You may have heard that Guns N’ Roses is reuniting. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan are all on record promising to play a handful of shows, starting on my birthday in Las Vegas, then headlining Coachella, then Mexico City, ramping up to a 46-month tour of South America and points beyond.
Anyone who knows enough about Guns N’ Roses to care about this news also knows that there are a couple of names missing from the reunion call sheet: Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.
Izzy is easy to explain but hard to understand. If Slash’s and Duff’s autobiographies are to be believed, Izzy left the band voluntarily because a) he had turned into a junkie and wanted to clean up and b) he was sick of Axl’s bullshit. Everybody knows Axl developed a punctuality problem as the band got bigger, but he also started spending money — the band’s money — like the worst kind of star-tripping asshole: huge opulent themed backstage parties that he didn’t even attend, private jets, adding horn players and backup singers and a fucking white grand piano to the live show, and worst of all incurring countless curfew fines because a show that starts two hours late ends two hours late.
Or as Izzy put it shortly after he bailed: “I had a bus, and they had a plane, and I beat them to the gigs.”
Between that basic personality conflict with the giant machine that GNR became and will certainly be again, it’s understandable that Izzy wants to keep his distance. Rumor has it that he will appear on a few of the shows, or a few of the songs at every show, or a few of the songs at a few of the shows. He has supposedly written new material with them, and the played with Axl Rose Presents Axl Rose’s Guns N’ Roses Featuring Axl Rose for a few shows in 2014. He does not appear to have any hard feelings, he just doesn’t like all the to-do, and you have to kind of respect him for that. It will be a bummer if Izzy is not a part of the reunion, but if he isn’t it’s because he doesn’t want to be, not because they’re shutting him out.
Steven Adler is another story.
In a band literally full of junkies, Adler managed to distinguish himself, going so far down the rabbit hole that he forgot how to play drums, stalled the recording process on the Use Your Illusion album, and got himself fired in 1991, just before the band launched the three-year tour that everyone involved is still living off of.
Now that the band is getting back together, the fans want the whole band to get back together, including Steven Adler, because whatever his problems, he and his cowbell were a huge part of GNR’s sound.
Somewhat miraculously, despite 20-plus years of being a stone junkie and out-of-control crackhead, Steven Adler still walks among us. He sounded pretty good at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there is no question that he wants to be involved — no one has ever wanted to be involved in anything as much as Steven Adler wants to be involved in the Guns N’ Roses reunion — and he claims to be sober, so what’s the problem? Why not have the original five guys that played Appetite For Destruction if that’s an option that’s available? Adler would probably do it for free and leave the eleventeen million dollars this tour will make to the rest of the band. So why not just do the right thing and bring him?
I have thought a lot about this. I have lost sleep over it. I have pored over documents and photographs and crime blotters and I believe I have figured out the problem.
Steven Adler can’t play the drums at the Guns N’ Roses reunion because Steven Adler is dead.
He died in 1991 of a drug overdose, OBVIOUSLY, backstage with all the other band members present, cheering him on, supplying the drugs, and not noticing him clutching his stopped heart, foaming at the mouth, and convulsing on the floor. Afraid of winding up in rehab and/or prison, they disposed of his body when it started to attract feral cats and replaced him with a double, and still fired him from the band because the double couldn’t play drums.
It may sound farfetched, but not as farfetched as getting kicked out of Guns N’ Roses for a drug problem.
There is precedent: as everyone who knows anything about anything is aware, Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966. Not wanting to derail the Beatles money drugs and pussy train, manager Brian Epstein replaced McCartney with an exact lookalike, who just happened to also play bass left-handed, sing in a flawless four-octave high tenor, and write about a million more all-time classic songs for the Beatles. When Epstein died not long after McCartney, the lookalike took over management of the Beatles and was the driving force behind all of their output, nudging them back into the studio when they’d have been just as happy to stay right where they were: smoking hashish out of Mia Farrow’s buttcrack on a yacht in Morocco.
Paul’s lookalike was so convincing he was able to quit the Beatles, dominate ’70s radio as a solo act, and prove a shockingly durable live act into his sixties and seventies. So I think we can assume that he was very well compensated for his efforts, and I have to say I think he’s earned every penny — he’s done a really terrific job for fifty years now.
Steven Adler’s lookalike they didn’t spend quite so much on. He was just a dude they found living in an overturned road case in the alley behind the Van Nuys Guitar Center. So he can’t really play the drums. He doesn’t even look like Steven Adler — they just grabbed the first huge blond mullet they saw and threw it in the van. No one gave it much thought at the time, because they assumed the lookalike — who, in a lucky bit of casting, is every bit the junkie crackhead the real Adler was — would overdose immediately after his firing. That was fine with them, as long as they were nowhere near him when it happened.
But it didn’t happen: instead, the ersatz Adler became the mascot for VH1’s increasingly depraved franchise of rehab shows without anyone noticing that he has a totally different face than the guy on the cover of Appetite. That guy was pretty dreamy. This guy running around claiming to be him is not so dreamy.
Do you think they are going to let Steven Adler’s junk-addled body double play one of these $10 million concerts? No they will not. But they can’t announce that, or the fans who have been waiting 25 years for this reunion will revolt! Revolt I say! So if “Steven Adler” happens to meet with a tragic, fatal accident in the next couple of weeks, forcing GNR to go ahead with their big tour with one of Axl’s guys, don’t be too shocked.