Slash and excess
I finished reading Slash’s autobiography a couple of weeks ago and after a brief futile resistance, picked up Steven Adler’s this week.
Slash’s book is full of a lot of great anecdotes but even more full of horrible how’d-they-get-away-with-that stories of excess. I don’t know that I was ever so much of a fan of the band as much as I was a fan of Appetite for Destruction. It was a really radical album that killed hair metal years before Nirvana’s Nevermind got credit for doing so.
During GNR’s existence (which ended when Slash left), I don’t think I’d thought too much about what the band was up to behind the scenes and it was probably best I didn’t know. It’s easy to use the word “excess” to describe their behavior but it’s important to note that we’re not talking about an excess of anything good. Slash’s book is a chronicle of waste: the wasted money renting expensive studios, the waste of time not working in those studios, the waste of energy not playing on time, the waste of lives doing so many drugs, the waste of emotional connection, the waste of property, people, fuel, and everything else.
It’s a cautionary tale that none of the players seem to recognize as cautionary. But I guess that’s how one writes a book like this. If it had been full of moralizing, it would be disingenuous. But still, it’s strange that Slash’s tone never turns self-aware. And that’s one of the things that absolutely killed the old music industry, this lack of self-awareness.
A few months ago, I read Lonn Friend’s Life on Planet Rock and was similarly disgusted by the lack of self-awareness. It’s another memoir of industry excess but with the added wrinkle of regret that this destructive excess doesn’t exist anymore. Ultimately, it’s just so full of bullshit that it’s hard to take seriously. When Bon Jovi is flying on a 747 to Russia to play a festival arranged by their manager to fulfill a community service sentence, it ain’t rock ‘n’ roll. Reporting it under the guise of “good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll,” is crap.
So while it’s cool to know the debauched beginnings of Guns ‘N’ Roses that inspired a filthy, take-no-prisoners album in Appetite, once they get to where they can barely pull it together to open for the Rolling Stones, there’s no sympathy left for this band. And that was years before their actual demise.
Nonetheless, I’m reading Adler’s memoir and finding it similarly difficult to put down.