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T my loving family, for all their support through the good o times and the bad And to Guns N' Rosesfans everywhere, old and new; wihout their undying loydiy and limitless patience, none of this would matter



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lk a baseboll bat to my chest, but one swung from the inside, ie

Ckar blue spots lit up the aoiaerr of my vision. It was abnrpt, bbodless, silent violence, Nothing was visibly b m h nothing had chaqed to the naked eye, but the pain made my mrld stand still I kept playing; I finished

the mng. 'The audience didn't know that my heart had done a somersault just besort the sob. My body bad d e l i d its karmic tetribution; reminding me, onstas of how many times I'd incentionallyserved it up a similar boP-de-bo~ lhejolt quickly became a dull ache that almost f&good. In any case, I f&more aliw than I had a morn- besort, because I war more alive. 'The machine in my heart lnd reminded me ofjust how precious this Mi is, Its timing was impeccablet with a h l l house in front of me, while I played my guitarII pt the message loud and clear. I pt it a fkw times that mght. And I got it every time I m s onstage hr the mt of that touq though I never knew wben it was comirrg. A doctor installed an implantablecardiovert~de6brilhtm my heart in battery-powered pnerator when I was thirty-h. It's a t h m ~ i n c b - b q that was k a e d thiough an incision in my armpit. It constardy &om my heart rate, delivering electirwhoclce whenever my heart beats too durgeiously fist or slow. Fifteen years of overdrinking and diug abuse bad swollen that organ to one beat short of exploding. When I was hally hospitalized, I war told I had six weeks to live. Itk been six years since thenand this piece of machkry has s a d my Mi more than a few times. I've enjoyed a convenient side &ct that the doctor did not intend: when my indulgwces have caused my heart to beat too dangerously sbw, my defibrillator has popped keeping death &om my door hr one more day. It also shocks my heart into submission when it beatr fast enough to court c d k c amst. Itk a p d thing Igot it djusted besort the &st V e k Rm,hrer tour. I did that one sober hr the m s part; sober emugh that the excitem- of ot playing with a b a d I b e l i e d in to fins who b e l i e d in us m o d me to



in our c l e t v energy M heart raced with exciaement hard enough to olcie y riiggtr the machine inside me onstage every night. It wasn't pleasant but I beganto d o m e tbaaenminders. I saw them f what theymere. Stranp k mornentsd a k e d chriq mornents out o timethat encapsulatedalifie's f woah ofhard-won wisdom.

Iyo bornon Jdy 23,1965, h StokGomTrert E g nthe tavn whed -ue. ' leh'ny Kllmlster o Matdrheadwas borntwenty y f before me. It yb c . ~ y e a r l ~ d r a n d l o ~ n w e ~ Y ; & ~ ~ r t h a n ~ n m ~ f t l ".pc#ts; the year a few lsobted tkp& c h d pop musk &weidl S T
: ~ ~ h r e l e Q S B d R L l ~ ~ S W l ~ y ~ ~ r ~ t h e S t o n e s ~ M l l l l g * * -. . *- m NO. 2 the best of the~r e 9 : coljectlons d ~ u e cowrs:'ihem was a s proud lo c k k revohJtlondootihdhasnever beene&hedand lsm ' be a by-productof t) My mom Is an Afrloan Amerloan and m dad Is 'Engllsh b -w I6 y They met In P u l s Inthe s k t h fel In bve. and had me. Thelr b . I&r~~kl htercorrtlnentd comrnunlon wanV the norm; and:

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, w e thet boundlesscrealivlty.lthank themfor belngwho th&i&$h

exposed meto e r u l r o m h s r k h and cobrful and u d q k o -. Iexperienced evenwNlevery young made a perrnanerrt-hpprdn on - .. . me.~yparenta~measaneqwlas~nalco&stClrM:.d~ .. .* they lought me, on the fly, how to deal wlth whdwer mme wqi In \ " theonlyiype dllfet'veever knarun. \ 1 .


Paris. My mom ru p m c o & ~ad d e c a n t , young and bea&I; she'd l & Locr An& to see the world ad make connections in fashion, Wben e their joumeyts intemected they fl in l v , then p married in England. d oe t & And then I came along and they rret about creatingtheir l togethes My momb career as a corrtumedesigner started around 1966, and ooer the omme of it, her clients induded flip Who- Rinp Starr, and John Lennon. She also worked b r the Pointer Sistem, Helen Reddy Linda R o d 4 ad James Taybr. Sylvester sms one of her client4 mo. He is no b n-w with us, but he wu, once adkoartist who wu, likethegay Sly h e . He had agreat voice and hewas asuperpod person in my eyes; he gave me a blackand-white rat that I namedMickey Mickey wu,a badasa He never flinched w b n I fed a m to my snakes. He survived a f d b m my bedroom window &er he wu,roerred out by my youqer brothel; and wu,no worse fix the wear when he showed up at our backdoor three days ]at- Mickey also survived the accidental removal of a d o n of his tail when the inner r chvreis of our wfi bed cut it ofE as well as cbrre to a year without hod o water. We kfi him behind by mistllre in an aparanm that = used as

popped in to pick up some boxes, Mickey came up to me c o n p d l y as if I'd been gone only a day, as if to my, *Hey!W h e r e you beenf MIckqr was one of my more memorable pets. 'Ihere ha- been mury, from my mountain lios Cux& to the hundreds of sxnkes I've m i d . Bat& c d y I am a &taught zookeeper and I definitely relace to the animak I've lned wkh better than to most of the humans I'm b w n . 'Thow animals and I hare a point of view that most peopk & e t at the end of theday I & is about w r v i d Once that lemon is hmed, earningthe txust of an animal that might eat you in the wild is a defining and d i n g experienae.

mxap space, and when we

with a a r k blackAm&an.I w d e r what be said when Tony told him that he intended to be married and raise their newborn child under their roof until he and my mom p their t in order. All things anridered, novd I'm touched by bow much diplomacywas displayed by the p a e s i v l e .

