|Duff McKagan, former bassist for Guns n' Roses, the metal superstars whose only remaining member is leader Axl Rose, is about to issue a solo LP, Beautiful Disease. The album, his second solo effort following 1993's Believe In Me, features former Gn'R guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash.
Michael "Duff" McKagan was born 35 years ago today in Seattle. He grew up in a predominately Irish neighborhood, in which many boys of his age were named Michael; hence his nickname. As a youth, McKagan often was in trouble for stealing cars.
In the early '80s, McKagan met and began jamming with singer Rose and guitarist Stradlin. After the group lost a guitarist and drummer, McKagan suggested axeman Slash and skinsman Steve Adler. The band then took the name Guns n' Roses from two groups the various members had played in: Hollywood Roses and L.A. Guns.
Guns n' Roses issued an independent EP, before signing with Geffen Records and issuing their breakthrough, 1987's Appetite for Destruction, which yielded the massive hits "Sweet Child o' Mine", "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City."
At a time when rock was dominated by synth-pop bands, the hard rock Gn'R represented a return to the "bad boy" rock of the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. After MTV began airing Guns n' Roses videos and the band logged a year on the road with its aggressive live shows, Appetite for Destruction took off and rose to #1 -- eventually selling more than 13 million copies.
GN'R Lies (1988) included tracks from the band's indie EP with such new controversial songs as "One in a Million," which managed to insult gays, blacks and immigrants. The effort also yielded the mellow hit, "Patience."
The band's provocative lyrics, coupled with rumors of heroin use, fostered Guns n' Roses' rebel image. But reality hit when Adler had to be fired or drug use. Adding Matt Sorum on drums and Dizzy Reed on keyboards, the band took a hiatus to rejuvenate. In the meantime, McKagan and Slash contributed to Iggy Pop's Brick By Brick album.
In 1991, Guns n' Roses began their first headlining world tour and simultaneously released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. The LPs yielded the hit "You Could Be Mine" and "November Rain." After more marathon touring, Gn'R issued an album of punk covers, The Spaghetti Incident (1993), with Gilby Clarke replacing Stradlin.
Since then, leader Rose has largely shut himself off from the press and most of the rock world, leaving the future of Guns n' Roses in doubt. But recently, Slash announced he had ended his tenure with the band permanently and Rose was reportedly in the studio, using the band's name, with all new members of Guns n' Roses.
In 1996, McKagan and Sorum formed the band Neurotic Outsiders, with Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame and John Taylor of Duran Duran, and issued an eponymous LP.
Scheduled songs for McKagan's new solo LP include "Who's to Blame," "Seattle Head" and "Mezz."
Last month, McKagan, Slash and Sorum played a show in Park City, Utah, which coincided with the Sundance Film Festival's showing of "Soundman," for which Sorum wrote music.
Other birthdays: Barrett Strong, 58; Cory Wells (Three Dog Night), 57; Chuck Winfield (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 56; James R. Cobb (Classics IV), 55; Al Kooper, 55; Nigel Olsson (Elton John Band), 50; Chris Barron (Spin Doctors), 31; Michael Ivey (Basehead), 31; and Bobby Brown, 30.