One In A Million...

One In A Million...
Reviewer: SteveJ
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Guns N Roses:
The Most Dangerous Band in the World
155 pages
1st edition
April 01, 1992
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Capturing their essence of Guns N' Roses' charisma and success, Wall draws on exclusive interviews with the band spanning several years to give the dedicated fan as well as the newcomer a full range of the GN'R experience.

It’s hard to say whether you will ever find another book like this, about a band this big anymore. It is a PR person’s worst nightmare, and a rock fan’s wet dream. Longtime British music journalist Mick Wall chased down and waited out the members of Guns’N Roses for individual chats between the years 1988 to 1990, just as Appetite for Destruction was becoming a monster hit. So while they were not there yet, these guys were on the precipice of becoming rock and roll legends. And, of course, all that goes with that.

The book opens with the notion that “in 1987, just when we thought the whole hard rock shithouse had gone up in flames, we get..the most dangerous band in the world. Indeed, arriving at a time when rock’n’roll had all but handed its balls on a plate back to the marketing wizards and media moguls of the music industry, Guns 'N Roses  immediately stood for everything (these) giants most detested. They didn’t respect deadlines and they didn’t take advice. Worse, the admitted to drugs, swore by alcohol, and claimed not to know the meaning of ‘safe sex”.” All spot on, and we’re only on page TWO! Strap in…

Naturally, Slash comes first and for the most part, the affable and usually drunk rock star riffs on all things sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bassist Duff McKagan follows. I absolutely loved his first book It’s So Easy,,, and Other Lies. Although a bit edgier, he still comes across as thoughtful and legit. Drummer Steven Adler is not here, probably because of his drug intake that would get him throw out of the band a couple of times in this time period and recounted in the book, mostly by Axl. Think about that: if you get thrown out of GNR because of your bad habits, after your debut album is hitting the top of the charts, shit has to be pretty bad. Sadly but wisely, Izzy Stradlin — my favorite of the bunch — avoids the press, even at this early stage. Smart guy…

Much of the convos focus on two things that were dominant at the time. The first is the lyrics to “One In A Million” from the 1988 album G N' R Lies. It is based on singer Axl Rose's experience of getting getting hustled at a Greyhound bus station when he first came to L.A. and famously drops the “N” word. Reportedly, Steven Adler exclaimed "What the fuck? Is this necessary?” (Axl told him it was) but the drummer was not interviewed for this book. Slash, whose mother is black, stated for the record that he did not want Axl to sing those words, but says “Axl wasn’t necessarily singing about black people” but rather “the sort of street thugs you run into…especially if you’re a naive midwestern kid coming into the city for the first time.” He goes on to say the N-word “goes to Chinese, Caucasian, Mexicans too…it’s just a term for people who are kind of street dealers or pushers.” Ummm…..ok.

It takes Wall awhile to get to Axl, but, boy, when he does, these unedited rants are a goldmine. While I think he is intelligent, I *know* he's angry and petulant.How ‘bout Axl then? “I used a word in the English language whether it’s a good word or not. It’s a derogatory word…a negative word…but directed towards black people in those situations. I was robbed. I was ripped off, you know? I had my life threatened, OK? And it’s like, I described it in one word. And I wanted to see the effect of a racial joke. I wanted to see the effect that would have on the world.” So…it was a joke? “I mean...yeah..I wrote the song as a joke.” Form you own opinion on that one, folks…

The other is “the new album,” which would become Use Your Illusion and finally hit the stores in 1991 — the same year this book came out, although these interviews took place between 1988 and 1990. As a whole, all interviewed come across as quite thoughtful about the making of — or at least the concept of making — this album, even though no one could tell when it was coming out, and everyone had different opinions, predictions, schedules and timings. It would come out close to three years (!!!) later, but the record would include some massive hits.

Incredibly, in  the book’s epilogue, we learn that 1990 prior to the release of the Use Your Illusions albums, the band’s management began demanding that all would-be interviewers sign a two-page document guaranteeing the band total control of all aspects of the interviews, including copyright ownership, and approval rights, along with a $200,000 penalty, if violated. (There would be similar contracts and clauses with photographers, that included band ownership of all pictures. Wall does point out that these would be almost impossible to enforce, and Rolling Stone, the LA Times, Spin  and…ahem…Penthouse refused to sign them.) The head of Geffen Records publicity responded with “when you deal with this band you deal with a lot of ‘firsts.’”

If you’ve ever wanted to be in the corner bar while your favorite band or musician is talking shit with friends, this book is for you. It can be funny, illuminating and certainly very telling. But it ain’t pretty…


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