In which our heroes bag a two for one deal and then fate takes it from there…
Steven and Slash had made many fruitless attempts at starting their own band but after so many line up changes and difficulties with other musicians, it always ended up being the two-man band that they were. But no band was prefect. Even Hollywood Rose had had their line up troubles. New drummer this week, replaced guitarist the next. Tonight it was the original five up on stage, the gig being a sort of celebration of their 'reunion'.
Slash and Steven watched as the singer stepped up to the front of the stage and paused for a moment. Some girls screamed "Axl" and quite a few guys wolf whistled. The two friends didn't really approve of the teased out red mane, which was a bit glam for their taste, but they both agreed that the guy definitely dressed like a rockstar. Skin-tight leather pants, snakeskin cowboy boots decorated with scarves and belts, a band t-shirt and a lot of bangles. But the question was, could he sing?
The rest of the band looked a little more average than the singer, like they hadn't really tried as hard, except for one of the guitar players who looked like he belonged in Hanoi Rocks.
"This is called 'My Way, Your Way'!" The singer yelled into the microphone, his voice deep and angry.
The band immediately started assaulting the crowd with a speed metal riff and thunderous drumming while the singer started going insane, stomping and head banging. Steven and Slash had a feeling these guys weren't going to sound like Poison.
Then came the singing. They couldn't make out a single word of the fast paced lyrics but the guy sang with such intensity and such ferocity it was shocking. And that voice...
"Why have we never seen these guys before?" Yelled Steven, Slash barely hearing him over the music.
"I have no idea!" He shouted back, "But I met that guy on the guitar a couple of times before."
"Which one?" Asked Steven, eyes darting between the two guitarists on stage.
"The one that looks like a mix between Andy McCoy and Steve Stevens." Said Slash.
Steven's eyes settled on the rhythm guitarist and he grinned. Slash's description was dead on. He was tall, pale, skinny, had a mess of black hair and obviously stole his look from the aforementioned musicians. White shirt, black vest, black tight jeans, black boots and scarves and beads around his neck. However, Steven forgave his lack of originality when it came to his look. This guy could definitely play.
"What's his name?" Asked the blonde, unable to take his eyes off the band.
Slash grinned and leaned in close to Steven's ear.
Steven's blonde waves fluttered wildly as he whipped his head around to see if Slash was being serious. Slash's curtain of curls nodded and Steven beamed. Izzy had earned back his originality points.
With every song, the crowd only got wilder and the cheers almost matched the volume of the music. Steven and Slash were thoroughly impressed. Here was a band that wasn't one of those generic hair metal bands from LA. They swore, they spat, were drunk on stage and between every other song the singer challenged various people to fights for the pure reason that they were pissing him off. Even the band members themselves seemed to be arguing with eachother onstage, during and between the songs. At one point the lead guitarist, Tracii Guns, went right up to the singer and the two had a screaming match right then and there. No punches were thrown but Tracii did discretely spit in the singer's eye before throwing down his guitar and as the unbearable feedback filled the tiny venue he stormed off stage. Izzy called for a break and tended to the singer while the drummer disappeared to placate Tracii.
"Dude, these guys are crazy!" Cried Steven, but his comment wasn't necessarily negative.
"Yeah, except for Tracii being a jerk." Said Slash.
"How do you know he was the one being a jerk? That singer seems to be a total asshole, picking fights with all those people in the crowd." Said Steven.
"Tracii just always was like that. He likes being the centre of attention all the time, I'll bet it had something to do with that."
Slash and Steven had known Tracii from high school but Steven didn't really know him as well as Slash did so he shrugged and took his friend’s word for it.
They looked back up at the stage and waited patiently for the band to play again. Tracii and the drummer had yet to reappear and the singer seemed to have fixed himself up again.
"Is there a lead guitarist and a drummer in the house tonight?" Izzy said into the microphone jokingly.
Slash and Steven exchanged amused glances. Just then the two musicians returned to the stage and everyone cheered. However, there was obvious tension between singer and guitar player and for the next couple of songs they wouldn't even bare to look at eachother, and when they did, the look in the singer's eyes sent shivers up the spines of all who saw it.
They somehow managed to finish their set and as the final notes of the last song faded out, the singer left the crowd on a sour note.
