Jump to content
StrangerInThisTown

Tracii Guns talks about the early days of GNR

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Interesting, although I think Tracii has told most of these stories before.

The thing is that the various accounts about Rose/Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns, as well as about the circumstances of the transition to Guns N' Roses and then of the transition to the AFD lineup, differ so much that it's impossible to get a clear picture of how it went down.

For example, Raz Cue says, and it's confirmed by the 1985 band interview he shared (which was before the first known Guns N' Roses show), that Ole Beich didn't play any gigs with GnR. Tracii says that he played two gigs, but maybe his memory deceives him and they were actually L.A. Guns gigs. Cue also insists that before Axl joined L.A. Guns that band was still named Pyrrhus, so actually Axl was the original L.A. Guns singer.

The most known story about the formation of the AFD lineup, coming from Duff and Marc Canter's book, is that Tracii and Rob Gardner didn't want to do the hell tour, and that was how Slash and Steven joined. Tracii, though, says that Rob Gardner left first, and doesn't mention the hell tour as the reason for any of them leaving (I think Tracii hasn't ever even mentioned the hell tour at all). Tracii has said he left because of problems with Axl. Raz Cue, on the other hand, has said that Izzy and Axl kind of "took over" from Tracii, the sets consisted more and more of Hollywood Rose songs and less Tracii's L.A. Guns songs, and that Axl and Izzy actually wanted to get rid of Tracii.

The only thing that I think is new to me, coming from Tracii in this interview (or at least I don't remember him saying it before), is that Izzy didn't like Steven at first. There's an Izzy interview from 2001 where he more or less alluded to that, so what Tracii says may be true. 

In one of the very early flyers (for the third known show under the name Guns N' Roses and the two shows after it), the drummer is not identified and is depicted with a question mark. I remember reading somewhere that the unknown drummer was actually Steven, so Tracii may be right also here about Steven joining before Slash. According to Raz Cue, Steven's spot wasn't solidified before the hell tour (he also says that Axl preferred another drummer over Steven before, but appreciated Steven's enthusiasm to do the hell tour).

 

Edited by Blackstar
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

It's interesting that Tracii might have played with 4/5 of the AfD line-up. It's also interesting to note that L.A. Guns never broke up. Raz Cue has founded a new line-up with Robert Stoddart on the lead guitar while Tracii was in GN'R.

Edited by Sosso

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MARCH 1985 - DUFF REPLACES OLE

In March 1985 the newly formed GN'R lineup was rehearsing for their first show to go down at the Troubadour on March 26. But for the band's third rehearsal, they struggled to get hold of Ole:

Raz Cue: "I will remain a fan of Ole Beich till it's time for my dirt nap. [...] I still miss the guy and feel awful that he didn't seem to care enough at the time to make sure he stayed in Guns N' Roses. Unfortunately, at times the dude could be a real downer, sullen while keeping to himself [...] After that second practice, another rehearsal was set for a tentative "in a few days." Ole neglected to tell anyone of his newest girlfriend, so when the next practice got scheduled, there was no way to get ahold of him. After three days of not hearing from him, and rehearsal scheduled for the following evening, Izzy said, "If Ole doesn't want to be in the band, there's a guy who lives across the street from me who'll do the show" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 199].

So Ole was out of the band almost before it started.

In September 1987, someone in Guns N' Roses would refer to Ole as the "dumb schmuck bass player" [Rock Scene, September 1987]. This was probably Izzy since Axl was likely not present at that the time when those words were spoken and none of the other guys (Slash, Steven and Duff) were in the band together with Ole (although they likely knew him from the Hollywood music scene).

The "guy" Izzy knew across the street and could replace Ole, was Duff McKagan.

It has also been said that the band found Duff by placing an ad in a local magazine [Kerrang! March 1989], although this is more likely the ad Slash and Steven placed to recruit a new bass player for their band, Road Crew [see later chapter].

Duff: "And then I started playing with Axl, Izzy and a couple of other guys, called Guns N’ Roses" [Circus Magazine, November 1991].

