My first exposure to a rock guitarist called Slash, was after hearing the band Guns N’ Roses which was led by a rather melodramatic and off-the-wall character called Axl Rose.
Slash (ISBN 978-0-00-725777-5, Harper Collins, 2008) is his biography, and he commences in early childhood in Hollywood, which involved petty theft, expulsions from schools, being in a broken home, and living rough. He admits that his life was certainly not what one would describe as “normal”. “Hollywood has always been a weird place that attracts odd folks.”
Having been born to an African American mother and an English father, he was in the situation where he was English but black, and alternated between being African American and Caucasian, using whichever racial identity served him best in applying for a school placement.
The first quarter of the book is somewhat repetitive, complete with names of girls he had slept with, and in whose house. Not really necessary, though obviously Slash thought that these details were important.
His guitar playing started with an old flamenco guitar with one nylon string which his grandmother gave him. His tutor suggested he should get the other five strings! This he did and he practiced day and night. He showed that when he found something that really interested him, he was prepared to work at it, and even run two jobs to fund his guitar playing.
In many ways, Slash admits that he stole his way to the top; even his trade mark top hat came his way via thievery.
Similar to most other rock musicians of the day, Slash and friends moonlighted around L.A. doing any gigs they could find, eventually arriving in Seattle where they played together as the first show for what became the legendary Guns N’ Roses with Axl Rose as the singer and Slash the guitarist.
I found the chapter detailing the difficulties of recording music, different guitars, different amplifiers etc. more interesting than the pages and pages of descriptions regarding drug taking. And drug taking was something that Slash did with a vengeance, almost dying a couple of times and requiring much time in rehab. His involvement was completely over the top, and even witnessing his best friend dying in his arms from heroin overdose wasn’t enough to get him to stop at that time (though he did later).
His description of singer Axl Rose confirms the impression that he was mentally disturbed and perhaps all the way to an obsessive-compulsive disorder where he could just miss arriving for a concert, but feel there was nothing inherently wrong with that behavior.
In line with Slash’s ‘bad boy’ image, he details the trashing of hotel rooms, but stopped after he had to pay for one night of excessive violence.
The breaking up of Guns N’ Roses and fatherhood finally brings maturity, but Slash certainly did it the hard way!
At B. 495 this is a weighty book of around 500 pages. If you were a fan of Guns N’ Roses, you will find this book interesting, but it is not as fascinating as the Rolling Stones Keith Richard’s book “Life” for example.