Written by Spencer Blohm
For fans of Guns N’ Roses it should come as no surprise that Slash, the celebrated guitarist of the group, is still rocking nearly 30 years after he and his bandmates were thrust into the spotlight with their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, in 1987. Since his official exit from the band in 1996, he’s stayed busy by forming the supergroup Velvet Revolver and launching a successful solo career which has produced three solid albums – the last of which was released in September and earned favorable reviews.
Now, Slash is opening up and rocking out in a new two part special for DirecTV’s Audience Channel, consisting of a concert, which aired on November 7, and a documentary about his life and times, which aired on November 13. At the age of 49, his ability to attract such attention and praise speaks to the eternal popularity of his work and the affinity many people worldwide hold for Guns N’ Roses.
It seems as if the whole prototype for what it means to be a rock star was created in the 1980s, with Guns N’ Roses at the forefront. In a sea of rock bands popping up out of thin air and disappearing just as quickly, the band possessed something special, an X factor that separated them from the pack. Perhaps it was the sense of danger they always seemed to project, or the fact that they truly were all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll before it became a cliché. It may not only rely on the rough image they projected, but also their creation of incredibly diverse, wide reaching, and masterfully written songs. Think of the variety between some of their greatest hits: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, with its nostalgic, all-American-ness of a Bruce Springsteen song, ”Welcome to the Jungle”, a wild head banger to blast on a night out, “Civil War”, which gives a social commentary on the state of the world, or “November Rain”, a track that carries such emotion and melancholy that it’s still a mainstay in many breakup playlists to this day. Of course, it helps that in conjunction with each track the group released iconic music videos (who can forget Stephanie Seymour in that wedding dress?).
As for Slash’s own enduring popularity, that’s a different story. During their heyday Slash received more screen time than most guitarists did, but it was still all about vocalist Axl Rose. One could argue that it’s Slash’s sheer talent that has made him so beloved, with dozens of reputable publications, from Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Guitar World listing him as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. It could also be his rather distinctive look – his trademark unruly black curls, circle sunglasses, and top hat – that he hasn’t wavered from in his nearly 30-year career. Then again, it could be that he’s remained relatively low key and thus hasn’t created a fatigue from his audience in the way that Axl may have with his various antics throughout the years. For many, it’s all that in addition to his “I don’t give a f–k” attitude that, like the top hat, remains intact after all these years.
In the end it’s likely a combination of all of the above, which create a truly unique figure who many have tried (unsuccessfully) to emulate over the years. He’s got “it”, whatever that elusive term may mean. More than anything perhaps, he’s kept that it-ness intact throughout his various musical endeavors, laying low between projects and leaving us wanting for more, exactly where he wants us.
For those who are able to catch his concert special and the upcoming documentary, you’ll see the Slash we all know and love with his otherworldly guitar skills and wild energy. In the documentary, viewers will discover what made the guitarist who he is today, and get a rare look at the life of Slash. The documentary covers his entire life, from his childhood in England to his rise to the top with Guns N’ Roses, as well as his current solo career. It promises to be a truly unique look at the man of few words.