photo & text by nacrowe
for all the sex and drugs rolled out in his eponymous titled memoir SLASH (HARPERCOLLINS, 2007), the guitarist SAUL HUDSON provides an unexpected narrative that highlights the value of family. written more than a decade before his reunion with GUNS N' ROSES and resolving his differences with singer AXL ROSE, this memoir outlines the dissolution of the band.
its interesting, success for GUNS N' ROSES had an inverse effect on the internal relationships within the band, which ultimately resulted in the departure of HUDSON in 1996. at the outset, long before they had any chart success (people forget that "SWEET CHILD O MINE" propelled the album a year after its release), they were struggling. HUDSON goes into detail about a hastily booked early tour, in true PUNK ROCK fashion, utilizing DUFF MCKAGAN's contacts back in his hometown of SEATTLE to open a house party for THE FASTBACKS. on the way the van broke down and they had to hitchhike. it was a trial by fire, as the band members that survived the trip and didn't quite had a sense of fierce camaraderie that survived the early years of their existence.
it was because this internal bond was so tight among the members, almost like a gang in its intensity, that when things began to unravel through the battle of attrition that was touring life, drugs, firings, departures and internal power shifts; it feels rather traumatic for HUDSON.
First drummer STEVEN ADLER was fired for his drug abuse in 1990, which is laughable. Getting fired for substance abuse in GUNS N' ROSES. seems like an oxymoron. Guitarist IZZY STRADLIN departed shortly thereafter in 1991 for business reasons, citing an unequal share of recording royalties. ROSE, MCKAGAN & HUDSON in essence where the remaining core original members and during the USE YOUR ILLUSION sessions ROSE took creative control, expanding the sonic palette of the band to incorporate piano ballads (a la ELTON JOHN) and long, multi-layered epics that came from god knows where. i like the albums but its a departure from the meat and potatoes badass-ness of their debauched debut album. it was like the scion of all things THE STOOGES decided they wanted to be QUEEN instead. just odd.
before the next tour AXL made the remaining members legally sign away their claim to the GUNS N' ROSES name and copyrights as requisite for his involvement. this power grab sealed the death of the band, which took a few years to manifest. what i read in this book is a sense of bitterness and betrayal at ROSE's willingness to dismantle not only a legendary band still on the ascent, but the brotherhood that undergirded it. all of this in the name of ego and hubris.
MCKAGAN in his memoir IT'S SO EASY: AND OTHER LIES (review linked HERE) takes a slightly less strident approach to his indictment of ROSE, instead feeling rather sorry for him. MCKAGAN had independently got his life back together, kicked hard drugs, went back to school, trained his body manically, started a family and essentially saw ROSE as an isolated figure who squandered his heyday. i didn't get that vibe off of HUDSON, despite having a similar personal trajectory as MCKAGAN, losing GUNS N' ROSES deprived him an identity that was only partially revived with VELVET REVOLVER, only to be squandered by another erratic singer, SCOTT WEILAND.
having seen them on their reunion tour and having read his memoir, i'm glad GUNS N' ROSES are a touring and recording unit again, only because one of the great ROCK & ROLL guitar players still feels he has something to prove.
and that is a gift to all of us.