London, Axl, and Continued "Patience"

duff024.jpg
Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday.
In 1984, Izzy Stradlin lived in an apartment across the street from me in Hollywood, right behind the Chinese Theater off Hollywood Boulevard. The man seemed to ALWAYS have an acoustic guitar in his hands, and was always writing bits and pieces of songs. He still does this today.

There was one especially melodic thing that he had been working on, and every once in a while he would dust it off and work on it some more.

By 1986, our band Guns N' Roses had a record deal. With that money, I put myself on a small stipend that could basically pay my rent--or half-rent, I should say--for about six months.

One of my best friends at the time was looking to move to Hollywood from her parents' house somewhere in Orange County. She and I decided that we could share rent on a one-bedroom apartment on Gardner; she would get the bedroom, and I the floor of the dining room (which I cordoned off into my little den of darkness).

My other good friend then was a guy named Del James, a recent transplant from New York who became an important part of our tightknit little group of friends and ersatz consiglieres.

Del needed a place to crash for a week or so, and back then, what was mine was his. During that first week of couch-surfing at my apartment, Del and my roommate Debby became romantic, and Del moved from the couch to her bedroom.

Del was an avid reader, and turned me onto a book called Slugs by Shaun Hutson. I remember just sitting in my bedroom/dining room with my curtain pulled taught, and reading this book with life sort of swirling around me in our apartment. There were drugs aplenty then, and Valium was the drug-of-the-month at that particular point.

I remembered Izzy's little ditty, which at that point had a working title of "Patience," and I wrote a lyrical verse then that went, '"I sit here doing drugs/Reading a book about slugs/All I need is a little patience."

This horrible lyric never made it past my apartment front door, thank God. Axl came up with a great lyric, seemingly out of nowhere, that of course became the story and melody of that song. The whistle part at the beginning--a ballsy move by Axl--while seeming odd to some of our fans and critics alike when the record Lies was released, became a part of pop culture. The song just wouldn't be the song without it, right? This was always one of my favorite GN'R songs that we did live.

A few years ago, when Loaded was recording something or other (maybe "Wasted Heart"?), I counted in the song. On playback, someone in the room exclaimed that the count-in (me) sounded like the recorded count-in of "Patience," which is also me. For a while, the joke went that if I couldn't get a good table at a restaurant, I could simply say "One-two-one-two-three-four," and the gates would open for me.

Sometimes things come at me like that. It is impossible to gauge the impact of stuff you have been a part of. It is only when something like what happened to me in that control-room of the Loaded session happens, that I realize the mark a song like "Patience" made . . . or makes still.

Life can throw curveballs at us when we are least prepared. So many odd circumstances have befallen me over the years that I've come to almost expect the unexpected these days.

Two weeks ago, I flew off to London for a week's worth of non-music-related business. Mere hours after landing at Heathrow I found myself onstage with a friend that I have been to hell and back with, and lived to tell the tale. Axl and I just happened to be in hotel rooms next to each other. Unexpected? Oh, fuck yes.

Sometimes, though, it takes a serendipitous moment like this to put some important things into perspective. I for one was glad we were sort of thrown into meeting. I hope he was, too, for the sake of the pounds of flesh that we shed in the struggle and fray.

Mostly we laughed, and that was indeed great.

That same night, I found myself onstage playing "Patience" in front of 14,000 people at the 02 Arena. To put it lightly, this is not what I had expected when I boarded my flight the night before for my business trip. Crazy shit.

This chance meeting gave me pause for thought and reflection. Many of you have asked me to write about this gig and our meeting. Other magazines and whatnot have tried to contact me for a "statement." Really? A STATEMENT? I'll state this: Trust is built on foundations of granite. Trust is not built when a late-breaking story can prompt you to gossip.

I did an interview for our local rock station, KISW, about a week after the gig. They have started to play a new Loaded song in preparation for our halftime performance at the Nov. 7 Seahawks game as part of Veterans Appreciation Day. The song, "Fight On," was written by Loaded as a nod to our fallen and fighting young men and women. I was doing promo for the gig and the song (profits from the download will go to our Puget Sound VA HealthCare System). The conversation on BJ Shea's "Morning Show" naturally took a turn from "Fight On" to my participation onstage with Axl. I've been on BJ's show enough times to know that they wouldn't ask me anything dumb or be otherwise rude or untoward. They let me say my piece, and that was it.

I hope you all understand, and thanks for reading.

 
comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow