My greatest lyric?
“I see you standing,
You think you’re so cool,
Why don’t you just,
‘It’s So Easy’.
Are you two chicks
G n' F n' R / July 21 1987
Traci Lords + 1
Robert Downey Jr + 1
Alan Niven +1
Bob Rock + 1
Charlie Sheen + 1
Ron Jeremy + 1
Eddie Van Halen + 1
Kelly LeBrock + 1
Phil Spector + 1
Judd Nelson + 1
Kenny G + 1
Hugh Hefner +12
Slash’s Mom + 1
String Vest + 1
Roy Thomas Baker
A&R Geffen +1
A&R Universal +1
A&R Sony +1
Tom Zutaut +2
Robert Williams + 1
Ben Fong-Torres +1
Cynthia Plaster Caster
Ole Beich + 1
Steven Tyler + 2
Larry Mullen Jr +1
John Cougar Mellencamp
Michael Monroe +1
Seb Bach + 2
Amber Sunrise +1
Beastie Boys x 3
Michael Azerrad +1
Pamela des Barres
Downtown Julie Brown
Note from management:
under no circumstance
should Vince Neil
of Motley Crue
be allowed entrance.
Somewhere in the swirl of smoke
stands a man entirely devoid of style
bad teeth cheap haircut unshaven
old enough to have seen
very same venue, back before glam slithered
west to the coast and corrupted itself
and now five figures are on stage, each one as pretty
or as ugly, depending upon your preferences, as the
next one, each a killer in drag – who’s your favourite?
This, he thinks, is so fucking ridiculous
it can only be the future; this he writes
down shakily in a notepad, errant elbows
slopping watery lager down his skirt,
his cigarette stubbed into someone’s back
as the throngs shift and sways to the bombast
that’s emanating from the stage. No – wait -
he crosses it out and instead writes: this is
the now because there is no future.
He can’t pin-point it, doesn’t want to pin-point it
knows that the best bands can’t be described
because they are a feeling, a force, an erection of the soul.
Later this style-less man with bad teeth, halitosis
cheap haircut, unshaven, arse-side of his jeans
hanging over fleshless buttocks will leave alone.
He’ll leave alone and he’ll take the night bus home
to Hackney and there he will announce the future in his
most purple prose, fountains of hyperbole spewing forth.
He’ll smoke a cigarette, the ringing still in his ears
file his copy, then retire to bed, having just created
another career, lifted five more sweet souls from the gutter.
June 19, 1987 -
in the heart
draped in chiffon
rigid with hairspray
be-decked in bullet belts
things just happen; chemical compounds mix
with a hiss and a puff a little magic occurs
maybe it’s the universe aligning itself, maybe
it’s the benevolent Gods looking down
maybe it’s karma or kismet or happenstance,
destiny or the proverbial carpe diem
maybe it’s dark magick, voodoo or mojo,
the relinquishing of souls at 3am
maybe it’s astrology or astronomy or
something to do with mystical crystals
maybe it’s the black dog, the muse
or the moment, the realization
that this second will never pass again
maybe it music, maybe it’s magic
Or maybe things just happen…
In the meantime
the suits have an idea
(they have many ideas)
“we need to ramp it up”
“refine your reputation”
“create an illusion of independence”
“blitzkrieg the demographic”
Their plan is to release a live EP
of songs from the LA club circuit
which has to be just about the worst way
to launch a career
but they give us ten grand
and shoo us away
“leave it up to us...”
six weeks later
copies of Live ?!'@ Like A Suicide
released on the non-existent Uzi Suicide label
they set up in our honour
are in our hands and already I know
tell its the biggest piece of pointless shit
ever committed to plastic.
They put it on the Geffen stereo and I
immediately flip out when I hear
the sounds of the crowd over-dubbed on afterwards
an inferior version of ‘Mama Kin’
and see a logo I didn’t give approval of;
only the cover of me and Duff
up-lit in red looks rad.
It’s nowhere near enough to placate me so
I start making threats: “Over my dead
body will Guns debut with this hunk o’ junk.
We want complete artistic freedom.
We’d sooner take it to Sony, right guys?”
I look around me; the band have their
chins burrowed in their chests.
So I smash a Wang Chung gold disc, storm out,
and hit The Strip for some placatory drink and sex.
The EP is released the following Monday
and sells out its 10,000 pressing
within days, becomes a cult on export
Everyone’s happy, apart from me.
I still think it sucks.
I show up first, around five
enjoy the silence
with a coffee.
Duff follows soon after
a little drunk
Adler arrives around nine
with a couple of skanks
but no kit.
