Posted Monday 08/15/2011 by Duff McKagan
Had to shorten this a bit, so if you want to read more, here's the link
Private planes, oceans of booze, mountains of drugs, and wall-to-wall women--for the 12 years Duff McKagan played bass in Guns N'Roses, life was a rock'n'roll dream. Until his hair began to fall out, his fingers started to bleed, and everything turned into a nightmare. He almost didn't survive. In an excerpt from his autobiography, the original Duffman tells about how a life lived too close to the edge nearly left him dead.
I've known a lot of junkies. Many of these addicts have either died or continue to live a pitiful existence to this day. With many of them, I personally witnessed a wonderful lust for life in them as we played music together as kids and looked toward the future. Of course, no one sets out to be a junkie or an alcoholic.
Some people can experiment in their youth and move on. Others cannot.
When Guns n’ Roses began to break into the public consciousness, I was known as a big drinker. In 1988 MTV aired a concert in which Axl introduced me—as usual—as Duff “the King of Beers” McKagan. Soon after, a production company working on a new animated series called me to ask if they could use the name “Duff” for a brand of beer in the show. I laughed and said of course, no problem. The whole thing sounded like a low-rent art project or something—I mean, who made cartoons for adults? Little did I know that the show would become The Simpsons and that within a few years I would start to see Duff beer glasses and gear everywhere we toured.
Given what I’d seen, a reputation for drinking didn’t seem like a big deal. But by the Use Your Illusion tour, my intake had reached epic proportions. For the tour, Guns leased a private plane. It wasn’t an executive jet; it was a full-on 727, with lounges and individual bedroom suites for the band members. Slash and I christened the plane on our maiden journey by smoking crack together. Before the wheels had left the ground. (Not something I recommend, incidentally—the smell gets into everything.) I don’t even remember playing Czechoslovakia. We played a stadium show in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the only way I knew it was because of the stamp I found in my passport.
It wasn’t clear anymore whether or not I would be one of those who could experiment in his youth and move on.
Every day I made sure I had a vodka bottle next to my bed when I woke up. I tried to quit drinking in 1992, but started again with a vengeance after only a few weeks. I just could not stop. I was too far gone. My hair began falling out in clumps, and my kidneys ached when I pissed. The skin on my hands and feet cracked, and I had boils on my face and neck. I had to wear bandages under my gloves to be able to play my bass.
There are many different ways to come out of a funk like that. Some people go straight to rehab, some go to church. Others go to AA, and many more end up in a pine box, which is where I felt headed.
Throughout the Use Your Illusion tour, I had recorded songs on my own, ducking into studios here and there. The project had served largely as a way to kill time I would otherwise have spent drinking, and I didn’t know what the demos were for, really.
I played a bit of everything over the course of the sessions—drums, guitar, bass. I sang, too, and it’s clear I wasn’t able to breathe through my nose on some songs; years of cocaine use had taken their toll. Then, at some point during the tour, a record label employee who was out on the road with us asked where I kept disappearing to on off days. I told him. When Tom Zutaut, who had signed Guns to Geffen records, caught wind of the demos, he asked me if I would like a solo deal. Geffen, he said, could release the tracks as an album. I knew he was probably being mercenary about it—by this time Nirvana and Pearl Jam had broken, and Zutaut probably figured leveraging my Seattle roots and punk connections could help the label reposition Gn’R.
But I didn’t care. To me it was a chance to realize a dream. Geffen rushed it out as Believe in Me in the summer of 1993, just as the Illusion tour was wrapping. Axl talked it up onstage during the last few gigs.
I had scheduled a solo tour that would start immediately after Gn’R’s last shows—two final gigs in Buenos Aires, Argentina in July 1993. My solo tour would send me first to play showcases in San Francisco, L.A., and New York and then to open the Scorpions’ arena tour around Europe and the U.K. Returning to L.A. from Argentina, I joined the group of friends and acquaintances I’d arranged to back me on the road. They had already started rehearsing
before I got home. Together we did whirlwind preparations for the tour.
