Book Review: Duff McKagan, It's So Easy And Other Lies

I often avoid reading autobiographies by artists because they're generally
  1. clearly ghostwritten (does anyone actually think that Snooki or The Situation can actually read, much less sit down long enough to write a whole, more than 5 page, book?)
  2. so self-serving they make me nauseous (Kardashian Konfidential anyone? Like the Kardashians have kept anything confidential at this point.)
  3. written by someone I flat out don't care about, or who is way too young to be writing a reflection on their life (I'm looking at you Miley Cyrus, on both counts.)
  4. don't actually get into the stuff you'd want to read about (I'm thinking of you, Katharine Hepburn. Glossing over Bogey was lame.)
But when I was offered the chance to read the autobiography of Duff McKagan, the bassist from Guns N' Roses, I thought, "Yeah, that might be interesting."

And man is it. It starts with a quote from Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle. About 50 pages in I thought "ghostwritten" but I did some digging and, you know what? Duff's a pretty bright dude. He writes regular columns for Seattle Weekly and a financial column for Seriously.

A few highlights from the book:
  • You know the beer in The Simpsons, Duff beer? It's named after Duff "King of Beer" McKagan, with his permission. When he signed off he had no idea it'd be the monster show it is today.
    When Guns N’ Roses began to break into the public consciousness, I was known as a big drinker. In 1988 MTV aired a concert in which Axl introduced me—as usual—as Duff "the King of Beers" McKagan. Soon after, a production company working on a new animated series called me to ask if they could use the name "Duff" for a brand of beer in the show. I laughed and said of course, no problem. The whole thing sounded like a low-rent art project or something—I mean, who made cartoons for adults? Little did I know that the show would become The Simpsons and that within a few years I would start to see Duff beer glasses and gear everywhere we toured.
  • I'm impressed he's still alive, much less any kind of functional. Between the tremendous amount of drugs (acid, heroine, cocaine, crack, pills - you name it, he probably did it), booze (he went from a gallon of vodka a day to TEN bottles of wine a day at one point), unprotected sex and needle sharing in the '80s, and oh yeah, that one time when his pancreas basically EXPLODED and caused 3rd degree internal burns inside his chest cavity, he's alive and well.
  • Before they put Appetite together, Duff was living in a crappy LA apartment below a guy rumored to be a weird musician. That neighbor? Sly Stone. Sly used to send music downstairs to Duff to listen to (and did drugs in Duff's bathroom). Ironically, Duff had been listening to a lot of Sly and the Family Stone and Prince to hone his bass skills. Duff cites old school funk sound as a big influence of his.
  • Cooking recipes for the young and broke from Duff.
  • Before they were any kind of big, Guns N' Roses used to rehearse in the same space as Jane's Addiction. They were a little competitive.
  • Duff flew in a plane with Kurt Cobain (who had just skipped out of rehab) to Seattle (the hometown for both) and the two guys chatted about music and stuff the whole flight. A few days later Cobain was dead.
  • Tips on how to treat syphilis with items found at your local pet store. (I don't recommend this.)
And that's all in Act 1.

The book does touch on things I was hoping it would - the slow self-destruction of the band, the riot at Riverport Amphitheatre in St. Louis, the general insanity of the hugely famous GN'R (a fight got broken up by Harry Connick Jr. - that's SO rock and roll). You see Duff's life after GN'R, how he finally got clean and sober, and started going to school. The formation of Velvet Revolver. How he struggled to help Scott Weiland get clean. It's all in there.

It's a fascinating read worth picking up if you're a fan of Guns N' Roses, rock and roll (he interacted with a bunch of famous musicians from other bands), and a good old fashion American redemption tale.


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