Over the years I’ve only read a handful of biographies, be they auto or ghost-written. Within that handful, about 25% of them were music-related……I’ve enjoyed some (The rise and fall of Aerosmith & Walk this way:The autobiography of Aerosmith….spot the fan, eh?) while some left me stumped as to why it was so popular (Motley Crue’s The Dirt)
When audio books started becoming popular, I tried one out (Steven Tyler’s Does the noise in my head bother you?) on Audible and lost interest withing 5 minutes of hearing Steven Tyler talking about himself in someone else’s voice. From that one onwards…not touched any more, be it written or spoken. I swore that the next spoken one to which I listened HAD TO BE THE PERSON THEMSELVES TALKING!!!!
And here’s that one – but with a little twist. Originally released a few years back, Duff McKagan’s autobiography It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) has not been given the ‘audible’ treatment but was turned in to a performance piece, with Duff himself reading excerpts from the book with a backing band (Duff’s own Loaded) providing musical support. And that performance has then been combined with archive footage and interviews with friends and colleagues from over the years. It’s a new one for me, and has had the effect of making me want to go to something like this for other musical icons of mine. Yeah, yeah…that means Steven Tyler and Joe ‘fucking’ Perry.
If you’ve gotten this far and are wondering when I’m going to mention who Duff is then I think you might just be on the wrong website. This release covers his pre-Guns N Roses work, straight through his endeavours, trials and tribulations with GNR and then on to Velvet Revolver et al.
Guns N Roses are one of the formative bands as far as my musical education is concerned – I was 14 in 1988, and it was then that I was handed a battered tape copy of Appetite for Destruction by a friend, and I was hooked. When the video for “Paradise City” (which remained my favourite GNR song for only one year though – more soon about what replaced it) appeared on MTV later that year, I loved seeing that the bass player in the band was an Aerosmith fan – Duff is seen several times wearing a wings logo shirt, and that cemented my association of the two bands with each other. I bloody loved Aerosmith (still do, natch) so any bands that liked them were in turn liked by me. Since the demise of the classic GNR line-up, I’ve kept up to date on everything associated with them (Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, Loaded, Slash’s solo work etc) but nothing has come close to that initial introduction to them.
So….what about the performance? Some might say that listening to someone talk about themselves taking drugs and drinking copious amounts of alcohol isn’t clever, but in Duff’s case it’s a public service announcement. This is the man whose pancreas swelled, resulting in third degree internal burns – stop drinking or die, simple as that. Listening to Duff’s run-through of when he decided to stop drinking by dropping from vodka to wine is eye-opening – it’s not glamorous, and the whole episode is laid out bare here. I’d never properly read about the whole incident, only hearing that ‘his pancreas exploded’ as was reported in the music press at the time. Hearing it from the horse’s mouth is the best way of getting up to speed on that.
It’s not all doom and gloom – there’s the good stuff too. Touring with Aerosmith, being part of one of the biggest bands in Rock, coming out the other side of addiction and meeting his second wife – the excerpt where these two meet and marry is excellent and the backing of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” fits so well. Things move on to Velvet Revolver, which coincided with Duff moving back to education and delving in to understanding the world of business – and also the collective ‘falling off the wagon’ for several members of the band.
Hearing a person recount their own experiences in this format is so much more engaging than listening to someone else doing it on their behalf – you’re drawn in more, as you can hear the emotion. I might not go for the ‘audible’ format again but, as mentioned previously, I’d definitely head along to listen to a performance like this.
So, what was that song that became my favourite GNR song? “Patience” – when people mention their favourite GNR song, it’s usually the likes of “Welcome to the Jungle” (one of the best opening tracks on an album ever) or “November Rain” (overproduced tripe, so much better in its simple acoustic guitar/piano demo format) or “You could be mine” that get mentioned. But for me, “Patience” is perfect. And when it appears on here as the last song, it does bring a tear to my eye.
Right, I think I’m off to go buy myself something from my wish-list.