Cue would comment on Ole leaving:

Raz Cue: "I sometimes wonder if it was a political play by Izzy, so Tracii would not have two automatic band-votes on his side to vote-block against him and Axl. But I think it far more likely Izzy felt Ole wasn't into it, and his style made G N' R too metal. I don't know the answer, but the next night, Izzy showed up to Wilpower Studios to introduce Duff Rose. That was his name the first time I met him, and we all knew it was a sign. Ole was an old-school, brain-damage, hard-rock 'n' roller, devoid of even the slightest punk influence. But Duff was an O.G. Seattle punk, pre-grunge glamster with a far more upbeat personality, a cool bro to hang out with, a world class musician, and no doubt perfect for Guns N' Roses. [...] Ole was surprised when I broke the news to him, but didn't argue or even ask me why until years later" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 199].

Tracii: "Duff was in some weird Top 40 band, but Izzy was like, 'This guy's got short hair, but he is into New York Dolls and stuff like that.' He had a Johnny Thunders T-shirt on, and we were like, 'This guy's perfect'" [The Days of Wine and Roses, Classic Rock, April 2005]

Duff would reminisce about the first rehearsal he did with the band:

Duff: "When I showed up at my first GN'R rehearsal in late March, 1985, Axl and I said hi to each other and started joking around about this and that. I liked him right away. Whoever was running the sound then asked Axl to test out the microphone. Axl let out one of his screams, and it was like nothing I had ever heard. There was two voices coming out at once! There's a name for that in musicology, but all I knew in that instant was that this dude was different and powerful and fucking serious. He hadn't yet entirely harnessed his voice - he was more unique than great at that point - but it was clear he hadn't moved out to Hollywood from Indiana for the weather. He was there to stake a claim and show the whole fucking world what he had" [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p 58]

In mid-to-late March the band did their very first radio interview with KFPK FM Los Angeles. This interview came just hours after the band has been in Willie Basse's studio recording early versions of the songs 'Think About You', 'Don't Cry' and 'Anything Goes'. During 'Anything Goes', Axl can be heard introducing Duff as a new guy. The band members also say they are going to release a picture disc EP with these songs as well as 'Heartbreak Hotel', although this EP was probably never released. Tracii's mom recorded the interview and handed a copy to Cue [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 200]

The first Guns N' Roses show was held on The Troubadour on March 26. The lineup was comprised of Axl, Izzy, Tracii, Rob and "new guy" Duff. This was the show that had originally been intended as a LA Guns show but fell apart when Mike Jagozs left the band. It is assumed the setlist consisted of songs from Hollywood Rose as well as newly written songs, including 'Anything Goes', 'Think About You', and 'Don't Cry', which would all later be officially released, as well as covers including 'Heartbreak Hotel'.

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

APRIL-MAY 1985 - TRACII AND ROB LEAVE THE BAND

In April 1985 the new band played four shows in Los Angeles: April 11 at Radio City, April 24 at the Troubadour, April 25 at the Dancing Waters Club, and April 27 at the Timber's Ballroom.

Tracii: "You know, I think the first show we actually sold like 80 tickets, you know -- which was like really big, you know, back then. You know, to be able to pull 80 people at The Troubadour -- or like, you know, this place called Radio City in Orange County, or any of those places -- was like really good. And then, you know, we just kept doing the thing -- you know, doing shows here and there" [Spin Magazine, 1999]

Duff would remember the April 24 gig at the Troubadour:

Duff: "There were three people there, and one of them was our friend, and one was one of our girlfriends, and the other was the girlfriend’s friend. But we believed in ourselves from the first chord we played together" [Guitars, groupies and lots and lots of hair, The New York Times, July 2012].

But things weren't working out for Duff:

Duff: "After we'd played the Dancing Waters club and another gig so forgettable I can't remember the name of the venue, any excitement I had for the band dwindled. I missed the next rehearsal" [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 59]

Duff was not initially impressed with the band or Axl. In early 1990 he would recall that his initial thoughts on Axl was, "He is good, but I don't know" but that this might have been due to Tracii and Rob being in the band [Kerrang! March 1990]. With Duff starting to lose interest and skipping a rehearsal, Axl called him up and insisted that he had to be part of the band and to give it another chance [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 59].

