Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Slash: The Autobiography

I bought the e-reader version of this book and it was so cheap that I wasn't expecting much beyond endless tales of mindless debauchery in order to get my money's worth.  This book delivered the excess in spades, but wasn't the superficial read I was expecting.  It's a moderately heavy book (160K words -- hardly a quickie, grade school level read that you'll plow through in a day, like certain other cash grab memoirs are) and contains quite a bit of depth.  For instance, the years in LA leading up to Slash joining GNR are recalled in fascinatingly vivid detail.  The writing (and/or ghostwriting) is superb, Slash's writing persona comes off as affable and highly believable. 

In fact, Slash's life up to the recording of "Appetite for Destruction" takes up well over half the book.  The idea that the journey to become famous is more interesting that actually being famous (and more enjoyable for the protagonist, both at the time it happened and in the present day) is a notion that rings loud and clear.  Once GNR take off, most of the characters practically disappear from the story.  There's a good deal of philosophizing about the Axl Rose that he knew pre-1987 (they even lived together for a short while) but after that, almost nothing.  Like many wildly successful groups do, GNR split into separate camps and Axl become a side plot, a person who turns up on stage (most of the time) but is otherwise a shadow character who only exists via his managers and lawyers who act as his conduit.  This is really a book and Slash and Slash only.  Anyone looking for insight on what the other main players in the GNR story were "really" like at the height of their fame will find almost nothing to chew on.  Thus, the second half of the book is far less interesting than the first half.  Being the biggest band in the world was a succession of gigs and bottomless alcohol and drug binges, but by that point those stories have mostly lost their sordid power. 

After reading this, I'm even more baffled at how GNR became the biggest rock band in the world for a few years.  There was no grand plan to flip the music industry on its head and expel the multitude of wimpy 80's "rockers".  They weren't following existing trends, there was nothing like "Welcome to the Jungle" on the pop charts in 1988, but the public somehow managed to buy into what they were doing.  It may be a cliche, but at its heart, beyond all the drugs and parties, it's a story about never compromising and believing in the artistic merit of what you're doing.  Slash emphasizes it repeatedly as GNR are getting rolling, but the message may be drowned out by all the tabloid-ready stories throughout the book. 

One final note -- this was published in 2008, i.e. years before the GNR reunion tour.  Toward the end of the book, there's no inkling of any reconciliation taking place in just a few short years. Could there be an updated and expanded edition at some point?   

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