Marc Canter’s friendship with Slash goes back to childhood. Marc was there as the classic lineup of Guns N’ Roses began to form, and documented all of it. After releasing his book “Reckless Road” and podcast series “The First 50 Gigs: Guns N’ Roses and the Making of Appetite For Destruction” he is now hosting a companion photo exhibit on July 21 at Bourbon Room in Hollywood, CA. Marc recently took some time to talk about those early days.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Marc Canter –
On what fans can expect from the photo exhibit – Well, there’s a lot of photos. There’s probably like 30-40 photos that are gonna be up in the exhibit, and so there’s gonna be a lot of my, I call them artifacts, souviners from the old days. Original flyers ticket stubs, maybe the Slash’s handwritten tattoo that he got on his arm, just a lot of things that I helpd on to over the years and you can see them in person. Just any kind of cool fun stuff I have, but the photos are cool because there’s so much history with these photos that I documented. There’s 12 songs on Appetite for Destruction, 10 of them I was there the first time they ever debuted it. So there could be photos at the first time they ever played “Welcome to the Jungle”, or “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Rocket Queen”, or something like that. So if that’s one of the songs that make it work for you, and like your favorite song, it’s cool that you have a chance to see photos from that gig. Some of the photos are not even in my “Reckless Road” book that I put out in 2008. There is 900 images in that book, which is more than enough, but I have about 15,000 images. Originally when I put together this project in 1993, 1994, it had 2000 photos in it, and then we ended it down to 900. ObviouslyIf I had 2000 that means more than a half came out. Some of those photos will be the ones that are maybe not in the book, and it’s really to make awareness of what we’re really promoting, which is the project of The First 50 Gigs, which coincidentally, was the name of “Reckless Road” before became “Reckless Road”. My manuscript said, “Guns N’ Roses, The First 50 Gigs” because that’s when it is. It covers the first 50 gigs.
On the podcast – This podcast, what we’re really trying to promote, it really digs in deeper than anything can ever. First of all, when we were doing the book, we had MySpace and MySpace was about what you could find people on MySpace. We didn’t have Facebook and the internet, you just Google someone and find them. Back then in 2007 and 2008, you had the internet, but you didn’t have as good of an internet as you have now, thorough. So for instance, we didn’t have Rob Gardner, who was the original drummer from LA Guns and Guns N’ Roses he would have loved have been involved in the book, but we couldn’t find him at the time. So now we have him, you get his story, but not only would you get his story and you get really intimate details about exactly how things went down, not just a few quotes. You have time in a podcast to go in 40 minutes, 45 minutes, whatever it takes to get the job done. When you’re doing that information for a book, there’s only so much room on the page to put little blurbs. So we even went back and we got Chris Webber, who was a guitar player in Hollywood Rose and wrote songs with Axl and Izzy, yeah, he’s in the book, but he’s not thoroughly in the book. You get the history of the Sunset Strip. We did with Laurie Jacobson that goes back from 1910 to 1950. You think, “How is that relevant?” But it is, because it says the stage for how the Sunset Strip became such (a destination). For people in any state in the United States, if they wanna make it, they gotta come to Los Angeles, they gotta hit the Sunset Strip, they gotta put flyers up on the wall, they gotta do all those things, you got to mingle around the Rainbow.
This all happened because when I was working with Jason Porath, who is my co-author and technically the publisher because it was self-published for “Reckless Road”, the deal was that we would also do some sort of documentary because I had all this video footage, all this audio and all this, all this information, you can’t just put it in a book and get it out. Your need another platform for that, so we agreed on doing some sort of documentary, but it never really happened. During the pandemic when people were working from home and zooming, it became very popular to zoom. S Jason had this idea, “Let’s do what we never finished and do a podcast instead of a documentary”, and we started doing it by zoom and it worked. Honestly, even if there wasn’t a pandemic, I think it worked out better than if it was a documentary. You have Jason, you have me, whoever the guest is, and we’re all talking. Jason is an expert at getting information out of people and not looking for sensationalism. He’ll ask a question and then we’ll both jump on it and try to fill in the holes. You get a lot of details. I know exactly what went down and I still get goosebumps when I watched it because I’m looking at it through other people’s eyes. I know I grew up an Aerosmith fan, and if somebody had documented Aerosmith the way I documented Guns N’ Roses, they would be my best friend. So it’s an interesting story. I’ve said this in my book, and even if you’re not a fan of the band, it’s still so interesting to see how those five guys came together and made it work, and what they had to do to get to the next level, gig by gig.
