In the prologue to Duff McKagan’s autobiography, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies), Duff tells an anecdotal tale of his daughter’s thirteenth birthday party. It was going to be a huge, grand event, complete with a DJ, catered food and lots of his daughter’s friends. There was just one small issue. His daughter refused to let him, or his wife, step foot in the backyard. It just wasn’t cool to have your parents trolling around at your birthday party.
As an avid fan of Guns N Roses since the mid-eighties, I found this story hysterical. Here is one of the biggest rock icons of the day, who was mauled by devoted fans over the years, being told that he isn’t cool enough to hang out with his daughter’s friends. Duff would be an embarrassment to this growing teenage girl. This was the life of Duff McKagan circa 2011.
The opening introit leads to the kick start of the journey that was (and still is) the life of Duff McKagan, former bassist for one of the biggest rock and roll bands in the history of music. The modern day version of Mr. McKagan is quite a contrast to the early life of a young, hungry musician who moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, California, with a dream of putting together one of the most dedicated rock bands in the world.
The opening chapters of It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) are beautifully crafted and formatted in perfect harmony. The book starts with the early roots of Duff McKagan in Seattle and is intertwined with his early days in Los Angeles. Rather than giving us the linear path of his life, Duff decided that it would be more compelling to twist the early days of L.A. with flashbacks of his arrival on the Hollywood scene. The payoff is intense reading that can’t be put down. Even if you aren’t a fan of Guns N Roses (which I find hard to believe), It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) is still must read material.
Duff shows us the inner workings of Hollywood via the late 80s. Here, a young man came with no money, a dream, and a drive to form one of the greatest bands in the world. While a lot of young musicians at the time were pounding the streets of L.A. in search of leading the next great rock band, the difference with Duff was his determination. Nothing was going to come between him and his dream. In the early years, that held true, as Duff was more concerned with his music than anything else. That, and the fact that he could not afford anything more than cheap Nighttrain wine, helped keep him level headed enough to become a founding member of Guns N Roses along with Slash, Steven Adler, Izzy Stradlin, and one Axl Rose.
Duff recreates the early days in vibrant detail, and for fans who have read Slash’s autobiography, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) is the perfect companion piece, as we are able to see familiar stories through the eyes of another band member. Reading the early stories made me yearn for a memoir from Axl, thus completing the views from all three of the biggest players in the band.
McKagan does not hold back throughout It’s So Easy (And Other Lies). He delves into the story and gives the readers all of the dirt. He retells classic moments of GNR history with the clear perspective of sobriety and even takes responsibility for his part in how the band fell apart. He is quick to point out not only the lows of living a life with Axl Rose as a bandmate, but also the highs. Duff holds no grudges and appears to have no regrets. His memories of Axl are painted both in anger (especially for Axl’s constant lateness) and in fondness (remembering how Axl was there for Duff during several times of need).
Through it all, McKagan gives us his life story in beautiful, crisp detail leaving out none of the good times, or the bad. We are able to journey with him to the darkest pits of drug and alcohol abuse. We writhe in pain as his pancreas burst and he begs for death. We rejoice in jubilation as Duff takes on the challenge for his life and comes back from the brink of death to become completely sober and dedicated to his music once again. And through it all, we secretly hope that one day, there will be a full band Guns N Roses reunion. While his other bands (Velvet Revolver and Loaded) are great, we always want the original back together.
If you are a fan of Guns N Roses, the Hollywood metal scene, or just rock and roll in general, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) is definitely worth picking up. McKagan’s story is one of redemption and overcoming personal demons to live life on a greater level. It is a story that will touch anyone who reads it and resonate with your inner champion.
It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) is now available in paperback from Touchstone Books, wherever books are sold and on the Amazon Kindle.