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returned to L.A. to expand her business and to hy the 6nancialfiwndation our family was built upon. My dad r a i d me in En&d at his paws', Charles and Sybil Hudson's, home & tinu years-and it wam't m y on him. I was a p t t y intuitive kid, but I could not d k e m the depth of the tension there. My dad and his dad, Charks, from wkat I understand, had h than the best felatbdip Tony was the middk of t h e sons, ad he was every bit the middle child upstart. H i youqer brother, Ian, and his older k h - David, were much more in step with the imily's values. My dad went to art school; he was everything his k h e r wasn't. Tony wuu the &ties; and he stood up Sbi his beliefs as wbolehearaedlyas his father corndemned them. Mygmndfather Charles was a & m a n from Stok a communitythatbadrromehow~thmaghbiscayunchan&Moet~ of Stoke never leave; mury, lik my grandparents, had never v e n d the hndred or rro miks south to London. Ton$ unyielding vision of attending art school and making a hing through painting was something Charles could not stomach. 'Tkis c h h of opinion h l d constant argumas ad ee ofoen kd to v i o k exchanges; Tony chims that Charles beat him A s s on a regular bashfor most of his My grand&ther was as consummately r e p r w d v e of 1950s Brhin as his r o was of the &is Charles w a d to see everything in its right rn te. and l. place whik Tony wanted to iwr~p repaint it al I imagine that my grandfatherwas properly appalkd when his son returned &omParis in bve


could handle the train ride. I was maybe two or three, but ins& t i d y I knew how far away it was from Stoke's unending miks of brown brick row bouses and quaint families because my dad was inco a bit of a bohemian scene. We*dc n h o n couches and notcome back& days. 'There were Lava lamps and blacklights, and the electric excitement ofthe open booths and artists along P d e l b Road. My dad never considered himselfa Beat, but he had a b b e d that kindofI&qk through oemosis. It was as if he had handpicked the highlights of that type of & a bve of adveaute, hitting the road with nothing but the clothes on yaw back, finding heker in apartmas fullofintem&ngpeople. My p a w s taught me a l t but I k a r d their greatest lesson early-nothing elec is quite o, likI&ontheioad. I remember the p o d things about +land I was the center of my g r a n d p a s *attention. I went to school. I was in plays: The Tuu Day rde dChristmar; I was the E d in The Litde Drummer Boy I drew all the time. And once a d I watched Z Avmgerr and %e %wrdcrbirds. T h i s i o n k in latesixties +land war extremely limited and teflected the poet-World War 1 , Chichillview of the world of my g r a n d p a s ' generuion. 'There 1 were only t k c h d back tkn, and yide from the tmm haws a week that any of them played thoae tmm po r m all three played only the news. r ga Itb no wonder that my p a w s ' gweration threw themaelvesheadfirst into the cukuralahili that was afbot. Once Tony and Ipined O h in Loe Angeltr, k never spoke to his p m ene again, 'Ihey disappeared from my lifequicklyand I o h k e d tbem growingu p My mother encoufigtd my fither to say in w c h but it made n di&ence; he had n interest. I didn't see my Englieh datives again , , until Guns N' Roaer became d knowa Wben we p h e d Wembky Stal dium in 199% the Hudson clan came out in fmet backstage befbre the

&ow I witnessed one of my under, my courin, and mygrandfvbes on his very k trip to London &om Stoke, down every drop of liquor in our d d g mom. Consumedin full, our boo= rider in thoae dayswwld l n ~ kikd anyone but us.


M Y FIRST M E M O R Y O F L O S A N G E L E S I S the Doors'"Lighc My F S blasting from my parents' turntable, every day d day bng. In the late aixties and early smemk LA. wrs the place to be, l especially fbr young Brits involved in the atts or music: there was ampk c&~kaom~tothertill.etodp;ysyrcpmin~hndandtheder was mthing but paradise compared to Londonb rain and kg. Besides, dereaing %had fbr Yankee &s wrs the best way to flip off the syraem o and your upbriqing-nd my dad was more than happy to do s.

My mother c o d e d her work as a f d i o n desigrm while my father parlayed his natural artistic talent irwographic design, My mom had connections in the music industry s her hurbpnd was soon & o abum c o n We lived offlaud Canyon Boukvard in averyriaies communky up at the top of Lookout Mountain Road. That area of Los An+ has always been a creative h a m because of the bohemian nature of the landscape. 'The houses are set + h t into the mourninside among lush foliage. They are bungabws with gutethoueer, and any odd number of structures that allowfor wry organic, annmunalliviq. There was awry cozy enclave of a k s and musicians living up there when I was young: Joni Mitchell lived a fitw houses down from us. Jim Morrison liwd behind the Canyon Store at that time, as did a young Glen Frey, who wasjust putting wether the Hagka It was the kind of atmosphere where everyone wrs c o n n e d : my mom designedJonib clothes while my dad d e + d her album covers. David G&n was a c h fiiend of our+ too, and I amember him well He + Gum N Roees y a m lateq though when he did he didn't know who d ' I was-and I didn't tell him. He calkd O h at Christmas in 1987and asked her bow I was doing. %u should know bow he's doing," she said, "you just put hisbandb i : out." #d

we moved south to an qaranent on Doheny, I changed schools, and that is when I d k o d j u s t how d i @ d ythe a kid l i d I never had a traditionalakid"room lid&toysandprimvy colors. Our homes werenever painted in common neutral tones. The essena of pot and incense usuaUy hung in the air, 'Ihe vibe was always bright, but the color schemewas always dark. It was Cine with me, because I was never concerned with a o d n g I with kids my ;~ge, preferred the aompany of adults because my parentsB friends are stdl some of the most aolorful characters rw ever known. I listened to the radio 24/7, usually KHJon the AM dial I slept with it on. I did my schoolwork and got good grades, although my teacher said I had a short attention span and daydreamed all the time. ?he truth is, my passion was arc I loved the French hstimpressionist painter Henri R o w seau and, Like him, I drew jungle scenes f d of my favorite aimah, My obession with snakes started very arlp The tirst time my mother took me to Big SUL; Cdihrnia, to visit a friend and camp up there, I was six yevs old and I spent hours in the woods catching snakes. I'd dig under every bush and tree until I'd filled an unused aquarium ?hen I'd let them go, That wasn't the only Qciaement I erperienced on that outing: my mom and her fCiend were similarly wild, carefree young women, who enjoyed ncing my momis Vollcswagen Bug along the twishing U d e roads. I rememberspaedmngdong in thepassenger seat scared sdfElooking out my window at the rocks and ocean that lay below, just inchespast my door.




