BOOK REVIEW: Last Of The Giants: The True Story Of Guns n’ Roses by Mick Wall
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
It almost goes without saying that Mick Wall is the single most qualified person on the planet to author a true story of the heavy rock juggernaut Guns n’ Roses. Not only was he acquainted with the band from some of their earliest days living as Hollywood reprobates, toured with them through the top-of-the-world years after Appetite For Destruction changed the rock n’ roll playing field, and was name checked in W Axl Rose’s vitriolic and hateful Get In The Ring on Use Your Illusion 1.
Wall isn’t interested in any tit-for-tat payback on Rose, though: he’s had his opportunity to do that in his previous unauthorised biography of Rose published in 2008 but chose to be far more measured.
This tome could be considered an update of his previous book, though there is plenty of new material here, even if much of it is drawn from the same well of research and personal experience.
The result is an as-close-to-definitive trawl through the murky back pages of the one-time ‘most dangerous band in the world.’
There’s no denying that G’n’f’n’R changed the world – something in the region of 30 million copies sold around the world can attest to that, as can the hundreds (thousands) of sons and daughters of Guns – the many bands so inspired by Appetite that they launched their own aural assault in their idols’ image.
Wall doesn’t hy away from the good or bad in their saga: the baddest band in the land pre-fame; their sordid living conditions and dubious lifestyle choices; the booze and coke and heroin addictions, the gigs they arrived hours late for, the no-shows and cancellations, the riots, deaths, chaos, in-fighting and abso-fucking-lutely crazy mayhem that was ten times what a less dysfunctional million-selling band would have experienced.
Yes, the original G’n’R were a one-in-a-million sugar high of some of the best, most addictive rock n’ roll ever made, but to many readers this book will be a fascinating insight into W Axl Rose’s particular kind of crazy and control freakery – the kind that that many album sales and that much money and power only gives free licence to.
Rose’s wresting control of the band from his drug-fucked compadres is presented objectively, as is the falling of the original line-up one-by-one, and the singer’s 13-year reclusive odyssey to record the hugely underwhelming Chinese Democracy is a surprise here, as Wall rates the album far higher than we ever would.
From there on it’s another succession of madman public rants, court cases, hermit-like behaviour, announcements and cancellations – but if this part of the book bogs down in repetitive minutae that is hardly Wall’s fault: he’s fairly presenting facts as they presented themselves, right up to the enormously unlikely addition of Rose as stand-in singer for AC/DC, and his reconciliation with Slash and Duff from the original line-up for their current world tour.
It sure as hell hasn’t been an easy or pretty ride, but it’s rarely been a dull one either, and Wall presents it, warts and all, better than anyone.
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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE