Editor’s Note: On April 14, Green Day will induct Guns N’ Roses into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In honor of this momentous occasion, L.A.-based rock journalist Lonn Friend reminisces about his personal relationship with the band.
I called Slash and asked him if he wanted to see Robert Plant at the Forum with me. “Sure, dude, can you pick me up?” he said excitedly. “Oh yeah, man, no problem.” He was hungry, asked if I could drive through a Taco Bell on La Cienega Boulevard en route to L.A.’s most hallowed rock arena. It was summer, 1988, not even a year into Appetite for Destruction’s historic run. Hell, it’s still running, like a cocaine-soaked nostril.
“Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” were ubiquitous on radio and MTV. You could feel GN’R in the atmosphere, like a night-blooming jasmine. It was subtle yet intoxicatingly sweet. And Fairfax High’s favorite son could not go anywhere without an entourage that formed out of empty air, like the way the crows huddle on Hitchcock’s wire just before descending on schoolchildren.
We entered the Forum Club, and within seconds, Slash became the eye of a chick hurricane. “Dude, you don’t have to drive me back, I’m cool.”
Into a quicksand of mascara, knee-high leather boots, macro-teased hair, spandex and crimson gloss, the rock star vanished.
Some time after lunch the next day, phone rings. “Dude, last night got weird,” said Slash. “Someone evidently jumped off the roof of the Hyatt and hit my balcony on the way down. There was blood on the railing. Cops came to the door and I was naked. How was Plant?”
Welcome to the jungle that was then. It was my jungle, Sunset Boulevard’s jungle and, eventually, the world’s jungle. And welcome back to the jungle that is now, when the ultimate enclave of rock legitimacy, the venerable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will overlook the character flaws, societal dysfunction and amoral zeitgeist and induct the immensely talented band of broken brothers into institutionalized immorality.
Why, you ask? Because they fucking deserve it.
What made GN’R an enigma, a happening, a disease, a dessert and a damn awesome band that came and went like a trash-can fire in a Hollywood alley? A quarter century down the road I can state with confidence that this was all about human chemistry and celestial alignment. Transmutation to gold and multi-platinum took place in the wink of a bloodshot eye.
Bollocks the good behavior and commitment to rules and protocols. GN’R didn’t care about anything but serving rock ’n’ roll’s reckless essence at all costs. Their songs were infectious, and their shows were glorious chaos. I must have seen them 20 times both here and across the pond. Each concert was a blistering exercise in musical mayhem.
Two years later on that very same Forum stage where Robert the wizard had misty-mountain hopped and crooned to a packed house, I had the pleasure of introducing the most dangerous band on earth wearing nothing but a pair of yellow boxer shots and the animated lead guitarist’s top hat and boots. For that surreal moment, I was the mayor of Paradise City. And it fucking rocked!