By Clarence Yu With news of the imminent release of Guns N’ Roses’ new album setting the rock music world on fire, I thought it apt to write something about one of its members -- to be specific, an ex-member, Slash. To most of us growing up in the 80’s, Slash was the epitome of the cool, tough, classic rock guitar, refusing to use a whammy bar in an age where ala’ Eddie Van Halen tapping was en vogue, and keeping mostly to Gibson Les Paul’s as his main guitar of choice. He (along with Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi) brought the talk box back to life (a device, when connected to a guitar can make your voice and guitar sound cool and robotic -- listen to the intro of “Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi). Unknown to most of us then (well, at least to me), Slash wasn’t really that cool at all (at least in my opinion), and he really didn’t bring back classic rock guitar playing (it never really left). In fact, after many listens of their landmark album “Appetite for Destruction,” Izzy Stradlin (the rhythm guitarist) perhaps contributed much more with his sparse, rhythmic playing, and his songwriting (Stradlin wrote most of the good songs). At any rate, that’s perfectly fine with me and Slash’s seeming coolness is replaced with a surprising tenderness, honesty and sensitivity in his autobiography, “SLASH (by Slash and Anthony Bozza).” The book starts with a (not a spoiler) brief anecdote, with Slash using this as a metaphor to display his gratefulness that he is still alive and kicking today. I picked this book up overseas two months ago and finished it in two days. It’s quite a long book, but a good read. It does not try to be Hammer of the Gods (a biography of Led Zeppelin), Walk This Way (Aerosmith’s autobiography) or The Dirt (Motley Crue’s autobiography). Instead, it comes off as a heartfelt story of a man caught up in one of the world’s greatest bands, confused, left for dead at one point and resilient enough to come back to life. Slash doesn’t mince words in this seemingly honest tale of his own personal upbringing, his innocence (which seems to shine throughout the book) of the ways of the world, his skyrocket ride to fame with Guns N’ Roses, his fall, and his current venture with the band Velvet Revolver. The usual tales of the perils of rock and roll (sex and drugs) are abundant enough in the book and are surprisingly shocking instead of being inserted in as entertainment value. Slash also shows a great sense of humor in the book, and one of the most common phrases you’ll find in the book that he uses is, “All things considered…” after which something ridiculously funny follows. The book also chronicles little known stories of how Guns N’ Roses really got together and wrote one of the greatest rock albums in history. As an example, Slash admits that he could not coherently play the riff to “Sweet Child Of Mine” when the band first wrote it because of the fingering on the fretboard which he found difficult to execute, and it took him quite a while to get used to it. For those interested in the other band members, similar honest stories, again not for entertainment or shock value, are in abundant supply. Slash’s relationships with W. Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan and company are well documented in the book, again with surprisingly matter-of-fact, honest prose that doesn’t pretend to be brilliant nor cool. It’s perfectly readable, and Slash, for all his posing and reputation, may very well have turned out to be the most intelligent and sensitive member of the band. He doesn’t say much about his opinion of the new Guns N’ Roses, nor does he seem to harbor any resentment towards the entities that caused of the break up of the original band. He is human after all, and is just happy to be alive. For anyone looking for a rock and roll story that has heart, get this.
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OK, sorry 'coz this is a bit of shameless plugging since I'm one of the writers who contributed an essay to this anthology, along with fellow Soundtrip blogger Erwin Oliva, but man, nakakataba ng puso ang ginawang video nitong fan na ito :) I'm talking about "Tikman Ang Langit: An Anthology on the Eraserheads," the very first book on the Philippines' own Fab Four. This book was made possible by our fellow journalists Melvin Calimag of Manila Bulletin and Jing Garcia of Manila Times, who dreamt of coming out with an Eheads book and worked their asses off to make it come true. The anthology is edited by Ces Rodriguez. Here's the video on YouTube. The book is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks for P180 (tama ba mga p're, hehe), though I hear it's sold out in some branches. You could also buy copies at Taberna Ocho, a bar along Maginhawa Street in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. Check out their blog for the address and contact info. Mabuhay ang Eheads!
I WAS "lost" last weekend in the piles of books in a local bookstore. I was hunting for a book that was recommended to me earlier by a literary friend. But fate brought me to the "entertainment section" of this bookstore. There I found two remaining copies of "Punks, Poets, Poseurs: Reportage on Pinoy Rock & Roll" by Eric Caruncho. I checked the price. It said, "50 pesos." Are you kidding, I told myself. This book is a steal! So I grabbed one copy (now I'm thinking I should have also grabbed the last copy, heh), and went straight to the cashier. This is an "old" book which I read back in 1996 when it was launched. I must admit I had little knowledge of the Pinoy rock scene in the 1970s leading to the late 1980s, which was about the same time when Baguio's The Blank became the hottest rock band in the country. Caruncho's honest rock journalism would certainly take you back to those days when long hair, torn jeans, and I-don't-care-about-this-world attitude where a, er, norm among the young kids of that generation. In fact, his take, as he would admit early in his book, is really from a fan of music. So I guess it is also good to take off from the vantage and tell you how this book has changed my view of Pinoy music in general. You see I grew up in Baguio City where Western music was revered more than local music. There were a handful of bands playing originals back then when I was in high school and in college (eventually, I became a member of a local protest band called Binhi). I immersed myself in the sounds of the 80s. But this was also about the same time when MTV made its debut worldwide and the Philippines. So whatever was playing on MTV, I listened to. And that dictated my musical influences. Or at least, that is how I vaguely remember it. Like Caruncho, I loved music and I wanted to be part of it. So I studied it and subsequently landed a part in a band we called The Patch. We mostly played American country music. But I was insisting on playing new discoveries, such as Guns 'N' Roses and, okay, Bon Jovi. (It sounded country so I thought my band would like it). For a while, we had gigs mostly in parties. But I remember our band holding a "mini-concert" during a freezing night in a community plaza. We set up a little stage and for an hour or two, we launched our music career using the cheapest equipment we could get our hands on. It was our debut. Sadly, it was our last. Reading through the chapters of Caruncho's book brought back memories of why Pinoy music has often struggled to become mainstream. In fact, most underground bands during my time hated being labeled "mainstream." They associated this with "selling out" and the radio-friendly bands they despised. They wanted to remain in touch with their roots, and yet they sought stardom. Yes, that's the irony of it all. And that perhaps is what Pinoy music is all about. Pinoy music is generally born out of our love for music, and honestly, it's leaning towards Western or something foreign. I started out listening to foreign bands where I learned the "basics." From there, I tried to search for my own voice, combining Western influences with my own. So does that make it Pinoy music? I guess. In fact, I would venture into the argument that there is really no Pinoy music. Each music is unique. And once we create it, we will own it. Labeling music somehow stifles it. And that is not what music is all about. If music is one universal language, then it should be free from labels. So what is Pinoy music? I really don't have the answer. But I would like to quote Ces Rodriguez's 1996 introduction to Caruncho's book:
The history of Pinoy rock should be a pretty interesting road map of our yearnings and rage, earnestness and outbursts, the inarticulate speech of the Pinoy kid's heart.