Slash seems almost like a myth. You could imagine the ageless legend emerging from the depths of a forest like a rock ‘n roll Frankenstein who as assembled in a stormy lab outside of Los Angeles. With his massive aura in mind, it’s easy to forget that he’s been around for so long, as Slash just turned 51-years-old on July 23.
Being involved in the music industry for more than three decades has led to no shortage of wonderfully decadent and pure rock ‘n roll Slash moments. A Google deep dive on the subject is like cracking open a time capsule of a high school for lunatics and reptile enthusiasts. There’s the time Michael Jackson got upset with him for overstaying his welcome during a concert or his stint playing in Velvet Revolver, one of the rare instances where a band built together amidst the ashes of other damn near legendary bands actually worked, albeit briefly. Slash seems to exist to do two things: be an amazing rock n roll guitarist and to provide the adoring public with equally amazing rock ‘n roll moments.
To celebrate his birthday though, let’s focus on his initial run with Guns ‘n Roses and appreciate his 10 best moments during that time.
10. All the Guitar Solos Slash Played on “Civil War”
“Civil War” is a dark horse top tier tune in Guns N’ Roses’ catalog (and a personal favorite of mine.) Like a number of the songs that emerged during the Use Your Illusion era, it flirts with being epic and grandiose, but still maintains the hard rock bite that Guns was built on. This is due in large part to Slash, of course. While none of the solos he plays during the song are especially long or even that ornate, each one fits perfectly. They are not solos that stop you dead in your tracks, drenched in amazement, but help to guide you and move you along. It’s a trick that the true guitar gods pull from time to time; a role they play. Slash’s work on “Civil War” proves why he was such an effective counterweight to Axl Rose. He was able to make these crazy epics playing in Axl’s head not seem like alien scribbles to diehard fans.
9. Slash Slurs his Way Through Two Acceptance Speeches in One Night
Any list of this nature and about this subject matter would feel empty without at least one bit involving Slash and public intoxication, and his appearance at the 1991 American Music Awards is probably the most notable. Partnered up with Guns’ bassist Duff McKagan for the night, the two were just popping in to have a good time. Or as Slash put it during the acceptance speech for Favorite Heavy Metal Album, “we’d come down, we’d hang out, it’d be two hours and sh*t.” They were quickly cut off and ushered off stage.
Slash and Duff did not quietly return to their seats, though. Come on — not their style. The dynamic duo did some more drinking and when it came time to accept the award for Favorite Heavy Metal Artist, Slash was significantly more tomahawked and his speech, significantly more slurred. The F-bombs were still understandable though. There were a couple of them and despite following them with a few child-like “oops,” Slash and Duff were again quickly whisked off stage.
The next morning is a mystery when it comes to what Slash was up to. But at ABC, the network that broadcasted the show, the phone lines were lighting up.
“We have received many calls during the telecast and this morning protesting the fact that the program contained offensive language,” said an ABC spokesperson the next morning.
To which Slash politely responded, “what telecast?”
8. Slash Creates a Riff Fit for the Terminator on “You Could Be Mine”
A track that almost gets lost among the largess of the Use Your Illusions albums, “You Could Be Mine” became most closely associated with Terminator 2, in which it was featured prominently on the film’s soundtrack. This was back when big time movies had big time soundtracks and enormous acts contributed epic songs to those blockbusters. Guns N’ Roses on the T2 soundtrack was serious business and I still remember watching the video for “You Could Be Mine” with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, making his way through the crowd. “You Could Be Mine” is easily one of the most gnarly songs Guns ever wrote and it kicks off with Slash’s razor-like guitar strut over Duff’s thundering bass line with the guitar riff sounding just like the Terminator — robotic and menacing. Slash knew how to give a song a proper intro and more examples are to follow, but don’t sleep on his riff at the top of “You Could Be Mine.”
7. Slash Snuck a Mountain Lion into the Four Seasons
By 1993-1994, Slash was looking to settle things down a little bit and bought a home in Los Angeles, away from the lunacy, madness, and potentially lethal surroundings of Guns ‘n Roses. When I bought my house, I got a dog. When Slash bought his house, he bought a wild collection of venomous snakes, lizards, almost a dozen cats and a mountain lion. The mountain lion’s name was Curtis, because of course it was. If I had a mountain lion, I might also name him (or her) Curtis.
Slash’s quiet stint in domesticity was interrupted in January of 1994 when the Northridge earthquake hit. As a result of the damage done to his house, Slash was forced to shack up at a Four Seasons hotel in Marina Del Rey. The venomous snakes, lizards and almost a dozen cats were left to fend for themselves, but not Curtis. Slash snuck Curtis into the Four Seasons and the mountain lion stayed there with Slash until it was safe to return to the house. Reports that Curtis abused the mini-bar were unconfirmed but come on, it’s Curtis. That’s how he rolls.