flawless. 'Ihey Listened to everythingfrom Beethoven to Led Zeppelin and I continued to find undiscovered gems in their library well into my beens. I knew every artist of the day because my parents took me to concerts constantly, and since my mom took me to work with her o k n as well. At avery early 9 I was exposed to the inner workings of entertainment: I saw the inside of many recording studios and ehearsal spaces, as well as T V and film sets. I saw many o f o n i Mitchell's recording and rehearsal sessions; I also saw Flip Wilson (acomic who was huge thenbut whom time has &gotten) temrd his TV show. I saw Australii pop singer Helen Reddy ehearse and pehrm, and was thee when Linda Ronstadt played the Troubador. Mom abo took me alongwhen sheoutfitted Bill Cosbyfor his stand-upgigs and made his wih a few one-offpieces; I emember going with her to see the Pointer Sisters. All of that was M r the course of her career,but when we l i d at hataparementon Doheny, her business was really taking06 Carly Simon came over to the house!, soul singer Minne Ripperton as well. I met StevieWonder and Diana Rosa My Enom tells me that I met John Lennon, too, but unbrtunately I don't emember that at all. I do emember ~ i n g Ringo Starr: my mom designed the very Pdint-Funkadelicoutfit that Ringo w o e on the cover of his 1974album, Goodmight V i m a It was highwaisted and metallic gray with a white star in the middle of the chest. Every bachtaF or soundscene that I sawwith my mother worked some kind of strange magic on me. I had no idea what was going on, but I was hcinated by the machinationsofpehrmance back thenand I stillam now. A stage full ofinstruments awaitingaband is exciting to me. ?he sight ofaguitar stillturns me on. Thee is an unstated wonder in bothof them: they hold the ability t transcend reality given the right set of players. o


BORN I N December l 7 .That changed the dynamic of my idybit; suddenly 92 a




there was a new personaliy among us. It was cool to haw a little brother, and I was glad to be one of his carnalreis:I loved it when my parents m l d i. askme to bokafter h m But it wasn't too b q after that that I began to notice a greater change in our family. My parents wren't the same when they were together and too often they were apart Things scartd to get bad I think once we m o d into the apaltmerv cm Doheny Driw and my mom's business began ao really sucaeed Our address was 710 North Doheny, by the way, which is now a vacant b where Christmas tiees are sold in December. I should also ment

next-& neighbor in that building was the original, selfprochimed Black Elvis, who can be booked & parties in Lu,Vegakif anyoneb interested. Now that I'm older I can see some of the obvious hues that aae away at my parents' relatiomhip My fither mver liked bow ckwe my mother to her mother. It bruised his pride when his mother-in-hw helped ur,h a m and hewas never h d of her involvementin the funily. His drinking t didn't help t h i n p my dad used to like to drink-a b. He was a s t e m typically bad d& r he was never vioEn2 because my dad is much too smart and aomplicd to ever express himeelfthmugb brute violence, but he had a bad temper under theinhence. When he was drunk, he'd act out by makiq impproprmteaomments at the expense of t h e in h k presence, Needltu to say, he burned many bridges that way.

tion that our

other and rocialized in the same circle of friends. When they split up, my k l e brother wasjusctwo years old, so& obvious reasons they agreed that he s h o d be in his motherb care, but left me the option of livingwkh &her l one of them ro I chow to live wkh my mothet 0a s u p p e d us u,best as shecould, travelingconsmntIytow h m her work took her. Cht of necessity, my brother and I wm-e shuffled between my m o d house and my grandmotherb home. My p n t s ' h w e had always been busy, interesting and unconventionaLbut it had always been stable. Once their bond was b r o h though c~~ tramition became the nonn & me. 'Iheseparvionwasveryhadonmy&therad Ididn'tseehim&qute
awhile.Itwashardonallofuy t ~ y b e c a m e r e a l i t y t o m e o n c e I s a w my mother in the company of another man, That man war David Bowie.

Myp-smvertde?ehotherwithvychingk~peet,kinthe rnonchs be&e they split up, they annpletely awided each 0th- My mom was out most +s ad my dad s p t tbwe +ar in the lcicchtq somber and ;Lbne,dnnkiq red wine and listeningto the piamcompositions of Erik Sptie, When mymom was borne, mydadandIwcntoutonImgwrllra He walked everywhere, in England a d Ins Angeles. In pre-Charles Mamon L.A.-Wre the Manson clan murdered Sharon Tate and her friends-we also used to hiochhike erywhere. LA.was innocent b& that; those murders +&xi the end of the utopian ideals of the sirties Flower Power era. My childhood memories of T n are cinemuic; allof them &moons oy spent looking up at him, waEq by his side. It war on one of t h e walks that we ended up at Fatbuqer, w h he d me that he and Mom were separating. I was devaatd; the only stability r d known was done. I didn't urkquedom, I j u a stared at my hamb-. When my mom ct me down u to explain the h a t i o n later that night, she pointed out the practical beaelits: I'd haw two houses to liw in.I thought about that &a while, and t
m&senseinawaybutit~ndedlikealie;InoddedwhileshespIrebut I stopped listening. My p s separation was aunicabk yet a d d because they didn't a ' divorcle until yeair, later. 'Ihey ohen lived wkhin waEq d h n c e of each


WORKING cbe+with David Bowiewhik hewas reamlingSsahn to Stah;she had been designing clothes for him since Young Amaiaru. So when he signed


ontoetar inthefikn IheMan WhoIkIOtoEarthmymomwas hiredtodo the costumes & the film, which shot in New Mexico. Along the way, she and Bowie embarked on a semi-inaense a & i Looking back on t now, t might not haw been that big of a deal, but at the time, it was like wamching an alien land in your backyard. A h myp-s split up my mom, my broth- ad I movedinto a h a r e a on Rangely D r i ~It was a very cool bww the wh of the living room . were sky blue and emblazoabd wkh cbuds. 'There was a piano, and my mom's reand collection took up an entire wall. It was inviting ad COZY Bowie came by often, wkh hk w f , An& and their son, Zowie, in tow. ie The &wm-e unique it seemed entirely mtural & Bowie to bring his wifi and son to the home of his lover so that we might all hang ouc, At the time my mother practiced the same &m of tranrrcendennl medintion that David did. 'Ihey chanted befcm the shrine she maintained in the