"Getting Hollywood Rose back together was a total mistake! This band's over for good!" He spat out menacingly before slamming the mike onto the stage and storming off.
As the crowd started to filter out, confused and shocked, Slash and Steven remained at the bar until they were all gone.
"Best gig I've seen in a long time." Said Steven.
Slash agreed. There definitely hadn't been such an explosive band, or an explosive singer on the Strip in a long time.
"I got an idea!" Cried Steven excitedly.
Slash groaned and rolled his eyes. He loved his best friend to death but his ideas always ended in disasters.
"What..." Sighed Slash.
"Let's go find that singer and see if he'll join our band!"
Slash let this process in his mind for a good few seconds before it clicked.
"Steven you're a genius! That's a brilliant idea!"
The two practically ran backstage like two overly keen kids and immediately started looking for the psychotic singer with the undeniable talent. It wasn't long before they found him. He was wearing a leather jacket and clearly ready to get out of there. Suddenly anxious, Slash noted his agitated demeanour and was about grab Steven and turn back but then the blonde piped up.
"Hey man! You guys were awesome tonight!" Cried Steven making Slash cringe.
The redhead spun around on his heels and glared menacingly at the two younger boys.
"You being fuckin' sarcastic?" He growled in his low voice, the complete opposite of his high-pitched screeching on stage.
He stalked up until he was right in Steven's face making Slash shrink back behind his friend. Steven, ever the typical easy-going ditz, didn't even bat an eyelash.
"No way! I'm being totally serious dude! It was awesome, even with the fighting! You got raw talent. You're easily like, the biggest rockstar on the Strip." He said with genuine honesty.
Slash came out slightly from behind Steven, watching the singer's expression soften a bit as he was clearly taken aback by the unexpected comment.
"Uuh...thanks." He replied, blushing ever so slightly.
"I'm Steven Adler." Said the blonde, extending a hand.
"Axl Rose." Came the reply and he took Steven's hand and shook it.
The singer's green eyes darted to Slash making the curly-haired boy choke on his breath.
"This is my friend Slash." Said Steven.
"Hey," Said Axl shaking Slash's already shaking hand, "I think Izzy knows you."
"Y-yeah, we met a while ago." Stuttered Slash, nervous and feeling something akin to star struck.
"It's a total bummer about your band not working out," Said Steven, sticking his foot into it completely, "Tracii's a dick. You should forget about him and join our band."
Axl looked at the two sceptically.
"You guys have a band?" He asked.
"Yeah! Well, we're kind of starting out, again. But we think you'd be the perfect singer!" Cried Steven.
Axl shook his head almost immediately.
"Look, I'm sure you guys are cool and everything but a lot of people think I'm the perfect singer and have tried to get me in their band but it's never what I expect. One's too glam, the next is too hardcore death metal, it just never works out. Um...sorry."
Axl shrugged and turned to leave but Steven grabbed his arm and spun him around to face him again, frightening him a little.
"Come on man! Just gives us a try! We ain't no glam posers! We're just two kids wanting to play some rock n' roll. You know? KISS, Zeppelin, AC/DC, Sex Pistols? Please just give us a chance?"
Although he couldn't see, Slash knew Steven was playing the big blue eyes and pout card. The ace that always worked. He watched as Axl bit his lip and thought hard.
"Okay, I'll try it out on one condition." He finally said.
"Anything!" Said Steven, desperate to get this guy in his band.
"Izzy comes too."
Before Steven dared to even think about agreeing, Slash jumped in quick as lightning.
"No! There's no way we're getting another guitar player in our band. No chance in Hell!"
Steven glared at Slash and Axl scoffed.
"Dude what's your problem? Why do you always do this when there's another guitar player involved? You saw him play and you already know him so what's the big deal?" Cried Steven.
"I just don't wanna play with another guitarist!" Yelled Slash, "It doesn't suit my style of playing."
Axl cocked an eyebrow at that last comment.
"Whatever," Said the singer, "See you guys around."
And with that he turned and left. Steven turned to face Slash and glared hard at him.
"Way to blow it man."
Although Slash was still adamant about not playing with another guitarist, Steven as per usual ignored him and decided he'd get the two in the band anyway. It had been a couple of days since the Hollywood Rose gig and every time Steven was out at a club or just on the Strip, he had kept a watchful eye out for any sign of Axl.
