When Guns N’ Roses were cutting their teeth on the music scene, they seemed like the most deranged group of misfits ever to start a band. Whereas most of the hair metal acts that were coming out of Los Angeles looked like poodle-haired doofuses, GNR were a pack of rabid dogs let loose on the world, playing maniacal rock and roll in the vein of acts like Aerosmith. Beneath all of the cowboy boots and leather jackets, a lot of boiling tension often spilt over when they took to the road.
As the band were cutting their teeth after being signed to Geffen Records, Appetite for Destruction was a diary of the lifestyle they lived every day, with songs that had to do with life in Hollywood on ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘It’s So Easy’. With seedy lifestyles comes drug addiction, and Slash and Izzy Stradlin were starting to get hooked on heroin during the writing sessions for the album.
Since the album is meant to be confessional, ‘Mr Brownstone’ was created from a Bo Diddley-style riff and told the story of Slash and Stradlin’s lives when strung out. The lyrics deal with the monkey on their back, never leaving them alone and sinking further into addiction, to the point where they are never keeping track of when they sleep and trying to push themselves a little bit further than before.
As the song progressed, Axl Rose wasn’t a fan of this tale of self-destruction and started to make his opinion known on the road. While the band’s star was on the rise following the release of their debut, their biggest break came when they were asked to open a few dates for The Rolling Stones. Though every band member looked up to the Stones, Rose decided to use the opportunity to put some of his fellow bandmates in their place.
In between songs during one of their sets, Rose accused his bandmates of being messed up before going into the song, saying, “If certain members don’t stop dancing with Mr Brownstone, then the band is over”. Rose might not have called out anyone by name, but Slash later recalled that he was being called out, telling Behind the Music, “I knew it was directed at me because I was messed up on junk at the time. It drove a wedge between me and Axl. It’s something that I’ve never really forgiven him for”.
While Rose was no angel himself, he did have a point, as Slash continued to party like there was no tomorrow and ended up nearly dying when on the road for the Use Your Illusion records. Though Slash has struggled to be on the straight and narrow in the past, he has since been on the road to recovery after having heart troubles and getting a pacemaker.
After years apart, the bad blood also seemed to wash away, with Slash returning to the band alongside original bassist Duff McKagan in the 2010s. ‘Mr Brownstone’ might still be one of the group’s biggest hits, but the dark undercurrents behind it started to get a little too real when ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Band’ was officially let loose.