An appetite for destruction - in celebration of Slash
- By Chris Copeland -
- May 23, 2012
With the release of 'Appetite for Destruction' in 1987, Slash was inducted into the pantheon of iconic guitar players, the types of guys whose individual identities became as big as their bands’. With his astonishing capacity for partying, his nerve shattering guitar solos, and his inimitable style (who was going to be able to pull off a top hat after him?), Slash raised the bar to a level that has not been matched since. He is my generation’s Keith Richards - blithe, louche, and full of rock and roll mojo - and in a few days, at the age of 46, he will release his second solo record.
In anticipation of the new record, I spent some time watching old Guns N’ Roses videos. GnR clearly was the Axl Rose show, yet what made the band so supremely cool was Slash’s ability to stand in Axl’s shadows and just be, well, supremely cool. So to celebrate the man in the top hat, I present Slash’s Top Five Greatest Moments in Guns N’ Roses Video.
5. Sweet Child O’ Mine, 00:16
'Sweet Child O’ Mine' introduced the nation to Slash. Sure, we’d seen him in the video for 'Welcome to the Jungle,' but that was GnR’s first video. Though the top hat was in place, Slash was given limited screen time so that the world could be introduced to one William Axl Rose, the front man and power behind GnR. In Sweet Child, the power shifted. At the 16-second mark, Slash enters the picture, shot from an extreme low angle. You cannot see his eyes beneath the scruff of hair, and you can hear the fuzz and loud click as he plugs in his guitar. At that point, he launches into one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history, and his legend is cemented.
4. Don’t Cry 1:48
In the first of a video trilogy that would grow increasingly ludicrous and in which Axl continued pitiful attempts to act, Slash has several great moments. In one, the band is at a bar, presumably on the Hollywood Strip, when Axl’s girlfriend, played by supermodel Stephanie Seymour, walks in on him while he is sitting at the bar’s piano with another girl. A vicious fight ensues. No one tries to break it up. Cut to the band’s table: Everyone watches in amusement as Seymour slaps the sense out of the wannabe groupie. Slash, in his perpetual state of being unperturbed, leans over to the girl next to him and covers her eyes as if to say, “This is barbaric, and It. Is. Awesome!”
3. November Rain 3:40
'November Rain', the second video in the trilogy, was the tipping point in Axl’s great delusion of grandeur. GnR was still pretty awesome, but the overwrought and sentimental direction the band was taking threatened to dent Slash’s coolness. In the video, Slash answered the question, “Is it possible to maintain notoriety in an eight-minute piano ballad that features a flautist?” Yes, it is. In the midst of the pomp and circumstance of the video, Slash plays the ring bearer at Axl’s wedding to Stephanie Seymour. First, Slash forgets the ring (don’t worry! Duff has it!) Then, after tossing it on the bible the preacher holds, he walks nonchalantly out of the church in the middle of the ceremony, and down the center aisle no less. Hey, he has a guitar solo to get to. The video represented the weight of the band falling in on itself, but Slash continued to convey his omnipresent “Don’t give a f—k” attitude.
2. Patience, 3:45
At the 3:45 mark, Slash lays in his hotel room bed while a montage of lingerie-clad women undress and lie next to him. He ignores them and just lies there playing with his snake. No, not metaphorically. He holds a literal snake, what looks like a python, while the groupies come and go. This video was supposed to be about the loneliness of touring and the alienation of super stardom. With the exception of Izzy, the other members of GnR each have an “alienation scene” (Duff clears his own room service, Steven smirks at the groupies in the lobby, Axl wistfully watches the Welcome to the Jungle video in his hotel room). They look like they are trying to too hard to look bored. They are terrible actors. Indifference is part of Slash’s aura, however. Though we are supposed to think he is bored with the parade of groupies, one gets the impression he is simply auditioning them. Somehow he conveys that he’s too cool to get alienated. It’s got to be the snake.
1. Don’t Cry, 3:12
While I would love to include Slash’s last screen moment in a GnR video, that moment is a poorly produced green screen shot in which he plays a solo while standing on the ocean waves. Axl clearly took the band down with him in the “Estranged” video. Otherwise, the Slash motif was always one of rock and roll cool—party hard, play hard, and never let your feathers get ruffled. In the 'Don’t Cry' video, Slash gets a rare mini-plot, in which he drives a car off a cliff to spite a nagging girlfriend. That’s pretty rock and roll. But it’s the ensuing shot that sums up Slash better than any other moment in the GnR videography. He stands on the edge of a cliff. He plays his classic Les Paul. He wears leather pants and no shirt. And he caps it off by throwing his guitar off the cliff when he is finished. Juxtapose this shot with the one from Sweet Child, and you pretty much get the gist of Slash.
After tossing his guitar, he walks away. In the video, he is walking away from the scene of the crash. Though we didn’t know it at the time, I think in real life he was walking away from Guns N Roses. Fortunately for us, Slash did not hang up his hat, and next week we get another dose of the man in the top hat.
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