With Guns n’ Roses in the middle of their enormous global ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour and Appetite For Destruction re-entering the music charts, perhaps it’s as good a time as any to take a look back at one of the all-time great musical autobiographies. While Duff McKagan and Steven Adler have both released highly-readable versions of their experiences in the band, it is Slash: The Autobiography that is the stand-out first-person account. Written in conjunction with Anthony Bozza – who has a lot of previous when it comes to co-authoring with big name musicians – this is a hazy triumph of the genre.
Slash the book describes the author’s upbringing in the UK before the family upped sticks and moved to Los Angeles at the tender age of 11. His early teenage years created the template for the rockstar excesses that were to follow, perhaps inspired by the rock stars like Bowie and Ringo Starr that would drop by to benefit from his mother’s costume designing skills. The 13-year-old Slash was a heavy smoker and drinker who had already lost his virginity and been expelled from school. However, it was a talent for BMX-biking that would put him in contact with Steven Adler and set in train the Guns n’ Roses juggernaut.
Slash: The Autobiography is the story of an amiable young man with a chronic ability to say ‘no’ to anything that might be bad for him. This is unfortunate, since unfathomable quantities of drugs and alcohol are being pressed upon him, not to mention the countless women that come into his orbit. This book certainly won’t offer much insight into the creative processes that led to monster hits like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine”. Instead it is a rollercoaster ride through a life lived excessively and without much concern for the personal safety of the protagonist or many of those he encounters.
Axl Rose has yet to release his own autobiography, and although Slash is happy to reveal intimate and often negative details about his own life he is noticeably more considerate when it comes to his front-man. Thus, Axl escapes too much criticism for the times when he delayed concerts by hours and even songs like “One in a Million” with its extremely unpalatable lyrics regarding race and homosexuality. Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for ‘Axl: The Autobiography’ to get to the bottom of those issues.
In the meantime, if you want to get a sense of life in one of the wildest rock bands in recent years, then you won’t find a much better read than Slash’s account of the mayhem. This is by turns shocking and hilarious and reminds you that Guns n’ Roses were far more than a merchandising operation to sell merchandise, pinball machines and slot games. They were the most exciting band of outlaws of their generation, and Slash: The Autobiography does a beautiful job of giving a first-person account of the madness.