I first met Guns N’ Roses at a Mexican restaurant called Break For The Border in London. It was 1987. Appetite For Destruction wasn’t even out yet. The whole band were there, with manager Alan Niven, assorted label types and a few invited ‘others’. We were sat outside the main area of the restaurant, as there was something unsavoury about this bunch of Yank yobs – at least as far as the normals were concerned.
Now, I’d heard a lot about Slash’s famed handshake… so firm it could cause permanent damage. Warily I avoided contact with those digits. He just sat there downing anything alcoholic, with trademark top hat firmly glued in place. Izzy Stradlin was stuck in one corner, balefully calm, but observing everything that moved. Duff McKagan was intent on just getting fed and drunk at someone else’s expense, while Axl Rose glowered – playing the moody rock star even then. And then there was arguably the most unpredictable and violent member of the band: Steven Adler, constantly searching for an excuse to stir up trouble.
“Hey man, the music sucks! Put on something good, will ya?” he yelled at a passing waiter, who diplomatically avoided eye contact. Adler was right, the insipid pseudo-Latin tones were enough to put you off the tequila slammers. And then, the drummer got his chance to vent some steam.
There was a confrontation, caused by an idiot in a penguin suit who wandered past, and drunkenly decided to take the piss out of the GN’R throng. He didn’t expect what he got, though, as in one graceful motion, Alder vaulted the table and pinned the hapless town crier against the wall.
Mayhem ensued as the staff tried to separate them, and the rest of the band had to be restrained from joining in. Welcome to the jungle, indeed. Here was a true gang. Five kids against everyone. The most dangerous band in the world.
Thanks to some quick talking from Alan Niven, none of us were ejected. As the dust settled, Axl stared unblinkingly at me and, with no hint of irony, summed up G’NR’s philosophy: “We don’t start anything. But you mess with us, then we’ll fuck you up! We’re all in this together. One out, and it’s over.”
I believed him, because I knew he believed it. At the time.
This was originally published in Classic Rock 99, in November 2006.