In May, the band played two shows, at Radio City (May 11, 1985) and at Joshua's Parlour (May 12, 1985). The band probably played no other shows in May 1985 and it is likely that this is due to the band starting to fall apart. According to Raz, Tracii and Rob weren't as driven as Izzy, Axl and Duff:

Raz Cue: "Izzy, Axl, and Duff each had their own business instincts, ideas, and connections. But no one ever cared what a drummer has to say. And Tracii was still in baby-rock-star mode, more than content to have others worry about band stuff" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 204].

Duff was eager to travel to his hometown of Seattle to play shows there and in the region that he was so familiar with from his previous bands, what would later be referred to as the "Hell Tour" [see chapter below], but Tracii and Rob were reluctant. Tracii and Rob were from Los Angeles and Duff didn't see the same hunger in them to make it, compared to the rest of the band members who had moved to Los Angeles and would do anything to succeed [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 59].

Duff: "Rob and Tracii were skeptical about the idea [the Hell tour] from the start. I guess they weren't sure whether to take the leap of faith necessary to leave home with nothing but your bandmates and wits to depend on. And just a few weeks before we were to leave, they broke the news: they weren't up for a no-budget trip. Not knowing where we would sleep each night was too much for them. I assured them we'd find places to crash, and anyway, what did it matter - we would be on tour, a concept that to me was pure magic.

It didn't matter. First Rob and then Tracii backed out" [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 61].

Duff: "Izzy and Axl and I were just like, "Yeah, let's do it. Let's go on the road. Let's do this thing." Tracii Guns and Rob Gardner were more concerned with where they were going to stay or how we were going to get there. They got cold feet at the eleventh hour for doing a tour of the Northwest. Izzy, Axl and I just didn't care. When they pulled out, we asked Slash and Steven to be in the band and the Troubadour was our first gig as a band" [Marc Canter, "Reckless Road", 2007].

That Rob left the band before Tracii is supported by an article in Cream 1989 where Axl stated that Steven and Duff joined the band before Slash. In other words, that Ole and Rob were gone before Tracii.

Axl: "Then Tracii and I decided to bring Izzy into the band - and then we got Steve and Duff. And then Tracii wasn't into it because it wasn’t going quite the direction that he wanted to go. So he went his way and put L.A. Guns back together, and we brought in Slash. […] And when we put the band together the second time with Izzy, Duff and Steve […]" [Cream, September 1989]

According to Raz' biography, Axl and Tracii butted heads over musical differences, like they had in LA Guns, and does not mention the "Michelle event" which he might not have known about. Raz also claims that Tracii was fired before Rob:

Raz Cue: "Initially, only three of Tracii's tunes even made it into rehearsal, and at shows he was lucky if the guys even played one of them. Five shows in, and it was all Izzy and Axl's songs, plus some covers. Instead of taking it as a challenge, Tracii acted perpetually petulant. The morning after G N' R played the Timbers gig [April 27], Axl was in an extremely foul mood. More specifically, he was thoroughly pissed off at Tracii, who the night before reportedly remained out of sight behind his Marshall stacks the entire show, all the while playing way too loud and purposely fucking up songs.

Axl went on and on griping, and I began to get the impression he sought my okay to get rid of Tracii, so I said, "Fuck Tracii. Fire him if you want. […]

Izzy and Axl agreed Tracii would get the boot from Guns N' Roses after their next show, the second week of may, giving them a month to find a replacement.[…]

The next afternoon, Tracii called me to tell me about Axl firing him from G N' R. Tracii didn't seem at all upset, mostly just talked shit about the guys" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 208-209].

Raz Cue: "A day after Tracii got ousted, Robbie quit the band. We were all floored. No one had even contemplated Robbie abandoning the project. Izzy and Axl tried to change his mind. When that didn't bear fruit, they asked me to have a talk with Robbie and let him know they really wanted him in the band. At the very least, see if he'd stay until they found another drummer. When I called Robbie to see where his head was at and tell him he was missing a great opportunity, before I even got my whole pitch delivered, he gave me a dismissive "I'm not going to play with those guys." [...]