I ball him out
and he flees
to the nearest dealer.
Izzy shows at midnight
corpse white and
on the nod.
Duff is re-stringing
and Adler’s still gone.
Slash turns up around two,
and they disappear
to the bathroom
for an hour.
Duff is still re-stringing
his bass, stumbling about
Port wine bottles. A painting
on the wall. This cool little amp
they used on Pet Sounds.
Slash and Iz return
“Are we ready yet or what?”
but Adler’s still gone
I launch a balalaika at their heads, .
taking Slash’s top hat off;
hair spills down like a black waterfall
Iz mumbles something incoherent
Slash retrieves his hat
Duff looks up: “We need more wine.”
It’s five AM
the sun is coming up
and so far
we have a bass with two strings
and a vortex opening up ahead.
The producer shows up at nine.
Turns out we were a day early anyway.
That’ll never happen again.
the perfectly circular Germs burn from
an errant cigarette, like we’re back in ‘81
the scratch marks across my back
the bruises to shins, arms and elbows
knuckles all twisted and busted like the keys of
a piano that’s fallen from a twelve story window.
Throat hoarse, nasal passages burning dirty
gums bleeding and distended tongue sore and
swollen from eating the pussy of that girl in the
Toys In The Attic T-shirt and pixie boots
the taste of her dirty hole rotting in my mouth
like a skip rat that crawled in there and died.
Kidneys trying to box their way out from the inside
heart thumping irregular; lungs like a rusted cheese grate
a chipped front tooth from a beer bottle that
actually makes me look pretty fucking cute
and finally, a foreskin that looks like the shed skin
of a snake that slithered off into the undergrowth
My self-administered autopsy over, I stand slowly
and glide to the shower, stopping briefly in the kitchen
to find – yes! – a couple of cold ones left in the fridge.
I crack one open and drink it down, cold jets to my temples.
We turn up late, separately.
We sign on the dotted line.
We shake some hands.
We get our pictures taken.
We get loaded.
We go home with $75,000.
We wake up with $69,000
And some loose change.
So yeah I’m just sitting there
working on some new designs
when I get a call from some guy
says he ‘looks after’ the Gunners
and the guys wanna come down
for ink. I’m like, yeah, whatever.
But sure enough an hour later all
five of them mooch into the store.
They’re drunk, or high, or maybe
drunk and high and even though
I have a sign on the wall saying “the
mgmt. reserves the right to refuse to
tattoo anyone who it believes to be
intoxicated”, I make an exception.
Besides, everyone on The Strip is drunk or
high and if I turned them all away, I’d go bust.
So I spent all day working on those guys and
it was a cast-iron blast, a dream come true.
Truthfully, it was pretty standard stuff, easy
work - the usual array of skulls and flowers.
Axl went for this logo he designed himself
with the slogan ‘Victory or Death’ beneath it.
Slash had a caricature of his own face on his
right bicep; a mop of hair wearing a top hat.
Duff opted for some sort of barbed wire arm band
and Steven had some tangled rose and dagger thing.
Izzy just that there blank-faced, silent, smoking
and going to the bathroom every five minutes.
The guys were real cool though. They took a real interest
in the art form, gave me a few bumps of blow, then left.
You gotta understand, LA in the mid 80s was nothing, man.
MTV ruled the airwaves and shit like Go-Go was the big thing.
Everyone dressing up like Molly Ringwald, or dressing down
like that spoiled little asshole Darby Crash. Reaganomics reigned.
Then you had the surf jocks coming in from the coastal towns or the
preppie Bret Easton Ellis kids or streets brats like the Chili Peppers.
But really they were all poseurs. Same with classic rock. It was
dead dead dead - or as good as. It needed young blood, new danger.
Fifty gigs in, Gunners were that band, but no-one would touch them.
Labels never like to sign junkies and they were, like, at least 60% addicted
and 100% unwashed. Axl has these yellow teeth, Slash spent his days
drooling behind that fringe, Izzy was a cadaver…and the smell. Hoo-wee!
The smell when all five members were in the same room was something
else – like skunk spray or a tramp’s butt-hole or a week-old Big Mac.
It’s because they never washed man, they just kept piling on the hair-spray
and the hippie juice. One time I saw Adler splash whisky behind his ears.
It’s all good and well, but how can you do business with a band who make
you wretch, who would – and did – steal the last dollar from your wallet?
Fuck, I loved those guys though. You really had a sense that it was death
or glory (or maybe death row glory?) for all five of them, like they knew
that this was it, their one shot, their one hope. And you have to give them
credit. They took it and ran with it, all the fucking way man, all the way.
