Confession for today: it has been my childhood dream to flash Slash. Who could resist such a gorgeous man, who steps out of a white-washed church in leather pants and a top-hat and goes on to play a soaring melody to a heart-breaking ballad?
It wasn’t November Rain, though, that etched the silhouette of a mop-haired slickster wielding a vintage Gibson Les Paul in my childhood brain; it was Sweet Child O’ Mine. As a precocious child whose peace-loving parents had just subscribed to cable television in suburban Bombay, MTV blew my mind with the video where a man wearing a red bandana and hot leather pants pranced around assaulting the screen with his raspy vocals while Slash played blistering lead guitar with the low-slung, confident cool of a dextrous fox. The love only grew.
Come to think of it, the swagger isn’t unbelievable. Born to artist parents in Hampstead, London, Saul Hudson grew up among rockstars and rock n’ roll. His mother designed costumes for the likes of John Lennon and David Bowie while his father designed album covers for Neil Young among others. After their breakup, his mother started dating Bowie and Slash still remembers how resentful he felt about this “other guy”. The frantic nature of his teenage years earned him the nickname “Slash” by actor Seymour Cassel who commented on his speed, moving from room to room, at a party. BMX, guitars and no-fucks-given attitude followed the lad wherever he went. Speed was the natural order and recklessness was harmony.
There couldn’t have been a better nickname. Just listen to his guitar growl on the verses and solo of You’re Crazy on Appetite for Destruction – one of the greatest albums of all time. It reeks of a speed soaked in the Blues, with a good dose of anarchy thrown in to shake up the hard rock sensibilities of that time. The Guns N’ Roses years were truly the best. The Most Dangerous Band in the World unleashed such noise and such raw energy for almost a decade that it was just what the doctor didn’t recommend on Indian shores!
After the painful breakup (for fans) of GN’R, Slash continued to keep himself engrossed in music despite having indulged in the massive drug and alcohol abuse that had marooned the rest of his bandmates in a bizarre state. His personal work included working live with Michael Jackson, the solo endeavour Slash’s Snakepit (he loves snakes and at one point raised about 80 snakes in his home), Velvet Revolver (joining forces with dear friends Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and the brilliant Scott Weiland from STP) and a collaboration with Myles Kennedy and several other kickass artists. The Man also LOVES elephants and continues to be a fervent champion of animal rights and his eclectic Instagram feed proves it.
As news of Slash rejoining GN’R surfaced recently, I couldn’t help thinking about the time I stood alone in the crowd at Mumbai’s MMRDA ground, in 2012, as Axl Rose performed the greatest songs ever written with only Dizzy Reed from the original lineup for company. I had tears streaming down my face with every song, thinking how wonderful it would have been to see Duff, Izzy, Matt and, above all, Slash doing his low-slung guitar thing. I think it’s better it didn’t happen. I would’ve died.
Among guitarists, Slash rightfully ranks high up with legends such as Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Perry who, as he admits, have influenced him the most. Just like the other greats who had a unique technique and sound, Slash’s tone and melody construction can still be recognised from a continent away – GN’R or not. In an age of plastic popstars and dying rockstars, we need to bubble-wrap Slash and treat him as a national treasure. They simply don’t make men like him anymore. Mr. Trump, I hope you’re listening.
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