When Slash almost died on the road with Guns N’ Roses

The rock and roll lifestyle has never been known as the healthiest of professions. Going from one gig to another and having one’s nerves tested day after day is bound to wear on anyone, and they’re going to need something extra to help them cope. Some might try to decompress after shows these days, but Slash found his bliss in turning to drugs.

Granted, the rest of Guns N’ Roses weren’t necessarily known as choir boys behind the scenes. For most of their early days, the band lived hand to mouth on The Sunset Strip, often getting tied up with drug dealers and prostitutes wherever they went. The band had even gotten close to falling apart when Axl Rose called out Slash for getting too strung out on heroin during their show opening for The Rolling Stones. Whereas the rest of the band wanted to play the best songs they could, Rose had an agenda, and it was bigger than most of them could handle.

Going into the recording for Use Your Illusion, Rose was determined to make the definitive Guns N’ Roses statement, crafting songs that were much more grandiose than what they had made on their debut Appetite for Destruction, like the piano-led ‘November Rain’. Such an extraordinary album had to have an equally extraordinary tour, and the heavy workload made Slash buckle under. Although Slash had gone off hard drugs like heroin for years before the tour, his relapse during one tour date left him incapacitated in the hallway.

After trying to take the elevator in their hotel, Slash collapsed in the hallway and died on the floor. As one of their tour managers explained in the GNR episode of Behind the Music, “I got a call from management saying, ‘Mr. Reese, one of your band members is passed out in the hallway’. I throw on a pair of jeans and go upstairs, and Slash is dead. Blue dead. He had no pulse”.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, they took a page out of the Pulp Fiction playbook, injecting adrenaline into his chest and bringing him back to life. Although Slash may have cheated death then, that didn’t stop his dedication to the show. In another interview from Behind the Music, photographers would mention shows when Slash would play his solos without any sense of self-preservation, including a few shows where his cigarette would fall from his lips and land in his pants, and he would continue playing.

Even though ‘the show must go on’ on most occasions, Guns weren’t meant to play on this grand stage for much longer. After a few shows ended in riots when Rose failed to take the stage, the band wrapped up the tour during the mid-1990s and quickly began to dissolve. Having already lost drummer Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin leading up to finishing the Illusion records, everyone except for Rose slowly started to trickle out of the band, with Slash being the last to leave in 1994. While Slash entered the fold again with Axl back in 2015, here’s hoping his days of hard partying and near-death experiences are long behind him.

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