Axl heard I was planning to go back out on tour. He called me.
“Are you fucking crazy? You should not go back out on the road right now. You are insane even to think about it.”
“It’s what I do,” I told him. “I play music.”
I also knew that if I stayed at home it would probably devolve into more drug insanity. I didn’t have any illusions about getting sober, but at least out on the road—with a band made up of old Seattle punk-rock friends—I figured I had some chance of toning things down. And of staying off coke.
But Axl was right. Before the first gig in San Francisco, my then-wife Linda got into a fistfight backstage with another girl and lost a tooth. Blood spattered everywhere. Hells Angels packed the show at Webster Hall in New York, and brawls broke out. I shouted at the crowd to settle down, thinking I could somehow make a difference. After the show people tried to come backstage, but I wanted to be alone.
I toured the record as planned until December 1993. There was still a fervor for all things Guns, especially in Europe. Audiences knew my songs and sang along. And for the most part I did stay off the coke, though it was by no means a clean break. There were slipups. I also switched from vodka to wine.
Downshifting to wine was all well and good, but the volume of wine quickly sky-rocketed till I was drinking 10 bottles a day. I was getting bad heartburn from the wine, taking Tums all the time. I wasn’t eating, but I was badly bloated; my body felt awful.
At the end of the European leg, our lead guitar player pulled a knife on our bus driver in England. I had to fire him—luckily the tour was finished. Back in Los Angeles, I called Paul Solger, an old friend I had played together with as a teenager in Seattle, and asked him to fill in for the next part of the tour. Solger had gotten sober in the 10 years since I’d last played with him. Needless to say, I had not. Still, he agreed.
I returned to my house in L.A. before the next leg of the tour in Australia. I’d bought the place in 1990. It was in Laurel Canyon, right at the top, perched on a cliff overlooking Dead Man’s Curve on Mulholland Drive. The place was up the hill from the old mansion built by Houdini. Here on the Hollywood side of the hills, Laurel Canyon was still quite countercultural. It was certainly no Beverly Hills. By the 1980s the Houdini mansion had been split up, and a bunch of unreformed hippies lived there in a sort of wizened dorm party milieu.
The pool behind the house offered a spectacular view out over the valley side of the Hollywood hills. At the time, I was partying for nights on end at various L.A. clubs, and that basin of blue water often ended up a naked free-for-all. One of the girls I started to hang out with was a newscaster. She had pictures in her office of herself with Ronald Reagan and Jesse Jackson. She repeated a catchphrase to close all her on-air reports. Years later she landed a job at a national news network, and every time I heard her finish up with that catchphrase, the image on TV would fade and I would see her paddling around nude in my pool.
But now, back home after the tour several years later, I felt as sick as I ever had. My hands and feet were bleeding. I had constant nosebleeds. I was shitting blood. Sores on my skin oozed. The house was awash in the fetid effluvia of my derelict body. I found myself picking up the phone to tell my managers and band that we weren’t going to Australia.
I’d bought a house in Seattle at that point—a dream house, right on Lake Washington—and I could feel its pull. I had bought it a few years before, sight unseen, in a neighborhood where I used to go to steal cars and boats when I was a kid. In the interim I had barely had a chance to spend any time there because of the endless Use Your Illusion tour. I thought it might be the right place to try to recover, relax, recharge.
The morning of May 10, I woke up in my new bed with sharp pains in my stomach. Pain was nothing new to me, nor was the sickening feeling of things going wrong with my body. But this was different. This pain was unimaginable, like someone taking a dull knife and twisting it in my guts. The pain was so intense I couldn’t even make it to the edge of the bed to dial 911. I was frozen in pain and fear, whimpering.
There I was, naked on my bed in my dream home, a home I had bought with the hopes of one day having a family to fill it.