I aaepted David on- I got to know him because heb mait, iimny, and enriched my ex+e of intensely creative My experience of bim offhim -age, I xmx to aee him d my mom at the L.A Forum in 1975,

and, as I have been so many times sine% the mom- he came out omtage, incharacter, I capmued His entire matt m s the essence of p&mance. I saw the funiliar elemems of aman I'd p e n to know exaggerated to the extreme. He had deed rock d o m to its room: being a r o c k s r i the i n e m d o n ofwho you ate and who you mnt ao be. s

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uudly don? amtW&ehm. Whlle hstlnct and hlUh . ';:, & jeb, heb p o v ~lanewur~ngj&Jnio e myah do ~tllefq+dp~p;&~ d i rdme feelha d loolk*mea &n ~ ~ t yhx W&W d ~ nip e-. * d a r n &er,.oon(~.lon. shdea, and ,f,uatrdbn M e. n . 14 . .' together ~micie ~ k a snow abbe. t i d&us you e for the emotiond ' r * ' ~ t o l e t l l e o y o u d o ~ r b & ~ ~ t o ~ ~ & t h e m, ~ My pareM sepudlon w a the picture of an a g m g no douis;~& . were no n mor ugly m i o r , no b y w s meyeustooornetotermswlhthehut. l o s t a ~ o f w t a d l l had to redellne -If on m y Imrrns.'~ learned a W, s n didn't help me kter onwhen the only other Ibmlly Y ; os d tegrdmd. I saw the slgm lhdtbne,whenGms N' Roses.8krbdts , a the seam. BU even lhwgh I ihe ~eavi&-kjh.'&t \ 8urteblzi!uldof~ngbyk~alforme, twoeverybtqr-.

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h e n m y ~ a p t s e p a m t e dIwaaecm-bythewdden , c h a w Inride I waa stdl agood kid, buton the outsideI became a problem child, Exprwuring my d o n a is s t i l l one of my weakmaa d what I fik then defied womb, so I bllowed my natural inclinuione-I acted out drastically and became a bit of a disciplinary problem at acbool. At home, my parema*prombe of a m-abode existence that muldn't changr a thing hadnt come to paaa I hardb raw my dad for the first year . or w that they w e apart, a d when I did, it waa incense and ~ i r dAs I memtioned, the divorcehit him hard and watching him adjust- difficuk fix me; fix a while be couldn't workat all. He lived m e a ~ l a d h u q out y am- h i artiat friends. When I viaited with him, I m a akmg b r the ride aa he a d bb friends hung out, drank a l t of red w n , and dkcuaaed a n o ie and literature, the c-tion typically turning to Picmy dad'a fiww ice a r k . Dad a d I would p on adventures, too, either to the library or the art muaeumI w h e we'd sit togaher and draw. trawling My mother waa home leu, than e r ; ahe worked aonatacl~ o h to wpponmy brotherad me. We apentabt oftimewith mygradmother O h Sr, who waaalwal)aoursaviqgrace when Mom coulddt make endsmeet. We also spent timewith my aunt UYI cousins who lived inSouth Ce-1 L.A. 'Iheir h m e waa boisterous, W with the energy of a bt of H a Our viaita there b u h aome regularity to our idea of fimily. og But all things consideredI I had a bt of time on my h d s and I took advantage of it, OnceIwaatwelm Ipwupfist.Ihadser, Idrank, Iamoked+ettea, I did d m p n I stole, I got kicked out of =hook a d on a f occaaiona I k would have gone tojail if I hadnet been under-. I waa acting out, malcing m y l i f e a a i n c e m s e d u ~ E a a I f i C l t ~ dAmitthat Inaalmyadefined e. me redly came into its own in t h i period: the intmaity witb which I pussuemy interests. My primarypaby the time1waa &had ahifbad from drawing to bicycle motocmwa. In 1977, BMX racing was the newerrt e x m e s p a to folbw the aurE

ing and skateboarding craze of the hte sixtier. It a M y had a few born Me stam, such as Stu lhompon and Scott Brdthaupt; a lk magazines, such as &'cycle M w s s Action and Amakan Ftcutylir, and m- semi pro and pro competitions were popping up constandy. My gtvldmother bought me a Webco and I m s hooked. I started winning races and was rider h e d in a wuple of the magazines as an up-~ndtoming in the t h i ~ teen to burteen age category. I loved ic; I was ready to p pro once I'd h d e d a sponsorc but wmething was miesing. My f+s weren't clear enough to me to vocalize just what BMX didnt inside me. I'd know it when I found it a lk yeam hat After xbool I hung out at bike shop and became part of a team ridingfioiallt~~t~~SpoktsandStufEwhereIbeptoco~aabuachof

much older friends-wme of the other older guys n k e d at Schwinn in SmMonia. Ten or w of us would ride around Hollywood every .;Bk a and all of us but two-they were broth=-came h m disturbed or b m ken domestic riuatioms of wme kind. We h n d wlace in one anocher's m company: our time spent together m s the only tegular w m p a i d i p anyof us could count on. We mid meet up every afternoon in Hollywood and ride everywhere from Culver City to the La Brea Tar Pit4 treating the streets as our bike park We'd jump off every doped surface we could find, and whether it ms midnigk or the middle of rush hour, we always disrespected the pedestiiand right of way We were just scrappy kids on ewenty-inch-high bikes, but multiplied by t e in a pack, whizzing down ~ the sidmlk at top speed, we were a fbme to be reckoned wkh. We'd jump wto a bus bench, sometimes while some poor stianpr ms sitting there, we'd hop 6re hydrant4 and we'd compete constantly to outdo one another. We were disillusioned t e e n a p s tiying to navigate d s c u k rimerr in our liver, and we did so by bunny-hopping all over the sidewalks of L.A. We'd ride this dirt track out in the Valky, by the youth center in R e d a . It ms about &keen miles away from Hollywood, which is an ambitious g d on a BMX bilon We uaed to hitch rides on bumpenr over Laurel Canyon Boulevard to cut down on our travel time. It5 nothing I'd ee advise, but we treated passing cam like a a on a dci chairW: we'd wait on

