We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to revisit one of the most salacious moments in rock and roll history. While the term can be flung from pillar to post without much recourse, there can be no doubt that this juicy piece of gossip will satisfy even the dryest of mouths. Here, we look back at the fight between David Bowie and Axl Rose, one that was sparked over their shared interests in Erin Everly, as we’re reminded of a time when rock stars really lived up to their name.
In Slash’s best-selling self-titled memoirs, he revealed a curious story that involves the two starring frontmen, the daughter of an Everly Brother, and a round of fisticuffs. Slash’s Guns ‘N’ Roses bandmate Axl Rose, and the iconic chameleon of rock and roll, David Bowie, were said to have clashed over the latter’s pursuit of Erin Everly, Rose’s then-girlfriend.
The daughter of Don Everly of The Everly Brothers was caught in the middle of a ridiculous story involving two giants of the music world. It was a rock and roll soap opera episode like no other. It puts Bowie in his usual starring role as a rock lothario and Rose, his counterpart, as the jealous boyfriend — it’s lustful backstage gold that deserves sinking your teeth into to check if it is real.
Bowie, as well as being one of the most enigmatic men on the stage, also had a reputation for pursuing the girlfriends of his friends. It appears whether their boyfriends were part of the biggest band of the moment mattered very little to him. The Starman was a proven casanova with his different-coloured eyes and flamboyant style, he wooed many women in his time. In fact, Bowie had become somewhat infamous for pinching the lovers of his contemporaries.
That kind of attitude, however, would again land him in trouble in 1989 after he crossed paths with Rose and his girlfriend, Everly. Bowie’s relationship with another member of Guns ‘N’ Roses group, Slash, would prove to be another sore spot for those involved. Bowie had known Slash and his mother, Ola Hudson, for a very long time, with Slash’s mother designing some of Bowie’s iconic stage clothes and costumes since their first meeting in 1975. Slash even claims he once walked in on Hudson and Bowie in the nude – underestimate that rock star of The Thin White Duke swagger at your peril.
First though, back to 1989. At the time, Guns ‘N’ Roses were well and truly on their road to the major leagues. The band were announced as the warm-up act for The Rolling Stones at their favourite haunt, The Cathouse. With Bowie and Slash’s mother Ola in attendance, sitting in the front row no less, Axl started to throw some nasty insults in his direction, sneering and posturing toward the singer with his usual cocksure swagger.
As Dangerous Minds reported, the story goes that Bowie, seemingly disgusted with Rose’s actions, stood up and left mid-way through Guns’ set. Ola didn’t understand any of it until Slash later revealed the full story; Axl was angry at Bowie for allegedly hitting on his girlfriend.
Prior to the gig, the band were at the shoot for their new video ‘It’s So Easy’. Bowie rocked up to The Cathouse that day, drunk and in a mischievous mood – as he often was. With the video set to feature Everly in leather bondage gear, handcuffs, with a ball-gag in her mouth, the temperature inside the shoot was rising.
According to the owner of The Cathouse, who spoke to Kerrang, when Axl caught wind of Bowie actively pursuing Everly, he lost it, and then the two began throwing punches. It all ended with Axl chasing Bowie and screaming a lasting line befitting any aforementioned daily drama. He said, “I’m gonna kill you, TIN MAN,” it is reported.
Rose later ran into another frontman, Mick Jagger, who was hanging around the shoot ahead of the gig. The Rolling Stones singer had fallen victim to the charms of Bowie before and met Rose alongside Eric Clapton, who at the time of their meeting had heard about the skirmish and was interested to hear of any blow landed on Bowie’s beautiful once.
The Guns N Roses singer said: “I was out doing a soundcheck one day when we were opening for the Rolling Stones, and Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton cornered me. I’m sittin’ on this amp and all of a sudden they’re both right there in front of me. And Jagger doesn’t really talk a lot, right?”.
Adding: “He’s just real serious about everything, and all of a sudden he’s like (adopts exaggerated Dick Van Dyke-style Cockney), ‘So you got in a fight with Bowie, didja?’”
Axl continued: “So I told him the story real quick, and he and Clapton are going off about Bowie in their own little world, talking about things from years ago. They were saying things like when Bowie gets drunk, he turns into the ‘Devil from Bromley‘ (Bowie’s family moved to the London Borough of Bromley when he was a teenager). I mean, I’m not even in this conversation. I’m just sittin’ there. Listening to ‘em bitch like crazy about Bowie. It was funny.”
Axl and Bowie did eventually make up and become something close to friends. Having moved in similar circles, they agreed to move on, and one assumes Bowie also moved on to find his next girl and leave Axl’s girlfriend alone from now on.