I’ve been on a rock “autobiography” binge (the quotation marks are a tribute to the inevitable co-authors), partly as a guilty pleasure and partly as preparation for a possible book, and Slash’s book, titled, naturally, Slash, is a fair representative of the strengths and weaknesses of the genre.
On the plus side, co-author/ghostwriter Anthony Bozza does a credible job of creating a voice that sounds something like the way one might expect Slash to sound. Also on the plus side, the section of the book that deals with the evolution of Guns ‘n Roses, the discovery of their musical strengths, and the making of the first (astonishing) album are quite interesting.
But the part everyone actually wants to read, the story of the band’s lengthy and acrimonious dissolution as Axl Rose gradually took over the band and even assumed ownership of the name, is incredibly oblique: a few of the tantrums are here, as are the famous shows that began 3-5 hours late, but there’s no clear picture of what drove Axl, undoubtedly one of rock’s towering lunatics, to such extremes. Every (apparently) censored paragraph suggests a whopper of a non-disclosure cause in the papers that finally cut Slash free from the band — or, possibly, the band free from Slash.
Slash comes across as an intelligent, sensitive, talented man who has an infinite reserve of denial. He’s talking about “drinking for fun” when he’s starting at nine A.M., passing out literally every night, vomiting in restaurants, shooting heroin for variety, and nodding out at family Thanksgiving dinners. In the meantime, he’s highly critical of drug use among the other band members, especially the heroin-addled Steven Adler.
As a little roundup of the books I’ve read so far in this genre, Sammy Hagar’s Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock is the most unintentionally funny, a clueless pean of self-praise by someone whose talent definitely took a backseat to his luck; Steven Adler’s My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns N’ Roses is the saddest and (of necessity) the worst-focused. Motley Crue’s blisteringly candid The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band is the most engagingly lurid, and Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue is the most unflinching. Currently reading Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out of Hell and finding it surprisingly deep and touching, considering how irritating I always thought its author was.
And then I’ve read a dozen more that are just variations on a theme: talent, group, drugs, excuses, breakup, redemption, even if redemption often sounds like sour grapes. And I’ve got about ten more waiting for me.
The things writers go through.