This is the autobiographical account of the life and times of Michael ‘Duff’ McKagan, bass guitarist with American rock band Guns ‘n’ Roses.
I first heard about the band 30 years ago visiting my mother in the West Midlands one summer. They were just a rumble then. Not the behemoth they would become.
Being a hotbed for rock music, G’n’R had been found early by the Midlands and I picked up in this band and bootlegs of their music. I would get the album, Appetite for Destruction for another few months.
At that time I wanted to be in a band. A rock band.
My father was VERY musically minded and can play multiple instruments. Me? Too lazy to stick at learning the guitar.
I kept trying but couldn’t get it to stick – 6 strings was clearly too many.
Now, a bass guitar, four strings, seemed easier but I could never get my hands on a bass but, for some reason, the bass guitarist in a band was always the one I wanted to be.
In G’n’R that man was Duff McKagan.
When I saw the autobiography, it was something I wanted to read. I know the band and its members had had their problems and it had all ended pretty badly but I was interested to find out how the band I’d idolised had come about and then destroyed itself.
The story starts out with the authors current day reflections on his own fatherhood and how different his own was compared to his family growing up.
It’s clear that he comes from a close, large family and this, along with friendship, is a thick vein running through the story.
It goes on to early age drug use and criminality, the move to L.A. and early band work before the band comes together.
This is interesting with all the personalities floating about and their influence on matters but the resounding feeling is of 5 young men, tight as a group and their desire to succeed.
The band eventually go on to stellar success and it’s then the cracks develop.
Learning about the personality changes, the drinking, the drugs and all other rock related problems – you wonder how he’s survived. At times it can seem a bit cliched but, as the author suggests, times and the music industry have changed.
Although the egos are still there, the industry seems fine tuned to milk the most out of the customers. A lot more controlled in order to get the most out of an artist.
There is also a major part about recovery and the unorthodox approach to cure taken by McKagan and, ultimately, finding exactly what he was looking for.
It has an happy ending which, at times, you don’t expect. It’s an interesting story and definitely worth a read if your a fan.