Back to the Bourbon Room, which is we’re doing on July 21st. It’s fun to look at exhibits anyways when you blow up these photos and you frame them nice you have them on the wall, and it’s just so much better. It pops out at you rather than just looking at it in the book or on the internet. There’ll be a little card to under your one that says something, This may be what happened that gig, it was their first sold-out gig, it just gives you a little bit more, the first time Slash used a Les Paul. It’s informative, and it’s fun. It’s fun to gather in a room full of a bunch of people that are all interested in the same subject, and you meet new friends and you see old friends you haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s just a cool event.
On the classic lineup coming together – First of all, I had a history with Axl, history with Duff, Slash obviously, and also Steven. Steven and Slash and Axl were in Hollywood Rose a year before that (first) gig. The difference was that Steven was still playing double bass, and it was like a speed metal band. You knew there was something there, but you just couldn’t pull it out and it just wasn’t enough to make it stick together and make it work. A year later when they ran across that course again, and that opportunity came when Tracii Guns and Rob Gardner left the band, because Duff had booked this tour in Seattle and they really weren’t interested in going up to Seattle and Portland. Also, Axl and Tracii had a little something going on about maybe musically or a song or whatever, there was a little tension there that was looking to boil over. So there was a lot going on. But when that opportunity came again, of course, I knew it was good because I knew who Axl was already, I knew who Duff was because he was briefly in Road Crew, which was Slash and Steven’s band for about a week. They actually worked on a song that eventually became “Rocket Queen”, so there was a little history there. Duff didn’t stick around because there wasn’t a singer, and I think Duff wanted to hit the ground running and didn’t wanna build a band from scratch. They hung out for a week and that was it.
Izzy I knew briefly because Slash and I and Steven went to see Hollywood Rose because was interested in either getting Axl and Izzy in his band or joining their band, either way, wouldn’t matter. It happened, except Izzy took a left turn right away. As soon as Slash joined, Izzy left and joined the band London that other people were in. Members of W.A.S.P. were in there, Motley Crue. London was a stepping stone. But anyway, so I knew who Izzy was, I knew he was a good songwriter and I knew he helped set the image and a lot of things. But what I didn’t know is how good it was going to be. Yes, even though they were my friends, and even though I knew how good they were, especially Slash, I promoted everything Slash did, they blew me away. Izzy and Duff removed one of Steven’s bass drums when he went to the bathroom or went to have a cigarette, whatever it was, at that rehearsal and they hid it. They literally took it a block away and hid it somewhere. So Steven had no choice.
All of sudden, that speed metal band turned into this funky punch that Steven had that fit that music perfectly. So now I see “Don’t Cry” for the first time, they had played it with Tracii, but I didn’t see any of those gigs. So the first time I saw it was really the first time the played it with Slash. The guitar solo was the same as you hear on the record. So at that rehearsal ripped one out, it fit, and he remembered it and played it that night. Then it worked so he played the next time. So that song alone blew me away because as good as Axl was, I didn’t realize he had five different registers of Axl levels, each one being just as good as the next, but different. So I remember hearing “Don’t Cry” and listening to in my car after the show because I recorded all those shows and I just couldn’t believe it. I thought this could be like a soundtrack in a movie, the band is ready to go, just on this song alone, we’ll see what comes from it.
So being back at the gig, I shot four rolls of film. I didn’t just shoot Slash and a little bit of everyone else, I shot equal amounts of everybody because everybody warranted that attention. Izzy looked just like a rock star. Wherever I pointed the camera, the finger pulled the trigger because there was something there. A lot of times you shoot a show, you look and you look and you don’t pull the trigger and you look for something else, and finally you pull the trigger. This, I burned off four rolls of film without an automatic winder. That’s taking a picture and then clicking the thing and then taking a picture So imagine they got a 35-minute set and I shot four rolls of 36 films. So that means there was a lot to shoot and guess what, I ran out of film. I probably could have shot six roles, but that’s how good it was. It was like, “Wow, that really worked”. Of course, it was gonna work given how it was before. But now you got Duff, you got Izzy, it’s different than Hollywood Rose was. That gig alone blew me away, it was something so different.Summer tours are back again. Stream new shows from Pearl Jam, Dead & Company, Goose, Billy Strings, Jack White, and many more.
