which Rollins claimed blew the other bands on the bill off the stage. Early in the book Duff mentions being a massive Prince fan… but never mentions him again through the rest of the book. He also mentions liking Hanoi Rocks (whose song “Underwater World” contains the line “Welcome to the jungle”, by the way), and he talks about LA bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, but not too much (Slash only mentions Flea, Duff mentions both Anthony and Flea and also tells of seeing the Chili Peppers live once). Too bad he didn’t write more about Jane’s Addiction – he was briefly their bassist.

As he matures (it’s a relative concept), McKagan makes the move away from Seattle when too many of his friends get strung out on heroin and he forms a band called Guns N’ Roses with four other guys. And eventually, in the book, McKagan talks about his relationship with Axl Rose:

Axl’s unpredictable mood swings electrified me – a sense of impending danger hung in the air around him. I loved that trait in him. Artists are always trying to create a spark, but Axl was totally punk rock in my eyes because his fire could not be controlled. One minute the audience might be comfortable watching him light up the stage; the next instant he became a terrifying wildfire threatening to burn down not just the venue but the entire city. He was brazen and unapologetic and his edge helped sharpen the band’s identity and separate us from the pack.

Band discipline was tight in those early days, as “we rehearsed twice a day regardless of anything else going on in any of our lives.” But there was total chaos with the band then too, such as with punk rocker Black Andy (who’s thanked in the liner notes for Appetite For Destruction), who loved the band. “He took the bus down to our rehearsal space and brought children’s’ Hallowe’en costumes he wanted us to wear. He videotaped us, and videotaped himself shooting speedballs. I guess it goes without saying that he became our first manager. Obviously.” But that didn’t last long, as Randy died of AIDS soon afterwards. Duff quickly discovered crack cocaine, and one of the better passages of the book describes what it was like to be on crack:

Crack accentuated everything in a good way. The features of the girl’s drab, cookie-cutter apartment suddenly became beautiful. The Formica-topped island that separated the kitchen from the living room suddenly took on architectural perfection, a use of space so logical and brilliant its beauty blew me away. What had at first glance looked like an ugly orange shag carpet was now as magnificent as a priceless Persian masterpiece in the window of an expensive Beverly Hills rug shop. The traffic I could hear outside on Hollywood Boulevard transformed from a noisy nuisance to a source of enchantment: I wondered where these people might be headed. Maybe some of them were on crack, too, and as happy and elated as I was!

Wow… interesting. Duff then also describes an incident where some guitarist from a band considered quite big at the time told Slash that “niggers shouldn’t wear tattoos”, and Duff beat the crap out of him, breaking a few ribs. In Slash’s book he says that Jackie Lawless of WASP had told him that “niggers shouldn’t play guitar”. I wonder if it’s the same event all mixed around, or separate incidents.

As the band gets bigger and bigger, Duff starts to freak out a bit, and he needs more and more booze to quiet his panic attacks. At the Monsters of Rock festival in Donnington two fans, Alan Dick and Landon Siggers, were crushed to death in an audience pile-up. Wow, life. The band flirted with this kind of danger for the rest of their careers, as all big bands do. But fame still has its perks – Duff talks about the time that Mick Jagger offered him the use of his sneakers so that he wouldn’t slip on the Stones’ all-steel stage:

“I’ve got some trainers,” [Mick] said. “What size do you wear?”
“Eleven,” I said.
“Me too,” he said. “We must have the same size willy.”
Wow, I thought, Mick Jagger says we have the same size willy, and he’s going to let me wear his sneakers. Despite his kind offer, though, I didn’t wear them in the end: Mick was cool, but his spare sneakers, I’m afraid, were not.

Then all the drama about Axl showing up late for gigs starts, somewhere during the Use Your Illusion tours. And never really ends… One time in Basel, Switzerland, they had to pay to keep the public transport system open late, as “the only was back into town front he soccer stadium was a tram line that normally closed long before we finished-maybe before we even started.” Things start to get insane.

We often flew from our hotels to the venues in helicopters, plural – even massive double-prop Chinook helicopters. We rented yachts the size of oil tankers for outings on off days. We went on private shopping sprees at designer boutiques and spent entire days racing go-karts on tracks reserved exclusively for us. Everything had become outsized. Everything. When [guitar tech] McBob and his brother started slugging each other at a club late one hazy night, Harry Connick Jr pulled them apart. We had celebrities breaking up the fistfights between our crew members.