the shoulder, then one by on we'd grab a car and ride it up the hill. Balancinga bike, ewn one with a low center ofgravity, while holding on to a car driving thirty or fioity milw an hour is thbut tricky on flat ground; attempting it on a wier of tigk uphill S curves like Laurel Canyon is wmething else. I'm still not sure how nwe of us were ever run over, It surprises me more to manember that I did that ride, both up and down hi4 wihout brakes more o h than not. In my mind, being the youngest meant that1 had wmethingto prove to my friendsevery timewe rode: judging by the b b on tbeir &es after wme of my stunts, I suco i g a ceeded. 'Ihey m k haw been only temugetx but my friends -net e* impressed To tell you the truth, we were a gnarly littk &a* One of them was Danny McCracken. He was sixteen; a strong, heavy, d a c type, he was akeady a guy e r y o n instinctively knew not to h c k with. One .;Bk Danny and I stole a bike wkh bent h rad while he d&erately bunnyk, hopped it to break the &hand make us all laugh, he &dlover the handlebanr and dashed his wrist wide open. I saw it aoming and watched it as if in dow-motion as blood started quiiringeverywke, "Ahhh!" Danny shouted. Ewn in p a 4 Dan* voice was oddly sofiespoken consideringhis size-kind of like Mike Tysoda "Holy shit!" "Fuck!" "Dannyk k k e d up!" Danny lived just around the corneq so two of us held our hands over his wrist as bbod lcept squirting out between our lingers as we waked h m home. i We got to h i potlch and rang the bell. H i mom came to the door and we s h o d her Dannyb wrist. She boked at us un&zed, in diddie 'What thefick do you mnt me to do about it?"she said, ad dammed the doot We didn't h o w what to do; by this time Dannyk face was paE, We didnt even know wbere the nevest hospital was. We w a k d him back down the meet, bbod still spurtingall over us, and fl+ down the fiicrc car we saw. I rtuck my head in the window, "Hey my fried k bleeding to death,

can you take h m to the hoophk" I said hyrterically. "He's p n a die!'' i Luckily the M y driving was a nuaa She put Danny in the fmnt reu d we folbwed her car on our bikes. When he got to the e m e p c y mom, Danny didn't have to mit; b k d was pumping out of his w h t lk a victim in a horror movie w they ie admitted him immediately, as the mob of people in the waiting room looked on, piued. ?he doctors rtiched up his wrist but that man't the end of it: when he war released into the waitiq mom where we were miting h him, he wmehow popped one of his newly sewn sticks, rending a e a m of bbod akyward that Eft a trail acms the c&g which k k e d out and disgusted everyone in r w N e e d h to i s a ~ m s d m i t t e d ; a he his wamd round of sutures did the trick

THE O N L Y S T A B L E O N E S I N O U R G A N G wereJohn and Mike, who we c a M the Combuqa Brothers. They were d k h these reawnst they were from the Valley where the typical

American wburban & thrnad, t& parents were intact, they had sist a , and a l ofthem lived rogether in a nice quaint house. But they weren't theonly pair of brothera there werealsoJeffand Chris Gr&; Jeffworkd at Schwinn and Chris m s his ywnger brother. J&was the most adult of our crew; be was eigkeen and he bad a p b that he took seriousb. These two - t * as functioml as the Cowabungas, becauw Chris tried d e s p a at+ to be like h l older brother and f;riled misetlbly. Thome two had a hot sister named Tracey, who had dyed her hair black in response t o the fict that her e h &mily was naturally bbnd Tracey had this whok little Goth stylegoing&eGothwas evenascena And there was Jonathan Watts, wbo was the b*eat head caw among us. He was jut h n e ; he would do alrything, regardkss of the bodily r on harm o p o a d i n ~ a m ~ that migk befall him. I was only d v e , but even w, I knew enough about music and people to find it a bit odd that Jomthan and his dad were dedicated Jethro Tull farm I mean, they ruorshippad Jethro TuU I*mwrryto ray that Jonathan is no longer with uy he g h c dkd m i a of an owrdore afier he'd spent years as both a r q h g akoholic and then a hg-waver b r Akoholics Anonymous. I brt touch with

himwaybPck,butIsawhim?g;rinatanAAmettingthatIwas&edto attend (we'llget to all of that in jut a little bit) &er I war a r m e d one night in the late eighties. I muldnt believe it; I mlked into this meeting and was btening to all of these people speak and, afier a while, realized that the guy h d i n g the meeting, the one who m r as gung ho about wbriety as Lieutenant Bill W p m , Robtit Duval's character in Apocdype Now,bad been about rurhg, was none other thanJonathan Watm. Time c a t a l fibi chaqe; you never know how kindred rwlr ~ is such a po&l willed u p o r where they mqZht see each other again, Back the^ thome guys and I speat many an ewning at Laurel Elemencuy School, making very creative uw of t& playpund. It was a hangout for every Hollywood kid wkh a bike, a r h e b o a d , wme booze to d&k, or some weed to smoke. The playground had tmm lev& connected by long concrete ramps; it begged to be a b u d by r h a and b h We took full a d v a m p o f t by decons~lcting playgrwndb picnic tables the to make them intojumps that linked the two levels. I*mnot proud of our chionie &auction of public propexty, but riding down thome two ramps and launching owr the h c e on my bike was a thrill that was well worth it. As delinqueat as it was, it also drew c d v e types, many kids in H o t who went on to do great thinp hung out there I remember Mike Bakary, bemr known as &a, hanging out, playing his trumpet andgrafk artism putting up murals all the time. It manetthe right hum,but i everyone there took piide in the scene we c d . Unfioitunately, the studems d teach= of that scbool were Eft paying the bin and cleaning up the &ennath every moaning. The H p a l unwisely decided to take m v a i s into h l own ha& by lying in wait to d r o n t US one night. It didn'tgo over well; me kept taunting& hepttooworkedup dmyfriendsand1gotintoitwithhim.h got out of h d mquickly that a p d y aM the cope. Nothing scattea a pack of kids like the sound of a siren, w moet of thosc present escaped. U&nati?l~ I manotone ofthem. Amther kid d I were the only two who were cwghr; we were handcuikl to the handrail in the ftont of the school rg on the meet, on display for all to aee. We mew like two hogik tied animals, going nowhere and none too happy about it. We iefULed to cooperam we cracked wise, me gave them &he mmes, we did everything


s m of oi&q at them and calling them p g . ' I k y kept asking and did h is their best to scare us, but we &ed to meal our names and add-es, and sine t d v e - y a o l d s don't carry ID, they we= k e d to let us go.