The drummer had spotted him several times but had yet to pluck up the courage to go up and talk to him again. Axl had probably forgotten who he was anyway. Steven wasn't usually like this but now that he had talked to Axl briefly, he felt this weird admiration for the singer, not unlike a kid to his rockstar idol. One thing he had learnt without even speaking to him though, was that there was no way you could get just Axl in your band. Every time Steven saw the singer, Izzy was with him, like his pale, ghostly shadow.
On one occasion Steven had found Axl sitting at a bar talking to the drummer from Hollywood Rose when out of nowhere, Izzy appeared throwing Steven completely off his game. He just wasn't brave enough to go up to both of the older rockers. Another time, Steven noticed Axl walking along the Sunset Strip, across the road from the drummer. He carefully watched the smoking singer for a few seconds but then chickened out as soon as Izzy materialized out of the dark.
But Steven yearned to have them both in his band now. Just seeing them fuelled his desire to steal them. Everything about them struck awe into the young drummer. The way they talked, the way they dressed, the way they walked, the way they played. He decided that no matter how long it took, no matter how much he had to beg and plead, he and Slash were going to be in a band with Axl and Izzy.
"You know it's a good thing Izzy's such a kick ass guitar player." Said Steven before taking another swig of Jack Daniels and handing it to Slash.
The two were sat on the pavement of some deserted street at three o' clock in the morning, watching the nothing go by and sharing a bottle of whiskey. Their favourite pastime.
"Why?" Asked Slash, gladly taking the bottle for his turn to chug.
"Because he's gonna be in our band pretty soon." Answered Steven making Slash sigh heavily.
"You're not still on this shit are you? Stevie man, I've told you before, I don't wanna play with another guitarist!" Said Slash, "Just forget about getting Axl. He's not worth it."
Steven suddenly jumped at the opportunity to defend Axl.
"Not worth it? Are you kidding me?!" He cried, "He's the greatest singer in the history of time!"
"You were always great for exaggeration." Slash retorted.
"Dude we have got to get this guy in our band! And Izzy coming with him is just a super bonus! Like a two for one deal!" Said Steven, desperate to sway Slash onto his side.
"Give Izzy a chance Slash, just jam with him and see if you guys click." Begged the blonde.
"No Steven!" Yelled Slash, "I'm the only guitarist in the band! I play lead, I play rhythm! I am not sharing guitar parts with some skinny, pale, SCARECROW!"
"Hey!" Came a voice from behind making the two friends turn to look.
"Pale, yes, skinny, I guess so, but scarecrow? Come on man! I ain't no scarecrow!" Said Izzy appearing underneath the streetlight, a sniggering Axl following closely behind.
The two walked over and sat down, Axl beside Steven and Izzy beside Slash.
"Sorry man," Said Slash blushing, "I just..."
"I get how you feel man," Izzy cut in, "Tracii didn't wanna play with another guitarist either. It's just a style thing I guess. Not for me though, I'm no lead guitarist."
Steven immediately piped in with his salesman routine.
"Slash is an awesome lead! You've never heard anything like him man! Best guitarist I know! You gotta come hear him some time. You guys should come jam with us!"
Axl and Izzy both laughed at the blonde's enthusiasm.
"That'd be cool." Said Axl making Steven giggle with glee.
"Only if Slash is up for it." Said Izzy.
Three eager faces stared at Slash, waiting patiently for his answer. The guitarist sighed and nodded.
"Okay. Let's jam."
"When you said 'Let's Jam' I didn't think you meant right now." Said Axl wearily.
Despite the early hours, the four had all gone back to Steven's grandmother's basement where the blonde had set up his kit and Slash kept his guitars. Grandma was away for the weekend so keeping the noise pollution to a minimum wasn't an issue tonight. Steven was excited as hell at the thought of playing with new blood, Slash had major doubts about his new playmate, Izzy was ready to rock and Axl was trying his best not to fall asleep.
"Thanks man." Said the singer, gratefully accepting the mug of hot coffee from Steven.
"You can use the black one." Said Slash pointing to the guitar in the corner of the room.
Izzy picked up the heavily scuffed, second hand knock off Les Paul with the chipped black paint and examined it thoroughly.
He shimmied into the strap and started picking out a few notes to check out the sound.