I lay there for what felt like an eternity. The silence seemed as loud as my raspy, muffled moans. Never before in my life had I wanted someone to kill me, but I was in such pain I just hoped to be put out of my misery.
Then I heard Andy, my best friend from childhood, come in the back door. He called, “Hey, what’s up,” just as he had ever since we were kids. Andy, I’m upstairs, I wanted to answer. But I wasn’t able to. I heard him start up the stairs—he must have seen my wallet in the kitchen. He made it upstairs and came down the hall.
“Oh, shit, it’s finally happened,” he said when he reached my room.
I was thankful to have my friend there. It was comforting to think I would die in front of Andy. But he had other ideas. He pulled some sweats on me and began to try to move me. He must have felt the jolt of adrenaline—otherwise there is no way Andy could have carried the 200 pounds of dead weight of my bloated body. As he carried me down the stairs and out to his car, the searing, stabbing pain in my intestines spread further down to my quadriceps and around to my lower back. I wanted to die.
I was mute from pain. The morphine wasn’t working as I knew it should. I knew a thing or two about opiates by that stage in my life. I knew the warm rush they offered, yet I was getting none of it.
They wheeled me into a room next to another guy on a gurney. The motion made me writhe in agony.
“Dude, I broke my back,” said the guy in the other bed. “And I’m glad I don’t have whatever you have.”
Dr. Thomas and a technician ran a scanner over my organs, and I saw my doctor’s face go white. My pancreas, apparently swollen to the size of a football from all the booze, had burst. I had third-degree burns all over the inside of my body from the digestive enzymes released by the damaged pancreas. Only a few parts of the inside of your digestive tract can handle the enzymes, and the outsides of your organs and your stomach muscles are definitely not among them—it just burns all that tissue.
A surgeon with thick glasses explained the surgery. They had to take out the top part of the pancreas—cut it off. Sew me back up. And then I’d have to be on dialysis for the rest of my life.
Suddenly I understood the pleading mouthed by miserable souls back to antiquity, those left breathing after being run through with a rusty sword or scalded with hot oil. I was there.
I summoned all my power to whisper to the ER doctor.
I begged over and over.
“Please, kill me. Just kill me. Kill me. Please.”
WOW babe this is cool thanks for posting it :) OK I am out of time to do anymore reading or dissecting .. I may come back later .. but heres my thoughts on what i read so far.. lol
.. lol first as you know .. THIS book is the one I have been VERY MUCH waiting for. I have a lot of respect for Duff and his opinion and thoughts on things are definately worth checking out .. cant wait for this book .. ok on to dissecting this .. hehe
First thing that strikes me is the beginning where whoever wrote that says "Private planes, oceans of booze, mountains of drugs, and wall-to-wall women--for the 12 years Duff McKagan played bass in Guns N'Roses, life was a rock'n'roll dream." I say that cos it doesnt sound written by him .. rather an introduction. I think playing music was his rock n roll dream for sure.. the rest was a cover a band aid if you will. a coping strategy. But maybe its just me.
LMAO @ the Duff beer thing .. I had always wondered about that but never actually seen if confirmed one way or the other lol I wonder if he gets the royalties? I bet NOT. I bet they screwed him royally with the success that the simpsons became ..:(
"We played a stadium show in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the only way I knew it was because of the stamp I found in my passport." This does not surprise me at all. I remember watching Duff back in the day .. one particular day stands out to me .. he (they) were perferoming on tv and I remember watching it this one day and thinking that it was possibly the last time I was ever gonna see Duff alive. So this major black out thing doesnt surprise me. I know lots of fans think it was funny or cool I think it was sad. Sad that they were in such a position they felt they needed to write themselves off that much to cope with what chaos was happening to them at the time. Again, maybe its just me .. but thats my thoughts
"Every day I made sure I had a vodka bottle next to my bed when I woke up. I tried to quit drinking in 1992, but started again with a vengeance after only a few weeks. I just could not stop. I was too far gone. My hair began falling out in clumps, and my kidneys ached when I pissed. The skin on my hands and feet cracked, and I had boils on my face and neck. I had to wear bandages under my gloves to be able to play my bass." That poor bastard .. that is so horrendous :(
"The project had served largely as a way to kill time I would otherwise have spent drinking," .. code for music saved him :D
"But I didn’t care. To me it was a chance to realize a dream."... And fair enough too
"open the Scorpions" arena tour around Europe and the U.K" --- now there is one of what I believe will be numurous bits of the book with things I DIDNT know .. :)
"I shouted at the crowd to settle down, thinking I could somehow make a difference." And thats the key right there I have often seen people blame bands or musicians for riots .. for me its very clear riots are NEVER the bands fault .. its the FANS fault. If the fans drop their brain and get stuck on stupid and do such horrendous things .. its THEIR doing NOT the musicians. They couldnt stop it if they tried.