On the songs from Appetite – I heard some of those songs before like “Anything Goes”, actually “Move to the City”, they played that night, and “Think About You”, and those two songs I heard and those were pretty much good songs to listen to in your car after the show, or the next day. Soon after that, they wrote “Welcome the Jungle” was the first song they actually wrote as Guns N’ Roses, as that Appetite for Destruction lineup. Again, the guitar solo sounds the same as it did that night as does on the record. So I knew right then and there, they’re like a mini Led Zeppelin, they can’t do wrong. They had all these good songs and now they wrote a new song, then they wrote “Rocket Queen” two months later, then they wrote “Paradise City” a month later, then next came “Nighttrain” and “My Michelle”. There weren’t any throwaways. Every song they wrote was produced and arranged and sounded great, just the way they wrote it. U
Usually, when you get a band that has some talent, it needs some polishing in the studio by a professional that knows how to pull the best out of that. In Guns N’ Roses’ case, the professional was Mike Clink. Knowing, and understanding not to change things that they have it. What they have is great. Now, just capture it, juggle them, make sure they show up on time and do all that other stuff and babysit them. It was a team. You had Tom Zutat from Geffen that was smart enough to not only sign them, of course, anyone should have signed them, but smart enough to know not to screw with the songs they had and not try to make them marketable and clean up the bad language or whatever. You have a song like “It’s So Easy”, and there’s some things in there that most record companies might not let you have. Tom said, “No, put it in there. Leave it alone. It’s all good”. So took that combination, plus he’s the one that they looked through a bunch of fail producers, he came up with Mike Clink. So it was having the right people to get them to the next level is what it took. But yes, that first show really, really showed me that this is gonna work.
On his role – I made it my point to make sure Slash gets to the next level one way or the other. Just whatever, making it easy, driving him out to another city to look at an amp or a guitar he’s looking at, or support him on something, something he’s got his target. When doing a gig, help promoted by flyers or an ad in the magazine or just whatever, food. Odds and ends just to make it a little smoother. I didn’t help them write any music, but I helped them get to the next level. Although there is something I will take a little bit of credit for. Slash was outrageous on a WahWah pedal in 1981, 1982. They used to do a cover of “Dazed and Confused” and Jimmy Page would have to tip his hat to the 16-year-old that was doing this. Then the pedal broke and that was the end of that. We never saw it again. He went through 85 without the WahWah pedal. I remember it was his birthday in July, and I remember he didn’t ask for the WahWah pedal, but I just decided that maybe we’ll get him a WahWah pedal, He was so good at it, let’s see what happens. Sure enough, the next month they show up with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Brownstone” in the same gig. They debuted that August 23rd at the Whisky. Both those songs have a WahWah pedal and both those songs are very memorable. We’ll be long gone and people will still be listening to those songs. So I don’t know if they would have sounded like that without that WahWah pedal. Sure, they would have been good, obviously. “Paradise City” doesn’t have a WahWah pedal, “Welcome to the Jungle” doesn’t have a WahWah pedal and that works. Whatever Slash would have done would have worked, but it wouldn’t have had that WahWah pedal. So that was the only thing I contributed towards the music, I guess, by making sure he had that WahWah pedal.
On memorable gigs – But the one other gig that was kind of memorable to me was they played the Street Scene actually twice, but one of them was September 28th of 1985, it’s a free gig on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. They were supposed to open up for Social Distortion and they were gonna go on at 5:00 or 5:30. It was 8 o’clock when they took the stage because the day was running late. The native punkers were not having that. If Guns N’ Roses was 3 hours late, that means Social Distortion was also three hours late. They had had enough watching these bands that aren’t who they came to see. When they came out, they were throwing food or spitting at them and shaking the stage, and doing whatever they could to get Guns off the stage. It was only a five-song set list, but Guns basically won that crowd over, and it was that gig when I saw them perform in front of probably 2000 people, but it looked like 20,000 people to me because I’d never seen a crowd that big for them. I’ve been to arenas and seen 18,000 people, but I hadn’t seen my friends play on a stage bigger than 200 or 300 at the Troubadour. So to see them control that out-of-control crowd, and then not only that have them eating out of their hands by the third song, showed me that not only do they have the songwriting and the vocal range, and the guitar playing, and the right image, they also had the ability to hold, captivate an audience that wasn’t even there to see them. In fact, not only were never to see them, they wanted to see them off that stage. That told me after that gig, and I even took pictures from behind the stage to show how crazy and rowdy it was. You’re looking at the back of the band and then the front of the crowd. As far as I’m concerned, it was like Woodstock, it was just like an insane thing. It made me realize that they are a stadium band, and of course, they were a stadium band. But not every band, there’s a lot of bands that write good music, but they’re not really great performers.
