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Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle


by Guns N' Roses


The L.A. scene from the music video of "Welcome to the Jungle" might seem over-the-top and exaggerated (really, how can you afford that much hairspray when you're a self-proclaimed gutter rat?), but it really was a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll for Guns N' Roses. That rock star life might sound glorious but, in reality, it usually wasn't. The L.A. "jungle" that Guns N' Roses knew was—like their music—dirty, dangerous, and drug-fueled. Simply thinking about where Guns N' Roses lived (or, more precisely, where they went to pass out) would make anyone feel like getting up to wash their hands.

At one point, the band had rented out a rehearsal space, just a room 10 feet by 16 feet, with no bathroom or amenities, that served as what one might call a "home." Slash would take the makeshift loft above the band's equipment. Izzy Stradlin could be found sleeping in the space between the back of the couch and the wall, often for days on end. And that's only the beginning. After shows, the little square of building, which was adjacent to an elementary school, became a hive of activity, with partygoers and other bands coming to drink, do drugs, and have sex. The activity would only wind down as the kids began to file into classrooms, around eight in the morning. Finally, some rest. As the rest of the world woke up, Guns N' Roses faded entirely into the realm of unconsciousness.

Economically, that situation invited its own problems. Because shows initially brought in only meager income—$50 or some coupons was standard fare—meals, residency, and money for drugs or equipment often came from some place else. Izzy Stradlin dealt heroin for a time, while various strippers and groupies provided extra money and the occasional shower in exchange for the band's attention. That kind of hustling experience served the band well when industry types noticed them. Slash remembers fattening up until his clothes stopped fitting as Guns N' Roses forced record companies to take them out to lunch for weeks at a time.

While this kind of living situation certainly had its obvious drawbacks, there was a kind of fun to be had in it as well. Hustling the recording industry as they did, Guns N' Roses demonstrated a joy in scamming "the man" and forcing the big labels to bend to their will. That might best be seen in the band's final dealings with the recording industry before they got signed. When signing boiled down to two options—Chrysalis or Geffen—Axl Rose issued ultimatums to the representatives of both companies. Rose said that Guns N' Roses would sign with Geffen if and only if they paid the band an advance of $75,000. Living life with a total disregard for "normal people time," he only gave Geffen a week to get them the money. He then told the representative of Chrysalis that they would sign with that label if and only if she walked naked down Sunset Boulevard by a certain deadline. If one chooses not to quantify in dollars the loss of dignity that a naked walk down Sunset Boulevard entails, it was definitely a loss for Chrysalis.

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