SLsbjwmphgout at rbc tmch a bir GABmr.b i b







thirteen, while Iattended Bancmh Junior High in Hollywood. Whatever I was feeling about my family breaking up took a bockreat to the intense surging of hormones. Sitting through a whole day of school seemed pointless, so I started to cut. I began smoking pot regululy and riding my bike intensely I found it hard to control my&; I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do at a moment's notice. O e night while my n friendsand I were schemingabout how to breakinto Spokesand Stuffthe same b i k store where we hung out-for what reason I can't remember, I noticed a kid spying on us through the window of an apartment acroes the alky W h a t are you bokin' at?" I yelled. "Do& bok at me!" Then I threw a brickthrough the kid's window. H b parents called the cops, of course, and the duo that aesponded to the call chased my friends and me all over town for the rest of the night. We biked for our lives all over Hollywood and West Hollywood; we turned down one-way streets into on-corn* traffic, we cut through alleys and through parka. They were as tenacious as Jimmy "Popeye" h y k , Gene Hackma& character in The Frmdr Come&; every time we turned a corneq they were them Hvemtually we fled inro the Hollywood Hills and hid in an out-of-the-way canyon like a pack of Wild West outlaws. And just the way it goes down in a cowboy movie, when we tbought it was safe to leave the hideout and head back to the ranch, we were headed off at the pass by the same tm deputies. I assume it was because I was the smallest that they decided to chase m e when my &ends and I split up. I rode hard, all over the neighbop hood, unabk to shake them, u m l I finally sought refup in an undep ground parking garage, I fiew down a few levels, weaving between parked cars, hid in a dark comer, and lay on the ground, hoping they wouldn't

leocl I think they wexe over it. 'Ihey vigilurtly searched between the cars
with their flashlights; about hundred feet away &om me they turned back I p lucky. This battle between my f h L a d the LAPD continued for t the rest of tbe summer a d it ceininly wasn't a constructive use of my rime, but in my mind, at that point, thatk what I considerad fLn, I m s p ~ e t t y g 0 0 d ~ ~ m y & t o m y L e l f t v e n b P c k t hbut ~ wben I dipped up my mother a d grandmother were very lingking, I was home u littk as posaibk by the middk ofjunior high. In the rummer of 1978# had no idea that my gradmother was moving into a unit in a mom I atmus new annpkx that occupied an entire blockbetween Kings Rwd ad S a m Monica Boukud, akhough I knew the building d because I'd been riding my b i b through it $ace it was a constmaion sim My fiieadr and I would high and race one amther t h q h che halhvap a d down the h e l l s Drhmming doom in one anotWs &es, jumping onm banb tm a d lea* creatidy shaped & marh on the freshly painced w;rlla I We =e in the mi& of doing s when I came =reaming around a corner o and nearly bowled over my mother a d grurdmother, wbo were car* armloads of O h Sck bebnginp inm her new apartmeat. I'll never k t p the look on my p d m o t h e r k h e ; it was somewhe b e e n shock ad horror. I m k e d myselfad shot a l o o k o ~my shoulder, where I sawthe r lzst of my friendst a hard turn out of sight. I had one leg on thegroud, & one on a pedal, d thinking that I might pt any. "Saul?"O h Sr. said, in her too-awe- higbpitchedgrandmother voice, "Is thatprtf "Yes Gmdma," I said. "Its me.How are you doing? My friends and I werejust coming by to &it." %at Bit didn't fly at all with my mom, but O h Sc was soglad to ace me that O h Jr. k me get amy with it. In fm, it all w o r l d out so well in t ek t h e e d that a fiew w e s h e r I moved inm that very apartmem, a d that's wben my junior vanity exploits in Holywood really began t take off. But o we'llget to all of that in jut a little bit.

Taig up tbc h i b d wt ern

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became my other new hest-kleptomania-aside

&om saying that I

was a pirred-off early adoklcent. I stole what I thought I needed but couldn't a h r d , I stok what I thought might make me happy; and wmetimes I stolejut to rrtal. I stole a bt of b o o b because I've al-)a bved to read; I stole a oon of cauettes, because I've al-ys loved music. Cauettes, for those too young to have known them, had their disadvantages: the wund quality wore down, they pt mngkd in tape machines, and they melted in direct sunligk. But they were a breeze to &&. lhey are like a thinner packof cigarettes, so an ambitious shoplifter could stuff a b a d i entire catalog in their cbthes and walka-y unnoticed. At my worst, I'd steal as much as my cbthes could hide, then dump my paybad in the bushes a d go steal more, sometimes at the same store. One afternoon I stole a few snakes from the Aquarium SMck Company a pet store that I used to hang out in w much that once they got uaed to my presence I don't think they'd ever considered that I'd steal from them. lhey weren't complete suckers; I was there out of a true love for the animals they stocked-I just didn't respect the store enough not to take a few home with me, I'd snatch makes by wrapping them a r o u d my w r k s a d then putting my jacket on,making sure that they were nestled high enough on my hearm. One day1 really went to town a d took a load of them, which I stashed somewhere outside whik I returned to the etore to steal booh that woufd teach me how to care h the rare makes I'd just stolen. On anther occasion I Hied aJachonb chmeleoq which isn't exactly a subtle steal: they are the homed chameleons that measure about ten inches and feed on 9ies; they are a big as small iguanas and have those straqe, protruding, pyramid-like eyes. I had a lot of balls when I was a kid-I just walkd rig& out of the soore with it, and it was a very expent exotic member of the pet store jungle. As I walked home with the k , littleguy, I couldn't come up with a story that would adequately explain his preaence in my room to my mom, I decided that my only option was to let him live outside, on the vine-covered chain-link fence at the back of our yard, by our garbage car. I'd stolen a book on Jackson's chameleons, w I knew tht they love to eat h and I wufdn't thin k of a better , place for Old Jack to find flies than by the fence behiad our garbage

cans-because there mere plenty to be had. It was an advenhlre finding him every day because he was so skilled at fading into his environment, as chanceleonr are known t do. It always took me some time to bcate o him and I bved the challenge, This arrangement Luted h about five months; after a while, he pt better and better at hiding among the vines, until the day I just couldn't ftrl him at a& I went out there each afaernoon h two months, but it was no use. I have no idea what happened to Old Jack, but conrideriq the myriad possibilities that might have b e f h him I hope that it ended well. I'm very lucky not to have been caught f r the majority of my shopo lifting expbits, because they were pretty extensive. It p this stupid: t on a dare, I liked an i n h t e d rubber raft from a sporting p o d s store. It took wme planning but I pulled it off, and somehow I didn't get

