photo manipulation by nacrowe
i have to start off by mentioning (again) that with the exception of seeing PRINCE at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN in 2001, witnessing GUNS N ROSES at METLIFE STADIUM in 2016 was probably the best ROCK N ROLL show ive come across. it was a definite, holy shit, "SLASH is the real deal, he is the truth" moment. so im openly admitting that im providing this review from a place of admiration.
SLASH: RAISED ON THE SUNSET STRIP (GUITAR CENTER FILMS, 2014) is less a documentary and more a commercial for his then-current CONSPIRATORS project. it makes sense given that it was produced by a musical instruments retailer. sure there are interviews with current and past bandmates like DUFF MCKAGAN, STEVEN ADLER, MATT SORUM and MYLES KENNEDY as well as heavyweights like the late LEMMY KILMISTER (MOTORHEAD), ALICE COOPER, JOE PERRY (AEROSMITH), JERRY CANTRELL (ALICE IN CHAINS), STEVE LUKATHER, NIKKI SIXX (MOTLEY CRUE), DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA / FOO FIGHTERS) and DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH), but it feels very much like a mutual admiration society.
which is odd.
GUNS N ROSES were and still are one of the last celebrated and relevant ROCK N ROLL bands. they have a controversial past with plenty of career peaks and just dismal, debilitating lows. im not saying that this film should have done something as tried and stale as a VH1 BEHIND THE MUSIC-esque narrative, but at least there should have been provided some counterpoint or hardship in what comes off like a charmed life. SLASH was the son of music industry insiders, his parents being involved with the art and costume design of major playors during the 1970s like DAVID BOWIE, JOHN LENNON, NEIL YOUNG, ALICE COOPER and THE POINTER SISTERS among many others. mostly raised between his parents in LAUREL CANYON, you really get the sense that he was raised to live and breathe the ROCK N ROLL lifestyle.
and all of that is cool to know, but what is really interesting about his life are the hardships and not the charmed aspects. what was it like growing up BRITISH and BIRACIAL? how did GUNS N ROSES form? what was collaborating with IZZY STRADLIN like? how did they get a record deal? what was his relationship like with AXL ROSE at the time of filming? how did he conquer his drug addiction? most of all, what drew him to the guitar?
in some ways this film feels like a lost opportunity, but i suspect that it was designed to be a lightweight commercial meant to drive up interest in guitar-playing in general. SLASH is no doubt a unique figure in ROCK N ROLL history and savant at his instrument, but this idea that somehow plucking a string or banging a drum makes you more authentic as a musician is a flawed premise. when i think of truly innovative musicians i think of APHEX TWIN or even TRENT REZNOR, people that are truly pushing the limits of music production and the very vocabulary of recorded sound. SLASH is very much in a box that was paved long before by DELTA and CHICAGO BLUES players and their offspring in CHUCK BERRY and LITTLE RICHARD, as well as later BRITISH acolytes in JEFF BECK, ERIC CLAPTON, JIMMY PAGE and the like. he is part of a tradition of great guitar players and for that should be celebrated. but lionizing guitar-playing over other forms of music as more real is just annoying and self-serving a bigger commercial agenda here. and its obvious, which is unfortunate.
SLASH deserved better.