"At the end of the European leg, our lead guitar player pulled a knife on our bus driver in England. I had to fire him—luckily the tour was finished." -- Another thing I didnt know about .. lol thats gotta really suck! No one wins that .. not the guitarist OR Duff OR and especially not the bus driver ..lol
LMAO @ "a naked free-for-all"
" She had pictures in her office of herself with Ronald Reagan and Jesse Jackson. She repeated a catchphrase to close all her on-air reports. Years later she landed a job at a national news network, and every time I heard her finish up with that catchphrase, the image on TV would fade and I would see her paddling around nude in my pool." ....lmao I bet a lot of Americans can probably work out who this is I am not sure how happy she will be right now? hahahah
back later to read the rest :)
Thanks for this babe, wow nearly as long as the posting lol. The bit at the begining is not from Duff's book but the intro from the website
This is also the book that i am waiting to read - done Slash's, gonna get Stevens but will read Duff's before, cleared a space in my reading sched for this one.
Love some of the comments that you made, the Duff beer one made my laugh and the naked free for all, but there are goona be some bits in the book that are gonna tear the heart out, like playing his bass with bandages under his gloves, and also the lead guitar player pulling a knife on the bus driver, i mean what the fuck happened there.
I wonder though, who the women with the Regan and Jackson picture is ? maybe i don't want to know
I wait till you post the rest
I have read Slash's book, and now I want to buy Duff's too, but I don't think there is anythin to read in the other biography books like Steven's.
Maybe some people think is all great and cool, you know waking up not remembering the city you have just been it. However I personaly think is tragic that the guy felt he need toescape the reality this way. I'm sorry that I don't have the time, and the energy to make a long posts like Tash's, but I'm too tired.
@Boban. I don't think you understand the meaning, is not that GNR was drinking, but what was making drink was the band's poolicy, the life stile the work process. Of course that are alwyas the main reason for smeone to start drinking, so I don't think I can judge someone so finally as you. Believe me sometime I felt like drinking myself into oblivion too. It's not always easy to keep going insted of hiding from he reality with alcohol or drugs, but some people just fall there. In my opinion the ones that go there, and sitll get out are stronger, than the ones like me who resist before have ever started.
Hahaha you are defending Axl. LMAO... Well is not like he is the Devil...
Some people just need to blame someone, most of them blame their family, maybe he felt better blaming the band. Whatever the reason is something sad and luckaly he got out.
Think you have hit the nail if the nead there Boban - They are all still alive, that the most important thing.
I have been trying my best to find a nice way of saying this,Boban,but this last comment of yours is nothing else but a LAME point of view.It shows nothing but ignorance.I'm sure as hell that Morrison,Joplin or Cobain didnt really want to have an addiction problem or die cause of it.Therefor,it isnt their fault that that happened.
Its the pressure that pushed them to use that stuff and eventually die.We keep forgeting they are only humans and,as Izzy said,day after day life can really push us to take stupid decisions to get out of the stress.Now compare our stress to their stress.Can you see the difference?