RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Mick Wall- Last of The Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses  
sser Gods

Rating: A+

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘ Roll!!! Do I have your attention? Good, let’s proceed because I can’t honestly think of another artist or band in the past thirty years that has epitomized those characteristics and lived them to the max more than L.A. bad boys Guns N’ Roses. Love them or hate them, the fact is these five street urchins who were predestined to scorch the earth and leave nothing in their wake, were already being considered the most dangerous band in the world before they had even recorded a note.

If we go by the age old adage that timing is everything, then the time certainly seems ripe (with most of the original band out on their Not In This Lifetime reunion tour) for famed British rock scribe Mick Wall to drop his latest book on the gunners, fittingly titled Last Of The Giants – The True Story Of Guns N’ Roses, which has just been published by Lesser Gods.

Wall should be no stranger to avid metal fans having been at the forefront of the genre, starting out with Sounds magazine in the late 70’s before moving on to the highly influential mag Kerrang! in the early 80’s. In addition to penning his fair share of rock bio’s (Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Led Zeppelin & Lemmy etc…) Wall was an early supporter of the gunners and being in the right place at the right time allowed him to get inside the band’s inner circle where he was granted unprecedented access. So while you could take the subtitled “The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” tag with a grain of salt, the fact of the matter is if anyone could get the truth or anything close to resembling it, it would be Mick Wall.

The source material that Wall has to work with is simply staggering. By drawing from his own archive of conversations and personal interviews with all of the original members, along with the multitude of other published material over the years, including Slash, Steven Adler and Duff McKagen’s own autobiographies, the results speak for themselves as Mick is able to weave together what can only be referred to as the most complete and accurate portrait on the band ever published. Yes it is THAT good and that well researched! For me, just the fact that that he was able to get former managers Alan Niven and Doug Goldstein to go on record and share their respective experiences is the major icing on the cake here.                  

While any story on Guns N’ Roses would certainly be incomplete without discussing their drug addled, self-destructive behavior and bacchanalian excesses’ over the years, what is surprisingly refreshing about Wall’s approach is that it isn’t the main focus of the book. Of course there are the de rigueur tales of trashing hotel rooms, sex with groupies in and out of the studio and a fair dose of the all-round debauchery that filled up a typical day in the life of the band and those who were down in the trenches with them. Yet the overall story that emerges is infinitely more interesting as he is able to not only reveal why this group of outlaws often felt like a band out of time, but more importantly he digs deep into the background and characteristics of each member and the roles their individual and collective personalities played in shaping and ultimately defining the course of the band. With that in mind certainly no personality could be more complex and at times utterly confusing than vocalist and leader W. Axl Rose. Which now brings us to some interesting sub plots, as at the peak of their fame the author once drew the ire of Rose who all but excommunicated him after calling him out (among others) in his infamous diatribe “Get In The Ring”, which coincidently was released the same year Wall wrote his first book on the band Guns N’ Roses – The Most Dangerous Band in The World. Then there was Wall’s 2007 unauthorized biography W. Axl Rose, a book that Wall has since denounced, alluding that it was a mean spirited portrait of his former friend. Despite their falling out it’s clearly obvious in these pages that Wall harbors no ill feelings toward Rose and if anything the passage of time finds him taking a much more sympathetic tone towards an individual who not only possesses a wealth of talent, but unfortunately also carries a significant amount of emotional baggage as well.

The problem with many rock bio’s is that they often fail to offer the reader any real insight or depth into the personalities behind the music and /or the reasons why they do what they do. It’s often touched upon, but rarely covered in detail. Thankfully this isn’t the case with Last Of The Giants – The True Story Of Guns N’ Roses. Thorough research and eloquent writing is a beautiful union and Wall’s successful deployment of both, coupled with the fact that he is writing about one of the most incendiary rock bands of the past thirty years makes for an absolutely enthralling read from beginning to end. From the bands humble beginnings and subsequent meteoric rise to unparalleled levels of fame, through to the crash ‘n burn of the original lineup and right up to speed with the bands current reunion tour, it’s all covered here in ridiculously meticulous detail.

In their heyday GNR were a constant reminder that rock ‘n roll wasn’t supposed to be safe as milk, it was supposed to teeter on the edge and be dangerous. Last Of The Giants – The True Story Of Guns N’ Roses takes you on a journey where you can not only live vicariously through their sordid exploits, but you can also get some invaluable insight into what made this band an absolute rarity. GNR came around at a time when most of their contemporaries were pre-occupied with hair spray and bullshit, cock rock posturing, so these larger than life characters simply moved in and took over, all too eager to provide their fans with an endless supply of danger and drama. Nothing was scripted and you accepted the fact that you could always expect the unexpected, especially in the live arena. The allure was that on any given night you could be witnessing rock history if they happened to turn in one of their legendary performances. Of course the flip side was always that it could also be a train wreck of equally epic proportions that could go tits up in a heartbeat. As for what it all means, well I think it is at times like this that that we should turn to Lemmy, the immortal sage of rock who once offered up this invaluable piece of advice when he said “You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”        

By Ryan “Nightrain” Sparks