As for me, my bosses couldn’t see it. They wanted the next Springsteen,
the next Cyndi Lauper. I quit in disgust. Set up a label. Got high. Went bust.
Get Yourself Together
drink Till You Drop,
Forget About Tomorrow,
Have Another Shot.
Happy New Year!
From the boys who
the most chaotic
shows of 1985.
The obligatory malfunctioning Frigidaire
containing the obligatory week-old Domino’s
a selection of Bud, JD, cheap wine, stale biscuits
and natural yoghurt for those fungal foes
and nothing else.
The living room is the centrepiece, obligatorily
smashed to smithereens and splinters
ashtrays like frozen fountains
dead ash in gun metal stasis
frozen on every silent surface
a sofa smiling with slash marks made
by one of four possible Puerto Rican dealers
a little slice of east side barrio life
with a do-rag, a vest and a knife
spray-can calligraphy on all four walls
the ceiling and floors:
VINCE NEIL IS A CHICKENHAWK
I GOTTA PEE
ANACHY (sic) IN LA
with the ‘A’s encircled, naturally.
Still can’t afford the fucking
Greyhound, can barely afford
some medication to smooth
out the ride I’m already regretting.
Duff used his
to get us some shows up there.
Decent guarantee. Rider. Cool beans.
But this is Guns and nothing goes smooth.
Hundred miles north of LA and
Slash’s friend White Mike’s borrowed car
grinds to a slow death in the middle
of the fucking freeway.
So there’s the five of us plus gear
plus attitude, plus hangovers at
the road-side, trying not to get pissy
checking our watches, thumbs aloft.
It takes fucking hours to get us on
our way, split across various rigs,
cars and, in Adler’s case, the back of
some sweet Angel’s greasy hog.
We arrive too late for soundcheck
Adler’s covered in dirt, Slash drunk,
Izzy wasted on something I don’t have,
Duff holding it together for reputation’s sake.
We walk out to six bored jerk-offs
and give them aural hell. By the time
we’re done the crowd has more than
doubled to an unlucky-for-some thirteen.
Then – of course – the promoter reneges,
pays us $50 instead of the agreed $250
and I’m too depressed to break his jaw
too embarrassed by the turn-out to break sweat.
The rest of Duff’s contacts fall through
or the others promoter get wind of tonight,
or our reputation precedes us, whatever
the rest of the string of shows is cancelled.
We travel back to LA by Greyhound
dejected, stinking, none of us speaking.
The funny thing is I’m finally on a Greyhound
and I feel like a piece of shit right now.
"OK, listen up,
so the Do’s are:
denim jeans (black, blue or bleach only)
shirts (black, white or leopard print only)
old band T’s (must be approved my management)
booze logo T’s
top hats (Slash only)
peaked soldier hat
baseball caps (Axl only)
dog tags and rosary beads
Right around when we started out
after rehearsals each night,
just as the rest of the guys were off chipping,
I used to like nothing better than getting in my car
and just driving.
LA is perfect for cruising, it’s all freeway.
Out on the tarmac there’s no interaction
just reflection in chrome and glass.
I guess that’s why I
took to touring to so well.
This one night I was prowling aimlessly
deliberately going nowhere slow,
which is harder than you’d think when
every road leads somewhere;
just me, a cigarette and
the tape deck loaded with
all my driving greats: Highway To Hell
Back In Black, Zep, early Sabbath, Priest
doing nothing but driving and singing,
smoking and practicing my scales.
It was somewhere off
that I heard the strangulated whoop
of the blue siren and the lights flashing to
pull me over; fucking pigs, I thought,
The did the whole loud-hailer bit:
step out the vehicle
turn around slowly
get you hands where I can see them
now drop to your knees
I complied, silently cursing them
but glad I was clean
just a good tax-paying
(on cigarettes, anyway)
citizen who can’t sleep nights
They eyed me suspiciously
ran their checks
searched my motor
spoke like I wasn’t there, then said:
“It’s not him. This skinny fuck
couldn’t kill a rabbit”
“Are you a faggot, son?” said one
waving the AC/DC cassette at me
“No,” I said, emotionless.
“Then why you listening to faggot music?”
Then before I could answer: “You ever heard
of the Night Prowler?”
What was this – a trick question?
“Sure. I’ve heard of the song. AC/DC.”
“Yeah, well, in case you hadn’t noticed
some sick fuck is stalking
and killing them. Word is he
likes faggot music too. How do we
know you’re not The Night Stalker?”