It's no big deal; I'1 reveal my "method; such as they we= the rak 1 wu, hung on awall near the back door ofthe stcm, near the h a h y that ran right into the back alleyway. Once I managed to get that back door open without arouaing suspicion, pulling the raft off the wall wu, easy, And once the raft was offthe wall and on the floor, hidden from general view by some dbplay of campinggear or whatever, I just waked for the right moment to carry it outside and walk it a r o u d the comer to where my &ends mere waiting for me. I didn't even kap that rak. Once I'd proved that I'd pulled that dare off I dumped it one block ammy on wmeone's front lawn. I'm not proud of it, but all things c o n s i d 4 when I was ten miks from d homewithnomoney a mybikptaflat, I'mgladthatitwas easyfor me to steal an inner tube Ennn Top "R" U ,Otherwise, I might haw been out s God only kncnvg what k i d of aituatiom. Still, there h i t c b g brine h like q m who repeatedly tempts h , must admit that however often eI you convince ywnelfthat your actiom are necewtry when you know that they're not quite righ~ win catch up to you in the end. they In my case, in as much as we're talking about shopldhg, in the e d , I p nabbed at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard, which was my part ' was ents' fivorite record shop. I remember that day all too clearly- ~t one



of those moments when I'd known somethingwas wrong but embarkd on the adventure anyway. I ms &eels I think, and I m e m b e r thinb ing, as I parked my BMX bike outside, that I should be carefbl in this atore in the hu e 'That revelvion didn't help me in the short term: I t r. greedily s t u U cassettes in my jwket, down my pants, and glutted my clothingso much that I thought I should probably buy a i w albums $st to throw the cashiers off. I b e h I walked up to the counter with Cheap Tiickb h a m Potin and Led Zeppelin's Horrrs o j h e Holy, and after I was rung up, I was home free in my mind. I was outside, straddling my bike, ready tojam whena hand clamped down h a d on my shoulder. I denied everything but I was busted; they brought me up to the room above the store w h e they'd been w a t c h 4 me soell through the one-way window and they showed me the h g t . They called my mom; I gave up all of the tapes in my pants and they air~lgtd them on a table for her to ree when she got there. I got a m y with a lot as a kid, but get* busted fix shoplifting cassettes at the store my parems had f r e q u e d f r so many years was an o 5 s e that o meant more within the c o n k s of our fimily than it did within the letter of the law. 1'11 never hrget OKs expression when she came up to that office above the store and k n d me sitting there with everything I'd stokn laid out before me. She didn't say much, and she didn't have to; i was clear to me that she was over thinking that I could do m wromg. In the end, Tower didn't press charges because all of the merchandhe was recoveied. 'Ihey kt me go on the condition that I muld newr set hot in their store again, most likely because some managtr there recognized that my mom was a well-liked regular. Of coune, when I was hitad at the very same store six years hter in the video division, during m y shift h r the h six month&I was cont vinced that romeone was going to remember that I'd been caught stealing and have me fired. I figured that any day now, wmeone muld figure out that I had blatantly lied on my application h n n and presumed what I knew to be true: that what I did mallilgt to lifi until I was caught was worth more than a biw months' paychecks.

usually we had weedy


going to m r k themselves out over the next eigk years of my I but & , only once I'd found a stable family of my own design. In the vacuum that my family's dissolution left in its wake, I made my own world. I'm luckyenough that, despite my a@, during a period of testing my boundaries, I made one friend who has never been fir from me, even when wove been worlds apart. He is still one of my cbsest confidants, which, after thirty years, says a fuck of a bt. His name is Marc Canter; his fimily owns the famous L.A. institution Canter's Deli on North Fairfix. 'The Canter family moved from New Jersey and opened the restaurant in the 19408 and it's been a hub for show-business types ever since, because of the f$od and the fact that it's open twenty-hr hours. It's only a half mile &om the Sunset Strip, and in the sixties it became a haven k r musicians and has remained so ever since. In the eighties, bands like Guns had many a late-night meal there. 'The Kibbin Room, which is their bar and live music venue next door has hosted too many great nights of music to name. The Canters have been wonderful to me; they've employed me, they've sheltered me, and I can't thank them enough. I met Marc at 'Third Street Elementary School but we didn't really become friends until I almost stole his mini bike in fifth grade. Our friendship was solidikd &om the start. He and I hung out in Hancock Park, which was next to the affluent neighborhood where he lived. We used to go down to the ruins of the Pan Pacific 'Theater, which is where the Grove shopping center is today. ?he Pan Pacific ws an

amaziq relic; it had been a glamonws 1940s movie pahce, with an arched ceiling and huge screen that showed news d and defined a gtneration's worth ofcinematic cukure. In my day, it was still beautiful: thegreen Art Deco arches were still intact, though the rest war reduced to rubble. Next to the lot was a public library and a park with a b a k ball court and a pool. Like Laurel Elernermry it war a meeting point h r kidr aged twelve to eigkeen*who, for one reason or anaches h n d their way out at night. My friends and I were the young ones on the scene; there were chicks so far out of our league that we couldn't even counc the ways-though we did anyway. 'Ihere were flunkies and dropouts, many of whom lived in the mins of the theater and subsisted on the hod they raok from the farmers' market that took phce next door twice a week. Marc and I wem fascinated; we gained acceptance among them because usually we had weed, which was always a crowd pleaser. Meeting Marc t i b e r e d a t change in me; he was my h best friend-he was rromeone who u n d e ~ m o d me when I felt no one ehe did Neither of us have had lives that one might cadl normal, but I'm prwd to say that we'rejust as close as we were then. 'Ihat k my debition of family. A friend still knom you as well as they used to even if you haven't seen them in years. A true friend k them when you need him; theyie not anwnd just on holidays and weekends. I hund that out firsthand a fiw years later. When I bare+ had money to eat, I didn't care, so long as I had money to promote Guns N ' Roses. And when I didn't have money ao p r k flyem or even buy myself guitar stiings, Marc Canter was there for me He'd f i w t me the cvrh to tahe care ofwhatever needed to be done. I paid him back once I was able, once Gum got signed*but I never forgot that C a l m was there for me when I was down and out.

