Yes. There were the cocaine overdoses, decade-spanning feuds, and wardrobe malfunctions — but those just seems to come with the territory. For all their follies, Guns N’ Roses have had a respectable career: they’ve skyrocketed to fame with the release of their debut album “Appetite for Destruction,” they became a television staple of the MTV generation during a time when the airwaves were polluted with hair metal, and they even garnered a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction.
And really, what distinguished them more than anything was their musicianship. Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, and Axl Rose himself were all versatile and charismatic players. The most distinguished player of the group, however, had to be Slash.
Slash, born Saul Hudson, has been an active musician since 1981. Everyone from Rolling Stone to Time has listed him among all-time greats, courtesy of his favorite Gibson Les Paul. Time has not slowed his riffs or dulled his perception. “I think rock and roll bands have become really conformist and they are worried about pissing off their record companies,” he said. “Rock and roll … needs someone really committed to come and shake things up who doesn’t give a sh*t if they make it.”
And even though they aren’t on the best of terms, Slash’s former counterpart Rose has also retained his subversive tendencies. After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominated him and the original ensemble for induction in 2014, Rose released an open letter not-so-politely rebuffing the invitation. “For more than a decade and a half we’ve endured the double standards, the greed of this industry and the ever present seemingly limitless supply of wannabes … From my perspective in regard to both the Hall and a reunion, the ball’s never been in our court.”
Whatever Rose wants to say about the industry having treated him unfavorably, the reality is that the band achieved monumental success relatively early into their career. They toured across four continents to promote their debut album, “Appetite for Destruction.”
That album rocked the world. It was the antithesis to MTV hair metal bands. The album, produced for $370,000, remains the best-selling American album debut ever. The band of misfits from Los Angeles used their blues tempered punk-rock sound to discuss everything from romantic nostalgia (“Sweet Child O’ Mine”), to urban realism (“Welcome to the Jungle”).
But even while Guns N’ roses rocketed to success, sharing the stage with Alice Cooper and Motley Crue, their internal bonds weakened and cracked. Drug addiction took its toll. At the “Monsters of Rock” festival in England, a crazed crowd of 100,000 killed two fans, earning the band the dubious distinction of “The Most Dangerous Band in the World.” The band produced three more platinum-certified albums — “GN’R Lies” (1998) and “Use Your Illusion I & II” (1991) — before its slow, twisted dissolution.
But before all that, even before the “Hell Tour” down the West Coast, there was a 14-year-old “problem child” nicknamed Slash who was sitting on a couch, ignoring the girl to his left, a boy mesmerized by Aerosmith’s albumRocks, a guitarist who would later say, “I remember riding my bike back to my grandma’s house knowing that my life had changed. Now I identified with something.”
And while Rose has struggled to recapture his earlier successes with newer ensembles, Slash has done quite well for himself. In 2014, guitarist Slash partnered with Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and the Conspirators to wow audiences on the Sunset Strip for the golden anniversary of Guitar Center. The concert aired as part of a two-part special about Slash aired through a special contract between Guitar Center and Direct TV. The show featured selections were drawn from Slash’s latest album, World on Fire, along with tunes from Velvet Revolver and Guns N’ Roses.
Whether the band’s self-proclaimed indifference to fame was genuine, or merely posturing, there’s no disputing that the band forever changed the face of rock music. And for this, we salute them.