There are very few bona fide, dyed-in-the-cool, no arguments about it rock guitar gods anymore. YouTube and MySpace and private websites have made everyone a legend in his own mind, given him/her the vehicle, apparatus and hard drive space to plaster their image and music everywhere. Anyone who even knows how to spell
guitar is an instant and international hero. Yes, the old guard is still here: Keith Richards, weathered, battered, and barely conscious (come to think of it, that's been his mantra for four decades now), still maintains that gloriously mystifying aura; Eric Clapton sells records and is forever touring, but he is more of a nightclub personality than the once fiery-fingered monster he once was; and Jimmy Page has re-launched Led Zeppelin. The audience for the one-off concert in England held a few months back (there will be more to come) was rewarded in nostalgic fashion, though the performance on a musical level left much to be desired according to various reports and reviews. Yes, Jeff Beck and The Edge and various newer players may be the evidence for the other side of this theory. But there are so few of them who
unequivocally embody all the requisite elements that the names are not worth mentioning.
And that is what makes Slash's autobiography such a mesmerizing read - he is maybe the reigning Guitar God. And he is here to tell us about his life himself.
Slash, born in England, was the son of an African American mother and English white father. His mom, Ola, was a costume designer and worked for Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Pointer Sisters, Ringo Starr, and many others. Tony, his dad, was a graphic designer, and his mother ultimately began designing album covers. The family moved to Los Angeles, to the hills of Hollywood's Laurel Canyon.
Here, young Saul "Slash" Hudson grew up.
His parents were in the business, he had moved to the place where the musical maelstrom was happening, so there could only have been one result (or two) - the pursuit of music and drugs.
The music connection was made.
I was working in the Hollywood Music Store the day a slinky guy dressed like Johnny Thunders came up to me.
"Hey, man, are you the guy who drew this (an illustration Slash had sketched)? he asked a bit impatiently. "I dig it. Itg's fuckin' cool."
"Yeah, I did," I said. "Thanks."
"What's your name"
"Hey, I'm Izzy Stradlin."
And the drug connection was made.
Izzy and I were at Nicky Beat's rehearsal studio back in 1984, when I first chased the dragon with him, sucking up the smoke that rose from the foil through a straw as we heated it up. All it left me feeling was queasy and not very high at all. I didn't get the instant buzz, so I lost interest in it quick; feeling sick was not my idea of a good time. Izzy was cool; he could smoke it and get complete satisfaction that way.
A few months later I mainlined for the first time and that was all she wrote; after that, I'd never do it any other way than straight into my bloodstream.
Slash talks about every aspect of his life: the music, the drugs, his relationships, the strippers, the other bands, Axl, his snakes, and the world in which he lived.
He is so deadpan honest that you break out in chuckles from the sheer insanity and stupidity - and majesty - of this life lived.
It has been a period for confessions - Nikki Sixx and his
Heroin Diaries (see that review elsewhere on Curled Up), Eric Clapton (also written about for these pages), Ron Wood, and others. But this one tops them all. Yes, Nikki and Eric were involved in drugs and are major musical celebrities. But Sixx was a bass player, so his stories don't carry as much weight as that of a guitar player (don't ask me why, it's just so); Eric has been sober for so many years now that he had to reach back in time to remember those moments. They were real, but they did have to be recreated. Slash is a relative newcomer to sobriety (within the last couple of years), and his memories are still fresh
- and he's just so much funnier than everyone else.
In closing, it should be mentioned that this reviewer has had multiple opportunities to sit and talk with Slash. This book is Slash. After reading it, you know him. He tells you what's on his mind and what he feels about other people. Every time I've been with him, he has been open about his life and funny about the sad things. Never an ounce of attitude.
A real gentleman, a gentleman who has played in one of the world's most successful and influential rock bands; a gentleman who has snorted, smoked, shot, swallowed, and sucked up every drug with a name - and many without.
A true gentleman... a real rock god.