"Real nice." He nodded approvingly.
"What should we play?" Squeaked Steven, hopping onto his drum stool excitedly, "Stairway? Freebird? Smoke on the –"
"Woah Stevie! Calm down, we're not playing any complicated rock epics!" Cried Slash, hushing the drummer.
Axl smiled amusedly at the blonde before finishing off his coffee and setting the mug on the drum riser Slash and Steven had made out of crates.
"Let's play Train Kept A Rollin'." He suggested and the others agreed that it was the perfect song to play right now.
They wasted no time and immediately started right into the song that even Led Zeppelin used to first jam on. The perfect song to find out if the chemistry was there. They soon found out that there was definitely something there. Much to Slash's surprise, he and Izzy played off eachother like they were born to do it. Even through the shit mike Steven had in the basement, Axl's voice sounded incredible and Steven was just Steven. Banging away on his drums, in childlike awe of the guys he was playing with but never missing a beat.
After the song was over the adrenaline was pumping hard and Steven jumped up and started to get a little ahead of himself.
"That was great! All we need now is a bass player and then we –"
"Hang on Steven," Interrupted Axl and the drummer stopped dead, "We came here to jam. We didn't say anything about joining...uuh..."
"Road Crew." Informed Slash.
"Right," Continued Axl, "Road Crew. You both play awesome and Slash, you're probably one of the best guitarists I've heard in LA but..."
Again at a loss, Axl looked to Izzy for help.
"Hollywood Rose is our main priority right now." Finished Izzy.
Steven and Slash gaped at Axl and Izzy, shocked. They really believed they would be one step closer to the final line up of their distant thought of a dream band. Apparently this wasn't the case.
"But Tracii's an asshole! He's a dick to you Axl!" Cried Steven, "And your drummer too! Rob's clearly on Tracii's side!"
"Yeah and Steve Darrow our bass player quit a couple of days ago." Added Izzy only fuelling Steven further.
"So why stick with Hollywood Rose? It's clearly over! The four of us have to play together!"
The exasperated Steven flopped down onto his stool again and sulked. Axl walked over and sat on top of one of the drums in front of the blonde.
"We're still working things out with Tracii and Rob but I think things are looking up. As soon as Steve quit we stuck an ad in the Recycler and we already have a bassist who's interested." Axl said softly, trying to soothe the drummer a little.
"Some green haired punk for Seattle called Duff." Laughed Izzy.
"Steven and I played with him a couple of times," Said Slash, "He's pretty cool."
"Everyone in the Strip bands know eachother," Said Axl jumping off the drums and walking towards the door, "Our paths will cross again."
Just before he walked out, the singer turned back to face his new friends again.
"You guys are two of the only real musicians left in LA. It was cool playing with you."
As Axl left, Izzy let Slash's guitar strap slip off his shoulders and he placed it back in it's corner.
"Thanks for letting me use your guitar man." Slash nodded to him lethargically before Izzy left to catch up with Axl.
"Why is it always about you Tracii?" Screamed Axl.
It was late, it was dark, the car was already packed with Izzy, Axl and Duff's gear and the only things left to sort out were Tracii and Rob.
"Axl I'm not going to Seattle!" Tracii screamed back, "I don't care if it's our first tour! I don't care how many clubs Duff booked us into, I am NOT going!"
"What are you afraid of?" Yelled Axl, "Is this too big a step for poor little Tracii?"
"Fuck you Axl! Always down talking me!"
"I down talk you? You treat me like shit Tracii! I even changed the name of the fuckin' band so that we could both have our names in it! Just to make you happy! Guns N' Roses!"
Unfortunately, Axl wasn't going to sway Tracii this time round. He and Rob were at their wits' ends.
"Fuck you all, we're out of here!" Yelled Tracii.
And with a flick of a middle finger, the pair disappeared into the night for good leaving the remaining three Guns, and their roadie driver, in the cold with half a band.
"Is there a lead guitarist and a drummer in the house tonight?" Laughed Duff, shouting out to an imaginary audience.
Axl and Izzy exchanged looks and a light bulb switched on.
"There was a pay phone back down the road somewhere." Said Izzy grinning.
"What do you mean are Steven and I free for the next two weeks?" Slash asked into the phone, scratching his head.