The first book and band member we take a look at for #GnRWeek is Steven Adler.

I really enjoyed reading three autobiographies of Guns N’ Roses band members for GnRWeek. I read Adler, Duff and Slash’s books and I actually pretty much read them concurrently. It was very interesting hearing the same stories from three different perspectives, so I tried to juggle reading them all at the same time so that I could compare stories.



Steven’s book was actually very interesting, as he was the band member I probably knew the least about. The standard line I had heard about him whilst at school was that he wasn’t a very good drummer and it was good that he got dropped from the band because he wouldn’t have been able to handle the more complicated drumming on the Illusion albums. That’s pretty much what I knew, or thought I knew, about Steven Adler. I now obviously know a lot more.

To be honest I’ve probably gained a lot of respect for him from reading this book but also slightly lost some as well. It’s quite a sad tale in many ways, or at least a conflict of highs and lows.


One thing I found very interesting right at the start of the book was that he and Slash went to the same school as Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s a small world. He tells a story about Flea walking home from school with a trumpet under his arm, already a musical genius.

One thing he’s not shy about talking about is his prowess with the ladies. And he’s certainly not afraid to kiss and tell. And one thing I noticed from all the guys’ books was just how young they were all doing drugs and having sex. I think Steven was having sex with a local 30 yr old woman when he was like 13 or 14 or something crazy like that. He seemed to just have a happy go lucky mentality where he didn’t hold back on anything and charmed his way into clubs (and panties) all across LA. Slash’s book seems to corroborate most of this, although I’m sure some stories from Steven may have been slightly exaggerated. But the impression you do get is that Steven was always in it more for the partying than for the music. He wanted to be a rock star and live the rock star life and he didn’t quite have the musical genius some others in the band did. But he loved all kinds of music and it was he who actually got Slash into playing the guitar.

But when they got to forming the band you always got the impression that he was kind of the musical hanger-on who sort of managed to sweet-talk his way into the band. I don’t think he ever got the full respect from the band about his musical ability, but that could also be because of two reasons. He was always the one to confront Axl when Axl was… being Axl. No-one else would stand up to Axl. And obviously Axl didn’t like this and always held a bit of a grudge with Steven it seems. The other reason is that sometimes it seems his perception of being pushed out was heightened by drug paranoia. He talks about Slash and Duff pushing him out of the song writing and not taking him seriously when they started writing the Illusion records, but both Slash and Duff’s books say that Steven was just too out of it on heroin and couldn’t function properly.


Some of the stories you do have to take with a pinch of salt. There are different perspectives and memories going on here. For example when he says that he and Slash started to gel more, right before forming GnR, Slash’s version of the story says that Steven started annoying him more and more, but he was the guy who knew bands on the strip so he was handy to keep around.

Despite all this paranoia or actual distance between himself and the band, several band members comment on just how much he was missed musically after he was fired. These quotes elaborate on that…

‘On his drumming style – Izzy Stradlin, who left the band in November 1991, later stated that replacing Adler with Matt Sorum of The Cult had a big impact on the band’s sound. In response to an interviewer’s suggestion that the line-up change had turned Guns N’ Roses from a rock ‘n’ roll band into a heavy metal one, Stradlin said, “Yeah, a big musical difference. … [Our songs] were written with Steve playing the drums and his sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just…unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked. I would have preferred to continue with Steve, but we’d had two years off and we couldn’t wait any longer.”
“To Steven’s credit, and unbeknownst to most, the feel and energy of Appetite was largely due to him,” Slash wrote in his autobiography. “He had an inimitable style of drumming that couldn’t really be replaced, an almost adolescent levity that gave the band its spark.” Bassist Duff McKagan agreed: “Without his groove, we wouldn’t have come up with a lot of those riffs,” he told The Onion A.V. Club in 2011.’

I had no idea about this. My respect for Steven as a musician totally changed when I heard these statements, and I started listening to Appetite in a whole new light.


There is a flip side to the coin though in that that he says some things in the book which really sound like extremely crappy things to do, such as slamming the door in his family’s face when they came to visit him after a gig. You’d think this book would be a way to apologise for things like that and blame the drugs, but he just kind of glosses over several things like that, kind of just saying “Oh well”, which is a bit weird. He also calls out his mother in a really bad way. He says something extremely hateful, like he wants her dead, or she is a bitch and he doesn’t want to ever see her again. I forget exactly, but it’s something along those lines. And yet I’ve seen a TV interview with him and his mum from maybe a year or two before or after the book release where they seem to be getting on great. He obviously has the kind of personality which can say the wrong thing at the wrong time and fly off the handle like that. Pretty much the opposite of Slash in fact.

And interestingly, despite their history together, and also Slash being the one to seemingly extend the olive branch when Steven was at his lowest ebb, Slash is the only member of GnR that Steven doesn’t thank at the end of the book. I just thought that was a shame. He seems to hold a massive grudge towards Slash and I’m not sure it is fully explained why. It doesn’t seem quite justified, from all the facts we know.

A lot of the book is about his drug habit. He was the one who had the personality of wanting more and more drugs and not being strong enough to quit. Drugs became much more important than the music and he ended up going to the lowest of the low places a man can go in order to satiate his habit, as drug addicts often do. It’s a very sad read at times. Often you feel for him and yet other times you don’t. He had his chances and he chose not to get the help he needed. He did, on the flip side, also have lots of extremely bad luck.

I’ve heard people say they’ll read Slash and Duff’s books but they won’t bother with Steven’s, but I’d say it’s possibly one of the more important ones as it really explains from a first hand experience how the first wheel fell of the Guns N’ Roses truck.

Main discography after leaving Guns N’ Roses:

Adler’s Appetite

[Image sources unknown]