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more I learnedto pky gulor, the more I MIke a ver$lbqq nBed my own cmatiw v o b -red through thosebk sh~ngi b dm 60mdNng eke erdlrely. Nates and chords hak. beooriie ow k a mmci, more often Lttmn ndt. t~ vomt~u what I feel when knguage fdls me.The g M u b whenever I way, t's b w me bock -k 5 1 , : , forgd, t remhds me why I'tn here.

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owe r allto Steven Adler-he did it, He b the reasonthat I play guitar, We met one ng at the LaurelFdemermry playground when we were ih thirteen, As I remember r, he wu, skateboarding miserably After a particularly hard fill, I rode over on my bike and helped him up and we were instantly inaepafabE. Steven had p w n up in the Vahy with his mom, h b stepdad, and h b two brothers until his mom couldnPt take h b bad behavior anymore and shipped him offa, livewith hisgnadparemm in Holywood. Helwad there h the reminder ofjunior high, rrummers included, b&e he wur b u d back to h b mom to attend high school. Steven b special. be's the kind of v, mistit that only agrdmother can b e but can't live with. Steven and I met tbe summer b& eighth grade and hung out until high school since I had jut m o d k o my grandmotheri new am& in Hollywood, fmm my momiapartment in Hamock Park. Both of us were new to our school, BancroftJunior High as well as to the nebborhood. As b g as I kncw him, Steven mmr spent a full weeks worth of time in n schoolout of anygivenmonth I got by because I did d enough in my art, mu& and Ehglish c b e s that my grade-poincanwap m s high enough to paaIgotAsinart,Bnglisb andmusicbecwretboee~theonlysubje!cts that heres& me. Apart komthoee I didn't cate for much ele, d I cut c b all the time. Since I had & o h a pad of abtnca mxices b m the adminismtion officesand f d my mom5 signature when I needed t q in the eyes of the adminiatiation, I wy there much more o h than I ever wur. But the only reason I actually graduatedjunior high at all was due to a teachers*strikeduring my h year. Our regular mchers were rephced l by substituteswho w e a troo e a q h me to bulbhitand charm I don't m n t to get into it, but on more than one occasion I recall playing my teacher*^ fiorite song ongukar for the e h e class. Emugh said To be honest, school wynk roo bad: I had a whok circk of friends, includiq a girlfriend (who we'll get to in jut a little bit) and I partrook liberallyinevery exercisethat m a b schoolenjoyableto stoners.Our crew met in theearly morning before homemom to mort l o c k mom-a headH O W TO PLAY ROCK-AND-ROLL GUITAR

shop brand of amyl nitrite, a chemical whose fumes expand your blood vessels and lower your blood pressun and in the process giw you a brief euphoric rush. Aker a bkw hits of bcker mom, we'd smoke a bkw cigutttes and at lunchtime recowlene in the courtyud m amoh apint.. ,We did what we could to make the school day pleasant. When I didn't go to school Steven and I s p m the day wandering the gffver Hollywuod u# wkh our heads in the cbuds talking about music and hustling money, Wedid some offband panhandlingandoddpbe, libe moving h r n i u n h r someof the random charactem we'd meet. Hollywood er has always bana w i d place that amacts odd hh, but in the late seventies, with the stranp rums cukun had & from the kaiown of the &ties revohtion m the widespread useof d i u p and h e d twmalmomi, there were m n e really strange ones hanging around. Idodtrwnembetbowwemet him, buttheremsoneolderguywhoused toghe us money for nothing. We'djust hang out and tallcto him; I think he aked us togo to the sawe a ampk of times. I debit+ t h g h t it m e wtitd, but he wasn't threatening emugh todoanytbing a couple of chitteenyear-olds couldnit handk. Besides, the extra podoet cash was mwth it. Steve had noinhibitions whatmewi; so he m a m d toacquire money on a regular basis in many mp, oneofwhich was from Clark* anebbor of minein her mid-mnries who l i d down the stmet. One day we sawher sitting on her p m h when we passed by and Steven fek the inclination to say hi to her. They staited tallkg and she invited us in; we bung out there for a whik and then I decided to take but Steven said that he m r p i n g to stay there a littk whik h e r . It turm out that he had sex with her that night and got money off her to boot. I haw no idea how he did it, but I do knowthat hewas wkh herfourorfivetimesmore,andptmoneyeuey s i q l e &me. It war unbelievable to me; I was really enviour. But thenaga4 Steven muld alwapget involved in hatiom libe that and they o h didn't have a happy ending. In this cae, he was in the middk of sc+ Clarissa when her gay mommate walked in on them. She threw S t t ~ n o fb r a n d he laded hard-on first on her bedroom &or, f and that war the end of that. Seven and I gac by; I rmle an the music and rock magazines that we needed. 'There weren't momany ocher things that we cared to spend money

so we were in good shape. We'd then Hollywood B o u l d &om Sunset to Doh-, checking out rock postem in the many head shop or r duckingintowhichever sou& o mu& st- boked excitingtour. We'd just wander, taking in the animated reality p i n g on down th- We u d to hl out at place called Piece 0'Pizza for hours, phying Van Hakn on lg thejujubebox over and o m It was a ritual by then: Steven had played their &st r e d for me a bkwmonthsbefbm It m r olne of those momencr where a new body of music totally overwhelmed me. "You've got to hear thb:Steven said, all wide-qred. Itkthis band Van Hakq they'na-f I had mydwbar becvreSteuznand Ididn'takvays see eye to eye muskally. He put the recod on, and Eddieb sob that sets off "Eiuption" came shredding through the spakerr. "Jesus C h r k ~ " said, I "what the hell is tkat?"
on a& &
walk up and down Sunset Boulevard,

from Big G u l p and c+ettes,


- ---ma1 to me r - - -

as art andw i but 13 a much G~~~ level