This is an exclusive extract from my new book, Last Of The Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses
Bought Me An Illusion
It’s tempting to interpret Axl entirely through his actions, to see him as some kind of ego-riddled tyrant dictating his terms of business to the world, placing himself and his needs above those of the band, the crew, the paying punters and everyone else with a stake in seeing Guns N’ Roses play live. Yet run the film backwards and watch it through Axl’s eyes and another reality suggests itself. Guns N’ Roses is his life’s work, his greatest achievement. He has just poured into it his best songs about the rawest and most difficult moments in his life. He’s immensely proud of what he has created and he wants to present it to the world in the best possible way.
Ranged against him are people in record companies, promoters, managers and a million other hangers-on, plus a band with whom he used to be tight but who now spend most of their time blasted out of their brains and failing to understand why he’s not having a good time, too. All of these people have agendas, be they business or personal, and they want something from him – time, money, something – and all of it in some way detracts from what he is trying to do. As a perfectionist, it drives him crazy, fuels the rage. He can see it, so why can’t they? So he controls whatever he can still control.
He was a sensitive, shy, angry guy, clever and misunderstood and living in circumstances very few people could imagine. All of the past-life regression and the various therapies and thinking and searching he’d done came back to one thing: his childhood; how it had been taken away from him; how his father’s abuse had left him marooned emotionally in his early years. ‘When they talk about Axl Rose being a screaming two-year-old, they’re right,’ he once said. Now he wasn’t medicating that pain but trying to express it artistically.
When the film was run that way, a lot of what Axl Rose did and how he did it made much more sense. There was no denying that, when it worked, the Guns N’ Roses of 1992 was the most spectacular event in rock: 250,000 watts of power, a maniacal fireworks display featuring 20 bangs, 28 sparkles, 15 airbursts, 20 flashes, 25 waterfalls and 32 fountains. Axl, now relying for parts of the set on a teleprompter for his lyrics, took to changing his stage outfits on almost every other song, from spandex shorts to leather kilt to Jesus/Bukowski/Manson T-shirts, to another that read: Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian. The highlight was always his beloved ‘November Rain’, which he sang his broken heart out to while seated at a grand piano that rose into the middle of the stage with the piano designed to look like a motorcycle seat.
Meanwhile, back in the so-called real world, Slash was planning his wedding to Renee Suran, although the relationship, which would be made official in October 1992, when the pair were finally hitched in Marina Del Rey, was by his own admission interrupted by various dalliances, including a fairly serious involvement with Perla Ferrar, who would later become his second wife. Duff married his second wife, Linda Johnson, a month before Slash married Renee.
The subject of Slash’s prenuptial agreement led to trouble soon after the Metallica dates had resumed. In San Francisco the couple got into a row about it, and Slash sloped off to score some dope from a pornstar friend of his and her boyfriend. The trio got loaded on crack and smack in Slash’s hotel suite, the guitarist taking it too far and briefly OD’ing. He was taken to hospital and when he got back to the hotel, a furious Doug Goldstein sent a bottle of Jack Daniel’s flying through the TV set in Slash’s room.
‘You know the Narcan scene in Pulp Fiction?’ band manager Goldstein asks, referring to the scene where the unconscious Uma Thurman character is jolted back to life after a heroin overdose by the drug dealer stabbing her in the chest with a syringe full of naloxone, a prescription medicine used by paramedics in emergency situations to reverse an opioid overdose. ‘We carried that,’ he says matter-of-factly.
‘I hit Slash with that on five different occasions. The fifth time that he went code blue, we were in San Francisco on the  Metallica tour. I got a call at three o’clock in the morning: Slash is dead outside the elevator. I ran outside with the Narcan. Hit him in the chest. The EMT showed up, took him away, and myself and a couple of the other guys, we kicked the shit out of the drug dealers.’
When Slash returned from the hospital early the next morning Doug was waiting for him in his suite, along with Earl Gabbidon, Axl’s personal security guy, John Reese, the tour manager, and Slash’s bodyguard, Ronnie, ‘who we used to call Slash on steroids. He looked just like Slash, identical, only very muscular,’ recalls Doug. ‘We’re sitting there and I said, “Slash, you’re done. You don’t do this any more.” And Ronnie his bodyguard’s crying. I saw that and I’d known Ronnie since I was seventeen years old, and I’d never seen him emote at all. I said, “Slash, look at Ronnie, you’re really gonna do this to your best friend?”
‘He says, “You know what? Fuck you! Fuck Ronnie! Fuck all you guys. Get the fuck out of my room. I’m gonna continue to do whatever the fuck I wanna do!” And some trigger snapped in my head and I started throwing shit and by the time I left I’d done $75,000 damage to the room. And I quit. I said, “You know what, I’m fucking out of here! Go fuck yourself! I’m not gonna watch my family kill themselves.” So I woke up my wife, put her in the car. We were off to the airport.
‘Then John Reese went to Axl and told him what happened, and Axl said, “Well, if Doug’s gone, I’m gone.” Then he went to Slash’s room and said, “Just wanna let you know, now that Doug’s quit, I’m quitting too. I suggest you try and make amends with Doug or I’m not gonna be at this Saturday’s show with Metallica at the Rose Bowl.”’
Back in LA the next day, Slash drove down to Doug Goldstein’s place in a limo. ‘He said, “What’s it gonna take?” I said, “Rehab. As soon as the Metallica tour’s over, you’re going straight in.”’