Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review of "My Appetite for Destruction" by Steven Adler (Guns 'N' Roses)

Gregg Akkerman's Review of My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns 'n Roses by Steven Adler with Lawrence J. Spagnola (It! Books, 2010)

With competent Lawrence Spagnola operating as co-writer, Steven Adler, the original drummer for Guns 'N Roses, delivers the kind of rocker-autobiography we have come to expect from publisher It Books--and that's a good thing. Adler makes it obvious he has read other similar memoirs and is willing to mimic the better ones while only occasionally taking a misstep.

His is a tale that reads like the script to the now cliché format of a VH1 special that plays out as 1) Stary-eyed young rockers come together to fight the odds; 2) They achieve great success and taste the fruits both sweet and forbidden; 3) Turmoil sets in as drugs and poor money management move to the forefront; 4) Complete destruction of whatever empire was built; 5) Wiser and older comrades regain their original mojo and keep playing "for the fans."

The only part of Adler's story that we don't know for sure is whether there is any kind of happy ending. This is a book without a closing chapter. He reveals so many vivid accounts of life-draining, all-consuming, crack pipe addiction that it is hard to believe any sober redemption will ever be his. We feel only a little sad for the lead character as Adler consistently proves he's often nothing more than a spoiled asshole with no respect for himself, family, friends, or the trail of women sucked into his selfish wake. I want desperately to like the guy but he doesn't give a lot of reasons other than pity.

And that willingness for Adler to come off as a supremely damaged individual is the actual strength of the book. It reads as absolutely honest--no one would admit to that much self-indictment if it weren't true. The only times the tone becomes laughably unbelievable is when Adler attempts seriousness for topics that far exceed his immediate life such as world conflict or religious atrocities. On one page Adler gives us a play-by-play of shooting drugs into his arm while on the next he shares his thoughts about visiting Germany: "I shudder to think about all those innocent people packed into trains and shipped off to gas chambers." He then jarringly returns to his rock-star life on the road playing packed nightclubs. Sorry Adler, but this smacks of painful insincerity and your wingman Spagnola did no favors by fitting it into the narrative. Stick to your stories of Steven Tyler directing porn stars into group sex--at least they ring true to the man you were at the time.

Considering the copious revelations, one area oddly underplayed is exactly how or why Adler was removed from the band. If we take Adler at his word, he was no more unreliable than any of the other junkies in the band and was unfairly singled out, despite his willingness to give Axel Rose an extra 5% royalty. It may indeed be accurate that he was a victim of drug-fueled egomaniacs, but perhaps more detail will be gleaned in versions of the story as told by other band members.

Akkerman gives it 4 Rock-Stars out of 5!

Check it out from your local library or purchase a copy through the link below.

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