“Prowler. Because I’m not, that’s why.”
“What do you think, Steve?” one said
“Nah. This ain’t him. This faggot’s
too white for our guy. Then they laughed;
they drove off.
About a week later they caught
some fruit called Richard Ramirez
‘The Night Stalker’
I laughed when I saw his picture;
that guy was too ugly to be me.
Power lines buried deep beneath
feed energy to twisted strips
of neon; close up they are a jumble
of abstractions, but step back to the
bar beneath the icy air-con curtain
and the lurid letters spell out two
words in gaudy, suggestive italics:
Here the cats totter on heels like
sabre toothed tusks, wrap
boa legs round polished poles
and thrust poodle-trimmed pussies
with pelvic precision from floor
to mirrorball sky and back again
for men with crooked teeth and
pudgy fingers and alligator wives
laid languidly in condo homes.
The cats are creatures of rare talent,
re-born with names like fine wines
or cheap paintings or pawned gemstones:
Crystal Clear, Amber Sunrise,
Little Magenta, Silicone Sally,
And in the midst of this menagerie
I sit, slumped upon my drink
dreamily feeding folded notes
into the hip-side slot between
thong and flesh, a little drunk,
a little jaded but perfectly at home
in this corrupted crèche, this playground
of strays, fugitives, chimeras, runaways.
Duff had these pants
Said he found them
I wanted those pants
wanted them real bad
coveted those pants
until they turned green
beneath my envious gaze.
Then one day
the fucker gave
I could have
that drunk fool
there and then
and doing what
he did and
Two weeks later
Slash caught a dose
of crabs from
and even I had to laugh
like a hyena
like dirty water
down a storm drain
I recorded that laugh
symphony of hate
I’m saving it
for the box-set.
When we weren’t
or playing out
we’d be checking on
Never in the history
of music has there
been as competitive
a scene as
in the mid 1980s
and never before
have so many
produced so little
for so many
kids on drugs.
We checked out
Ratt and Kix
and all that fake glam shit
then moved onto
at least Circle Jerks,
The Vandals and Bad Religion
didn’t pretend they were any good,
didn’t care about record sales.
In fact, the hardcore shows
because heads always got busted
or the cops would show up
and the dope was always good.
But soon enough it got dull;
suburban kids in store-bought uniforms
going through the motions
until MTV moved in
to re-brand it.
Funk-rock was by far the worst though
asshole music for asshole surfers
in asshole clothes. I’m talking about
you Anthony Kiedis
in your tie-dye T-shirt.
I’m talking about white brats
pretending to be black
sewer rats on skateboards
with in Hi-Tops
and new wave haircuts.
Of course some of these kids
went on to define the 90s
with their half-baked music;
ambassadors of nothing but
their own declarations of brilliance.
And the rest drifted away
from the clubs and the drugs
moved to Encino,
and now run the country.
Blades cut the night
as the mechanical
sky bird tilts
to the earth curve -
sirens spark below like
a shimmering sea-bed
lost in the land at night;
slipped stars seek homes
beneath freeway flyovers.
They cower there, cold, lost,
never to return to that distant cosmos.
Fissures and conduits
arteries and veins
turnpikes and tar pits
canyons and cracks
all scar the face of
a silent Saturday
idol in repose.
She’s laid bare for you,
her folds and lines
as she draws a dying breath.
of a broken heart
within this chaos
that stretches from
down to Marina del Rey,
across to the scrub-lands
and no-go warrens of
And down the wires a voice crackles
one more gasp for the collective death rattle
silently stalking all, an unblinking eye
adrift and isolated in a red velvet sky.
I, Axl: An American Dream is a book-length fictional re-imagining of William Bailey's journey from smalltown boy to internationally famous rock star W. Axl Rose, frontman with “the world’s most dangerous band”, Guns N’ Roses.
It ran from June 2008 - March 2009 and is archived here.
Using the medium of poetry, writer/journalist Ben Myers follows Rose from 1970s obscurity through LA’s hair metal scene of the '80s; from stadium rock nerk of the early 90s to the Nero-esque, pre-Chinese Democracy 'wilderness years'.
Controversial, volatile and defiantly strawberry blond, Rose becomes muse in this unique take on the rock biography, a place where fact collides with fiction and the American Dream is exactly that – a dream. By extension this is the tale of a country that got so big, so quickly, it went a little bit crazy and put cornrows in its hair.
'I, Axl' is available for print publication. Please contact email@example.com
Or visit the main blog: www.benmyersmanofletters. blogspot.com