Monday, January 16, 2012

Duff McKagan - It’s So Easy (And Other Lies): The Autobiography

Duff McKagan
It’s So Easy (And Other Lies): The Autobiography
Orion Books/Hachette Media

When it comes to the Guns N’ Roses story, there isn’t that much to be said that hasn’t already been said. After all, tell-all biographies telling the rise and fall (And rise once again) of the legendary L.A. based act has already been covered in all its vivid and gory detail by authors such as Stephen Davis (2008’s ‘Watch You Bleed: The Saga Of Guns N’ Roses’) and Mick Wall (2007’s ‘W. Axl Rose: The Unauthorised Biography’), and not to mention from countless other writers throughout the years.
That’s not taking into account the fact that both former guitarist Slash and former drummer Steve Adler have themselves penned autobiographies telling their side of the story for readers in recent years (2007’s ‘Slash’ and 2010’s ‘My Appetite For Destruction: Sex, And Drugs, And Guns N’ Roses’ respectively). So when former bassist Duff McKagan announced his plans to lay down his side of the story in autobiographical form, I can’t say that I was desperate to rush out to the stores and buy it on its day of release. But as it so happens, having just finished my current read at the time, I found myself purchasing a copy of McKagan’s self-penned ‘It’s So Easy (And Other Lies): The Autobiography’, purely because there simply wasn’t anything else that really grabbed my attention. And despite my initial scepticism, I’m pleased to report that I’m damned glad I did.
Autobiographies seem to be all the rage these days, and more often than not, they’re simply an extended biography that fleshes out the human side of the subject, rather than keep the story balanced with the musical side of things of those involved. McKagan’s story is definitely one of the more balanced tomes I’ve read in years.
McKagan strangely enough begins his story in August 2010, where him and his wife are holding a backyard birthday party for his daughter Grace, who’s turning thirteen. It’s a short prologue into the autobiography, but it’s an entertaining one that shows that despite overcoming the many addictions that plagued a large part of his life, and being a member of one of the biggest (And notoriously dangerous) bands from the late ‘90’s, one of his biggest challenges today is not only being a father, but one that doesn’t in any way, shape or form, want to embarrass his daughter by being seen in the backyard, and who instead is happy to retreat inside the house to enjoy the party from a distance. It’s a funny story, but more importantly a genuinely touching one as well, and one that most parents with children of the same age can definitely relate to. McKagan might be a rock legend, but he’s also a loving parent who will sacrifice himself rather than embarrass his kids in front of their friends.
The prologue obviously serves as a precursor to the real story, and gives the book its premise where McKagan gets to thinking about his past, but only as far as the day when his demons (Not to mention his mortal frame) finally caught up with him, and he recounts the story behind his near-fatal pancreatic explosion in 1994. There’s nothing glamorous here within the first chapter, and McKagan tells it as it was, without pulling any punches.
From here, McKagan takes the reader back to the start of the story (Making a minor detour to the time when he almost died as a small kid, and leaving Seattle for the big time of L.A.), detailing his time growing up, his first musical influences, his family and the bands that helped shape and pave his way into musical stardom.
While the story is a fairly standard one of a musician fighting to make ends meet, all the while awaiting the opportunity to really make it in a real band destined for glory, McKagan’s recount of his life story really does have something to say more than most, and that’s a human story. Throughout every page, you can’t help but feel that while McKagan did go on to find fame and fortune in Guns N’ Roses, it’s only secondary to the real story of how he actually got there in the first place.
The book, while an easy read, is far too lengthy to detail here in all its magnificent glory. But the story McKagan’s takes the reader on details the rise and eventual fall of Guns N’ Roses (Where he himself takes on same of the blame due to a lack of open communication alongside his fellow band members), his failed first marriage (Where again he looks at himself, and not with kind regard) and the toll that drugs and alcohol took on him both mentally and physically (There’s an incredible picture in the middle of the book entitled ‘Bloated And Hopeless’ that really proves how bad things were at the time), and the denial that that he lived in for years (Especially throughout the early ‘90’s touring behind ‘Use Your Illusion I’ and ‘II’) before things finally came to a head in 1994.
For the most part, ‘It’s So Easy (And Other Lies): The Autobiography’ is pretty much everything what you would expect from a McKagan autobiography. But around the last third of the book, McKagan does something a lot of people don’t do in circumstances like these (Meaning rock stars writing autobiographies), and that’s detail what happened after hitting rock bottom. It’s here that McKagan really tells his story, and about his slow and gradual process of coming back into the real world through sobriety, and how he once again found the balls to again play music – and more importantly tour without fear of falling into the depths of addiction.
Although it isn’t generally my kind of thing, I couldn’t help but get swept up in the latter half of the book, and McKagan’s growing optimistic outlook on life after reconnecting with the simple things in life, and dedicating himself totally towards martial arts and cycling.
McKagan’s book is filled with a story that has all the essential ingredients to make it an addictive and easy read, and that’s tragedy, sorrow, remorse and an uplifting end where the protagonist (Being McKagan himself) finally defies the odds stacked against him to rise once again, stronger, wiser than ever before, and sober for the first time ever.
In the end, I don’t really feel like I’ve done justice to ‘It’s So Easy (And Other Lies): The Autobiography’. But if you’re after a great read on Guns N’ Roses from an insider’s perspective, and one that has a whole lot of human heart, some funny stories and leaves you feeling satisfied after completion, then look no further than this book.

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© Justin Donnelly