The guys were pissed at Robbie for leaving them hanging, so Izzy taught me an awesome trick, which I employed relentlessly over the next decade - a free ad got placed in the Recycler, something like: "Gay Drummer Available. Into Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Pet Shop Boys, Haircut One Hundred...Call Robbie before 6 a.m.," and listed Robbie's number. Classic!
" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 209].

That Tracii went before Rob is also stated by Slash and Steven:

Slash: "Rob Gardner couldn't cut it; he was scared to go. I called Steven. He came down and we had one day of rehearsal. It really was like a synergy. It was like we'd been playing together for years" [Marc Canter, "Reckless Road", 2007].

Steven: "I guess Tracii Guns and Rob Gardner didn't want to do these shows up north. So Slash calls me and says, "We have two empty shows you want to do them? One's at the Troubadour and we're going to go up to Oregon and Seattle for the others. And I said, "Fuck yeah, of course." The two other guys didn't have it in their hearts to do it ad we did" [Marc Canter, "Reckless Road", 2007].

Tracii presents it like him quitting the band due to having had an argument with Axl over Michelle Young and from being annoyed by Axl's stage antics:

Tracii: "And then, all of a sudden, I noticed that Axl was like talking a lot in between songs. You know like we'd play, and then he'd talk to the crowd for like five minutes in between a couple of songs. And that kind of evolved to the point where me and Izzy, you know, really provided a lot of direction, and, you know trying to like keep this thing right, and just rock'n'roll, and just fun, you know? And he was like: No, the people need to -- you know, they like it, you know? So like: Okay -- whatever, you know? But it kept getting worse and worse and worse. And then he started hanging out with Michelle Young, And that's what that song "My Michelle"'s about, is about this girl. The two last shows that I did, we do sound check, and Axl shows up kinda late -- and he flips out. He's like: Tracii, motherfucker. You know, Michelle -- you know, Michelle Young's name isn't on the guest list. I'm like: Oh, well, I put it on there. And I did, you know? I was just like: What's this guy's trip? But he really, you know, fucked up the gig for me, 'cause I was like not into it. You know, I was like: Oh, this sucks. You know, this guy's all pissed off, and now he's dictating to the 150 people that are here, you know" [Spin Magazine, 1999]

Tracii: "But I also think - which is one of the reasons I left Guns 'N Roses in the first place - once we started having this very minor success here in L.A., Izzy and I were running into problems with him. His extended speeches on stage, this newfound power . . . the power of his voice to communicate how he felt about situations on stage. At that time we were allotted an hour; you know, you go up there, you've got an hour to play your songs and then get the hell off the stage. The first show we did ten songs, a couple of shows we did nine songs, and then the last few shows I did, we were literally playing five or six songs and then letting Axl just stand there and talk, and tell everybody what he thought. Which is great, but for me personally, I wasn't playing music to support any cause, or any local clothes maker or whatever" [Classic Hard Rock Examiner, 2011].

Tracii: "And then I lasted for about seven or eight months in that, and then Axl and I got into an extraordinary fight - and we had never argued ever in the past few years before. [Then] I just kind of went my own way. [...] That fight [with Axl] stemmed from a girl named Michelle Young [of 'My Michelle' fame] not being put on a guest list at three in the afternoon before even sound check, and we did two shows after that argument and then I left. It just wasn't fun anymore. I was probably 19 then and I thought Great band, and I love these guys, but they're not worth the headaches.' Even at that age I didn't want to deal with it" [The Quietus, 2016].

Later, Tracii would say he left for "the same reason Izzy left" [Kerrang! May 23, 1992].

Slash would comment on this:

Slash: "Tracii had a falling out with Axel [sic], which is typical, because everybody has a falling out with Axel [sic] at some point or another. But he also played the wrong kind of guitar for the kind of band it was" [Scene Magazine, April 1988].

So in early March 1985, the fledgling band had already lost two of its members, the lead guitarist and the drummer.

POSTSCRIPT:

When Guns N' Roses blew up, Tracii would later express bitterness over the band being referred to as the "Gunners":

Tracii: "It pisses me off, I gotta say. It makes me so mad. […] Not only does that make me mad, it makes me mad that they didn’t change the name of the f**kin’ band when I split! […] It was Izzy, who was my best friend, that said, ‘No, we’re not going to change it’. I was like, ‘Why the f**k not? We’re selling out the Whiskey right now but we’re not that big. We can sell 500 tickets, so what?' In LA we’d only been playing for a year. I honestly didn't think they were going to use the name. Then they kept it and it really didn’t bother me because I didn’t think that things would happen... Then once they got really big I still never thought about it. But now, like the last two years it’s really pissed me off. They’re referred to under that name" [Kerrang! May 23, 1992].

Especially the focus on music that was written when Tracii was still in the band would ire him:

Tracii: "I wanted to and I was ready to burn LA down -just like everybody else is doing right now. I was so pissed off. Everything on the first record I had done but that made sense: they got a deal, they didn't write any new songs except ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ after I left... But I dug the record. It was like, ‘Wow, it's a f**kin’ cool record. I wish I was playing on it...'.

Then they put ‘Don’t Cry’ out which was like four or five years after the fact and... Be cool, be cool to me. I never did nothing wrong to those guys. Sure, Axl will say all day long, ‘Ah, Tracii’s a dick, he left right in the middle', but I never said a bad word about those guys, never asked for nothing and they never offered me nothing so it kinda pisses me off [uneasy chuckling].

Give me five bucks, man, it's my name! Buy me a cheese burger! [chuckles]" [Kerrang! May 23, 1992].

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, Blackstar said:

In one of the very early flyers (for the third known show under the name Guns N' Roses and the two shows after it), the drummer is not identified and is depicted with a question mark. I remember reading somewhere that the unknown drummer was actually Steven, so Tracii may be right also here about Steven joining before Slash. According to Raz Cue, Steven's spot wasn't solidified before the hell tour (he also says that Axl preferred another drummer over Steven before, but appreciated Steven's enthusiasm to do the hell tour).

Just to add that the version that Steven joined before Slash is also supported by a 1988 Axl interview (published in 1989):

Axl: [...] I was originally in a band called Axl a long time ago. I got the name because peo­ple said you live, breathe, walk, and talk Axl, so why don't you just be Axl. And this guy Tracii had L.A. Guns, and he eventually became Tracii Guns. We then had a band called Hollywood Rose together, and Izzy was living at Tracii's house at the time. And Tracii and Slash grew up as rival guitarists and friends in L.A. So it was always back and forth between the members all the time. When I left Hollywood Rose the first time, I joined L.A. Guns with Tracii. The rest of the band he had at the time, though, just didn’t seem to have the drive, and it fell apart. Izzy and I had had a falling out earlier, but then we got back together and wrote a song with each other. Then Tracii and I decided to bring Izzy into the band - and then we got Steve and Duff. And then Tracii wasn't into it because it wasn’t going quite the direction that he wanted to go. So he went his way and put L.A. Guns back together, and we brought in Slash [...] Well, the first time Tracii and I went our own directions, we decided we’d still get together to write some stuff because we still appreciated each other. And we’d call it Guns N' Roses when we collaborated. I thought of the name. And when we put the band together the second time with Izzy, Duff and Steve, it was like “Yeah, we can use that name now.” And I just stuck with it. [Creem Close-Up Metal Magazine, September 1989]

---

EDIT: I just saw that @SoulMonster has included excerpts from this quote in his post above.

 

Edited by Blackstar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL, love it! hehehe

 

The guys were pissed at Robbie for leaving them hanging, so Izzy taught me an awesome trick, which I employed relentlessly over the next decade - a free ad got placed in the Recycler, something like: "Gay Drummer Available. Into Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Pet Shop Boys, Haircut One Hundred...Call Robbie before 6 a.m.," and listed Robbie's number. Classic!" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 209].

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, angelsecrets said:

LOL, love it! hehehe

 

The guys were pissed at Robbie for leaving them hanging, so Izzy taught me an awesome trick, which I employed relentlessly over the next decade - a free ad got placed in the Recycler, something like: "Gay Drummer Available. Into Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Pet Shop Boys, Haircut One Hundred...Call Robbie before 6 a.m.," and listed Robbie's number. Classic!" [Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 209].

Man, that is some seriously hilarious stuff there.  I see they listed Pet Shop Boys, I think Axl is actually a fan of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×