The story of Steven Adler’s life as a member of Guns N Roses, one of rock and roll’s most volatile, decadent and out of control bands, is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. His new book, My Appetite For Destruction: Sex and Drugs and Guns N’ Roses, due for release July 27th, really hits home–but not for being a thrill-inducing rock and roll story. Actually it’s just the opposite. Adler’s candor and self-reflection make this book a different kind of rock star memoir entirely.
Steven Adler absolutely doesn’t try to pretty up his story; there’s no attempt to make himself look heroic or, as so often happens in rock star biographies, victimized. Adler puts aside his own ego to tell a story that is bitingly poignant in its brutal honesty.
Adler also proves that sometimes coming clean is the harder part of getting clean. Something he does well in My Appetite For Destruction. At times you feel distinctly, painfully, the breakdown, the regrets, the realization of all that was lost.
Steven opens up with an admission that he had locked himself away in his trailer to do drugs directly after opening for the Rolling Stones in 1989; his dreams had finally come true, but he was in no shape to enjoy it. He couldn’t walk around backstage, meeting, greeting, basking in the amazing, historic moment — the drugs were calling, and he had to answer. It was just one of those moments that he can’t take back; he’ll never get a chance to do it over. It’s the kind of regret that will haunt him forever after.
In the band Guns N Roses you had five men whose dreams all came true, but the joy in their rise to fame was finished before it had begun, lost in the pursuit of the next fix.
They were living in a fog of heroin, cocaine, alcohol and women that never allowed them to really feel what was happening to them, the highs and lows muted by drugs — except Axl Rose, of course, who had an affliction of his own which, rather than forcing him to get control of his manic abusiveness, acted as a license to further brutalize his bandmates, and Steven in particular.
Being the youngest and most insecure of the group, Steven seemed to generate a specific attention from Rose, much as the schoolyard bully will hone in on the kid he believes is the weakest on the playground, and particularly if he knows that no one will come to that kid’s defense.
The glowering burn of Axl’s hatred, although it eventually extended to every member of the band, began with Steven and finally culminated in Adler’s humiliating eviction from the band.
The rest of the band just shuffled on in true rock and roll style, stepping over the body of yet another fallen comrade. Guns N Roses had to make a choice and they could not be Guns N Roses without Axl’s distinct vocals. They all seemed to realize that Axl’s was a war of attrition–and he was determined to outlast them all. And he did. He claimed ownership of the band’s name and began touring with Guns N Roses, as the only original member.
In telling the story of his life, sharing his years in the world’s most glamorized and volatile rock band, Steven Adler never seems to lose that part of himself that seemed to make him a target for Axl’s wrath, his boyish enthusiasm, his pure joy in traveling and meeting people who he admired. He was, and is, first and foremost a rock music fan.
Steven comes clean on everything — from emotional, physical and sexual abuse to sharing groupies. He shares his hurt, confusion and anger over seeing his dreams devastated, but he holds himself as responsible for that as anyone else. Only after reading can you truly understand that holding a grudge just would not be a part Steven Adler’s nature.
In many cases I wouldn’t blame him for harboring resentments, but he seems to be able to step back from the situation and look at it with maturity and a positive attitude. Even in the face of Axl’s abuse and Slash’s betrayal, he regards his former bandmates in a brotherly fashion, five men who shared an amazing experience, an unbreakable bond that Steven feels should never be let go lightly.
My Appetite For Destruction: Sex and Drugs and Guns N’ Roses is a book that should be read by fans of the band and anyone planning to go into the music business. Adler talks about the people who supported the band, who helped them along the road to success, who were thrown by the way-side as the band climbed the ladder to fame. Those who took advantage of their enthusiasm and naivete He shares the stories of his friendships with other rock stars and growing up with Slash; two neighborhood kids raised by their grandmothers who had two things in common, they couldn’t stay out trouble, and they wanted to be rock stars.
He also discusses Axl and others whose need to control the band finally destroyed them. And those rock stars that he had admired who betrayed his youthful adoration. He talks about the bands he met along the way, Motley Crue, Poison, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and others.
Steven suffered a stroke and many relapses before wrestling his demons into submission. He talks about his rehab attempts and failures, and finally, meeting his wife and finding a support network of people who love him just as he is, and just as it should be.
I’ll be speaking with Steven Adler on the release date for My Appetite For Destruction: Sex and Drugs and Guns N’ Roses, July 27th. We’ll talk about the book, the band, and where he plans to go from here.