Life becomes surreal when you’re bigger than the Beatles ever were, especially on off days. “I was so used to being in hotels – and I acted like an animal in hotels – that I woke up in my own bedroom and spat on the floor and tried to call room service.” Then Duff gets married to drug buddy Linda Johnson, a Penthouse Pet, and things just get worse.

Eventually, the insanity ends, Duff nearly dies as his pancreas starts to explode and releases enzymes that give his internal organs third degree burns (when you see him talk these days he’s pretty shaky, even though he’s been clean and sober for 20 years), he starts cycling to drag himself out of a rut, then he starts mountain climbing, then he gets into martial arts, and his life starts to revolve around the dojo of Sensei Benny, also known as Benny the Jet, who has appeared in Jackie Chan films, such as Wheels On Meals and Dragons Forever, and a few others. Classic battles like these:

He starts to drink water again for the first time in over a decade and finally realizes that the reason the skin on his hands was always cracking was because he was dehydrated from drinking nothing but beer and vodka. After a while, McKagan also begins to take an interest in academics, especially business. He takes the boxes and boxes of financial statements he’d been receiving since the beginning of his financial career at Guns N’ Roses (several years after the band formed, and maybe even a year after the band released their first album) to a professional, only to find out that… he hadn’t been ripped off (making Guns N’ Roses perhaps the only band in the history of rock ‘n’ roll that wasn’t milked for all it was worth… although the band managed to rip themselves off instead.

Oddly, neither Slash nor Duff explain in their books the weird punctuation of the band’s name, “Guns N’ Roses.” Should be “Guns ‘n’ Roses”, right? They also miss a bunch of other stuff.

Life is great – there are many great bands in the world, but not many of them have produced at least two autobiographies (the Stones are the only ones that have produced more – three so far.

At the end of the day life goes, on, and Guns N’ Roses were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, the first year they qualified. Two drummers showed up – Stephen Adler and Matt Sorum, as well as Duff and Slash (they’re alway up for anything, not just writing their stories), supported by Appetite-era rhythm guitarist Gilby Clark, and singer Myles Kennedy, from the underwhelming post-Creed band Alter Bridge, who sort of wrecked the set, despite the fact that he’s sung on Slash’s two solo albums. This all leads me to believe that Slash is, indeed, very generous.

When Billy Joe of Green Day read off his intro to Guns N’ Roses for their 2012 induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, he called Appetite For Destruction “the greatest debut album in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.” Well, in terms of sales, yes (makes me wonder if he listened to the first Led Zeppelin or Van Halen album – but then again, neither band are mentioned much in Duff or Slash’s books). On Slash: “You bridged the gap between Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, and you brought it into your own modern era. I can immediately identify your leads and riffs, because you embody them. Your guitar playing is an extension of your heart and soul – to see you without a guitar and a top hat is just plain weird.”

Cool.

Here are some rare Guns N’ Roses and Slash songs that the book turned me on to:

“Shadow Of Your Love”

“Dead Flowers” (Stones cover, from the Skin And Bones tour)

They covered “Marseilles” by The Angels. Here’s the original, now imagine Guns N’ Roses doing it on tour in Australia:

He uses Joe Perry’s tobacco-colored sunburst 1959 Les Paul in “November Rain”. “Though I had never spend eight grand on anything before in my entire life, I had to have it. It was a pretty amazing moment when I finally held that guitar in my hands; the same instrument that played an essential role in the path I’d chosen in life was now in my possession. I truly felt like I’d arrived.”

“It’s So Easy” video, filmed at the Cathouse.

Slash and Duff played with Iggy Pop on “Home Boy”, “Pussy Power” and “My Baby Wants To Rock ‘n’ Roll”.


Slash and Lenny Kravitz

“Don’t Cry” video has Dizzy wearing a “where’s Izzy” t-shirt.

“Give In To Me” by Michael Jackson (nice song, even if it does rip off Suicidal Tendencies’ “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow (When I Can’t Even Cry Today)

“Tie Your Mother Down” from the Freddy Mercury Tribute Concert, with Axl looking like a gay Thor with his beard and short shorts.

“Beggars and Hangers On”, by Slash’s Snakepit.

Here’s a concert from 1988, at The Ritz: