It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) – Duff McKagan

Former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan’s autobiography It’s So Easy (And Other Lies), filled with all the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll cliches you would expect from a former GN’R member’s life story, is debauchery galore.

The book begins with a prologue of Duff (a.k.a. Michael) hosting his daughter’s thirteenth birthday party and catches two teens making out and goes through a mental checklist of what far worse things those teens could have been doing that Duff was getting up to when he was thirteen, such as drug use, booze, sex, and stealing cars. Then the first chapter depicts how his pancreas burst in 1994 due to insane amount of booze he consumed and nearly killed him. This introduction brilliantly indicates what’s in store for readers throughout the book.

The first third of the book has Duff talking about his early years with his large family who were raised solely by their mother after their father left them for another woman. This harsh upbringing through the 1970s and 1980s and with his peers getting into typical teen vices made Duff go off the rails and started his path down the road to addiction hell. He took an interest in music by joining Seattle punk bands in the early 1980s before eventually leaving for Los Angeles to hit the big time. While at first living in poverty and being in some go nowhere bands, he became mates with singer Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, and drummer Steven Adler and soon formed the first incarnation of Guns N’ Roses.

It is both funny and amazing the things GN’R had to go through in their early days. They would play at dive bars with beer bottles thrown at them while playing and lived in apartment buildings in dodgy areas that fueled their drug addictions. They had to hitchhike about 1000 miles from L.A. to Seattle over three days after their van broke down to make it to an important gig. The owner of the venue where that gig ripped them off, so the Gunners trashed the place as retribution. So even before becoming famous, they were trashing places.

The real craziness begins once their debut album Appetite For Destruction became a worldwide hit, and is still the most successful debut album in music history. Going around the world playing at stadiums to thousands of people, trying all sorts of new drugs, living the high life, and every other rock star cliche imaginable happened for the Gunners. But all these things stressed Duff out to no end with all this attention and is haunted by the deaths of fans who were stampeded in the wild crowds at GN’R concerts. Things got worse in the Use Your Illusion days, when Duff wanted to use his illusion of living the dream helped by his vices to avoid dealing with the band’s internal problems of egos and addictions that eventually imploded the band.

The Simpsons beer brand Duff was named after McKagan. Seriously.

The Simpsons beer brand Duff was named after McKagan. Seriously.

While the partying and substance abuse is well covered, Duff skims over a lot of details about the making of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver songs and albums that fans would have loved to hear a first hand account of. Slash’s autobiography Slash (he didn’t put much thought into the title, did he?) goes into great detail on where songs originated from and how they came to be some of the most bad ass rock hits in music history, so it’s a shame Duff didn’t talk about developing these songs from his point of view. It almost seems like Duff views the process of song making as just another day at the office and doesn’t realise his job is the stuff of legends.

However, he goes into extensive detail on the martial arts and bike riding practices he took up on his road to recovery and the business course he did at Seattle University. While these things are not necessarily boring, the fact is most readers will want to hear about the songs and albums they grew up listening to and how they came to be rather than hear about someone’s mundane day to day routine. GN’R fans want to hear about the crazy things that only celebrities can get away with, not the everyday things they already do themselves. Interestingly, he skims over his first two failed marriages, easily the juiciest part of his private life, before going onto his third and successful marriage.

Named after both one of Guns N’ Roses’ many hits singles ‘It’s So Easy’ and album Lies, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) is a fast paced, quick read that has all the sordid details of rock stars and their hardcore partying lifestyles that we can only dream about, or at least hear about on Entertainment Tonight. While it doesn’t go into great detail on things that should have been talked about thoroughly, Guns N’ Roses fans will still get a kick out of hearing the life story of one of the original band’s members’ struggle against addiction.

Originally published at primomag.com.au on Saturday 31 December 2011

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