On their image – Guns N’ Roses was one of the last of the bands where you could buy a poster of them and identify exactly all the members in the band like you did in the 70s. You bought the KISS poster, Black Sabbath or whatever, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, or whatever. You could identify everyone in the band and that influenced you to hang them on your wall. Today, there’s music out there that you might listen to and like and enjoy, but you’re not gonna hang up a poster because there’s nothing to see. We kinda lost that. So they came at a time when Rock and Roll, hard rock, whatever you wanna call it, was gone. The 70s were gone, the 60s were definitely gone. The early 80s, punk, late 70s, early 80s, punk kinda died off by 82, and there was just nothing going on. These guys were making music for themselves, their opinion, of what music should sound like today or that people weren’t doing anymore. But it was also the perfect mix and the right time because, forget about the music, the lyrics were coming from, the way they were living. They were living on the streets, hanging out and maybe they sleep at a girlfriend’s house or someone’s couch from the back seat in his car, but sometimes they strike out, they’d have to sleep on the street or in their studio, which was not meant to be slept in it was very tiny, and they had wild parties there and the police were chasing them. Yes, you had something besides musically, and besides the fact nobody really showed up with a song, and then everyone kind of put a cherry on it.
On writing songs – As a song was being written by one or a riff, the other ones would grab on to it and build on it instantly. So it wasn’t this one wrote it or that one wrote it, it was a product of four or five minds looking at that and ripping it up. Whoever came up with the main idea is still there, but you got everything else. Other people’s ideas got put on it. Later on, they still had magic, but not that same magic. The magic was, later on, they all had enough money to have their own apartments, and maybe they had a four-track studio or whatever. Somebody could put a song on a cassette and give it to the band, and then they can build on it. That might happen, but the way songs were structured in those days, they were literally built right then and there, and there was something about that that made it special. I wish that if I could go back in time that maybe I wish they wouldn’t have gotten signed in March of 86, maybe another six months later.
Once they got signed, the only thing they focused on doing was putting out the record. Recording the songs they already had, which they knew were good, and getting them out there. The record company thought they might need one or two more songs and told to write more songs, and all of a sudden they couldn’t write songs when they were told the right songs. They were writing songs naturally. “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Brownstone”, and also “It’s So Easy”, and “You’re Crazy” came after they got signed, but not for many months. There was a lot of chaos going on. They could have either gotten dropped, gone to jail, died, whatever, broken up just because of friction, or whatever. They tore through their advanced money in two weeks. They were on the reckless road, that’s why my book was called “reckless Road” because it was written about that time after they got signed, before they got the record out, it was a little crazy there. So that was a special time. That’s lightning in a bottle.
You could put those five guys back in the room right now and they’re not gonna write material like they did then. Sure, whatever their right may be good, but it’s not going to be like that, and that happened because they were in the right place at the right time with the right intentions, they were all on the same page and they clicked. I said this before, you can’t take those five members and divide them up by 100% what their values were. Because right away you have to give 50% to Axl, 50% to Slash, there is your 100%. Wait a minute, can Slash and Axl make it work on their own? Absolutely not. You needed Izzy, you needed Duff, you definitely needed Steven. If you add their percentages together, you’re gonna come up with 200%. So it’s like putting five completely different chefs in the same kitchen, normally they’d kill each other, but in this instance, they worked as a perfect team of assassins to create really good music that will last forever.Live Concerts From Your Favorite Artists on nugs.net. Start a 7 day trial.
On if the exhibit will go on the road – Well, anything can happen. For right now, there are some cool things that have that we’ll see what kind of response we get from that. I just have a bunch of original items. People go and they see Van Gogh and they see King Tut, they see all these things to see these artifacts, but I know these things are a million years old or whatever, or whatever, a couple hundred thousand years old, but it is still cool that they’re here and they exist, people might wanna see them in person. It’s cool that they’re here and they exist. People might want to see them in person and might want to see these images that aren’t even in the book or available online. We’ll see how that goes, right now, the main reason was to put this out to get the event started about bringing awareness to the podcast. In the end, it’s a means to an end to get the podcast. We’re trying to get the message out that this podcast exists wherever you can get podcasts at. If you go to first50gigs.com you can get information, it will point you to the podcast that you might be able to have access to, everyone has different accesses with different equipment. That’s the whole thing, is to make awareness of the podcast and this podcast was done so well and it was produced so well with the right people working on it that you could just take it and put it right on to Amazon or right on to Hulu or one of those Netflix, and it’s ready to go. People could watch this right on their TV. It’s done professionally. Nobody winged it. Jason put together a really good team of people. They had meetings every single week for hours talking about every little detail, about how they’re gonna do it and structure it out and film and record and the right microphones and to make it look (good). Jason is like a filmmaker, he doesn’t want to skimp on quality.