Excerpt From Duff McKagan's New Memoir, Part I: Guns N' Roses Finds Their Identity, Somewhere Between Metal And "Cow-Punk"
See also: Excerpt From Duff McKagan's New Memoir, Part II: "People would throw cigarettes at us and spit on us."
Marc Canter McKagan and Slash at the Troubadour. The picture is undated.
In It's So Easy: And Other Lies, Duff McKagan recounts GnR's rise to fame as well as his descent into addiction. Read more from Duff on our sister blog Reverb, where he is a weekly columnist. The below excerpt picks up after the band returns from a fateful trip to Seattle.
Our first gig back in L.A. was on June 28, 1985, at the Stardust Ballroom, out east of Highway 101. They had a club night called Scream. It had started as a Goth night; Bauhaus and Christian Death were the most popular acts the DJ played. We were at the bottom of a four-band bill and had to go on stage at 8 p.m. The next show was on the Fourth of July at Madame Wong's East, a restaurant in Chinatown that hosted a lot of punk-rock shows at night. Guns played second on a four-band bill that night. Only three people showed up for our set, including Kat and West.
The gig at Madame Wong's was like many of our first shows in that we were booked alongside punk bands. Early in our career we played shows with Social Distortion, the Dickies, and Fear. I guess at first we must have been perceived as that--punk. But the cool thing about our band, and what set us apart from the beginning, was that we couldn't be pigeonholed.
Sometimes this could work against a band. If you weren't punk enough for the punk-rock set, or metal enough for the heavy metal crowd, you risked ending up without gigs. But with the addition of Slash and Steven, we somehow seemed to capture the best of both worlds. In the right setting now, Axl appeared both more punk and more metal than the whole L.A. scene put together.
The glam scene across town seemed like a private club with some mysterious secret handshake. We got a few gigs with rising glam bands, but it was clearly a mismatch. Rather than treat it as an opportunity to mix things up, insiders in the glam scene made sure to rub our outsider status in our faces.
The Sunset Strip scene was all coke and champagne, and we were definitely from a different place. The people who came to those shows were a bit scared by us, too. We meant what we were doing; it wasn't safe or choreographed or pretend badass in any way. We also went through a period where we played a shit-ton of gigs with Tex & the Horseheads and other cow-punk bands, but we weren't an easy fit in that scene, either.