How to Start a Fire Using Hundred Dollar Bills: 1984

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Fun Fact: Pontiac Sunbird’s Head Gaskets Were Made From Tissue Paper

Barely a month after my chat with a top-ten all-time-great rock god, Ronnie James Dio, my lawyer called to report two of five opposing parties were offering to settle my lawsuit. For two hundred and fifty grand, all I needed to do was sign on the dotted line. I had planned on taking my case all the way to court, but found it impossible saying no to stacks of cash. It took no more than seven seconds to devise a new and improved plan: get some party money, then take the remaining three defendants before a sympathetic jury to milk it for every dime. Ma, Pops, and me were all required to sign and notarize releases, then the same drill with the big check that ultimately got sent back to Hawaii for another hurry up and wait.

After three weeks of hoop-jumping, the lawyers took pounds of flesh and sent me the leftover ninety-seven thousand dollars. That’s right, I broke my fucking neck and them motherfucking lawyers paid themselves one hundred and fifty-three grand, leaving me ninety-seven. Legal guardian, Pops, had hired the firm when I was a minor, and agreed – for me – to give “my” legal team 45 percent: plus fees and expenses! At the time, I was too giddy to even consider simple ratios or scrutinize expense reports, so had absolutely no clue of the absolute ass-rape being delivered.

Vietnamese team of lawyers
These Were Not My Lawyers, But the Dude on the Right is Kinda Hot

Minutes after the check cleared, I rushed from my bank to a Pontiac dealer on a noble quest to score a Trans Am. But along the path toward the sales office, I fell in love with a sexy little Pontiac Sunbird turbo convertible. It was a blast to drive, but I probably overpaid by five hundred bucks. Having never purchased a brand-spanking-new car before, I forgot the best deals go to those willing to split. Nowadays, I leave the checkbook at home. So once terms are agreed upon, I must break free from the high-pressure sales environment to go fetch the down payment, allowing time to ponder the deal. Actually, in any business dealing – other than a beyond-stellar bargain – I never give a firm answer till at least a day passes.

One set of wheels down, one to go. In the few years since receiving mine from Rancho, wheelchair technology had undergone a sea change. I had to have me one of those newfangled aluminum alloy “sports chairs.” I called around and found a demo model Quadra brand chair for about a third of retail, a mere five hundred bucks. When we arrived to the Abbey Medical store, while waiting for Mike to retrieve my soon-to-be-former chair from the trunk, I held onto the top of the car door and pulled myself up to standing, smiled devilishly, and said, “Now that I got my money.”

Mike stopped cold in his tracks, as though he had seen a boyishly handsome quadriplegic ghost. Turns out, he never saw me on my feet before, and over time we got many laughs about those few seconds when he actually believed I faked a disability to get paid.

A beer bottle traveling at ninety-two mph will repeatedly roll and bounce, but not shatter until almost at a complete stop.

The very next day, we set off to the Colorado River for some Fourth of July festivities. After loading up on beer, I rocketed my new turbo southeast down Interstate 10 toward Blythe, making a pit stop at Sizzler to smoke fifteen bowls before consuming stoner quantities of all-you-can-eat shrimp. I hate open containers in my car, so, to quell my bitching, Mike chucked his empties out the window. A beer bottle traveling at ninety-two mph will repeatedly roll and bounce, but not shatter until almost at a complete stop. Mike was so amused by the phenomenon that he drank forty-two beers, leaving a trail of shattered glass along our path. Because the fourth fell on a Wednesday, and folks with jobs don’t head to the river for just a day, Blythe was beyond dead, so we split for home early the next morning.

Everest Jennings VS. Quadra
Typical Italian dish mixed deep fried seafood: shrimp, squid, octopus.
I’m Too Hungry to Conjure a Caption

Downey sat too far away from the party fields, so I rented a room at the Holiday Inn, near Hollywood and Highland. The plan was to get a huge sack of blow, tons of booze, and party down with as many slutty coke whores looking to put out that we could hustle up. I was novice about coke-loving concubines, unaware of the prime directive: do not have a room full of drunken dudes. They’ll only cock-block you, if their presence hasn’t already scared the chicks away. But if there are any other dudes present, they better have their own drugs. If not, they should not be there. Basically, I stayed at the Holliday Inn for almost two weeks, burned a few lids of pot, did at least an ounce of blow, and drank gallons of beer, but did not even hold hands with a girl. All the willing women I knew lived many miles away, while I remained far too buzzed to go in search of talent. I never understood how folks leave the house after doing coke. Sure, if someone gives you a bump while you’re out and about, you got to deal with it. But once I’m hunkered down in a private place, me no likey prying eyes.

I awoke one afternoon, after a night of hard partying, amongst a room full of dudes and could not find my car keys anywhere. Upon realization Mike had them last, I became super angry and bitchy. But Mike told me, “It’s not my car. The keys are your responsibility.”

It’s a fact, if we choose to put our trust in others, we become responsible when shit gets fucked up.

I screamed, “It is my fault for giving my keys to a fucking idiot!” Upon hearing those words coming from my mouth, I realized he was right. Even though it was a beyond-asshole thing for him to say, I was the one stupid enough to give his worthless ass the keys. And the one who couldn’t drive my brand-new car. It’s a fact, if we choose to put our trust in others, we become responsible when shit gets fucked up. If it happens to me, it’s my fault.

About two weeks after my check cleared, I rented a cool little apartment at Highland and Odin, right next to Hollywood Bowl. Sometimes, because of the Hollywood Bowl’s gridlocked traffic, it took an hour to travel the last quarter mile to my driveway. Conveniently, starting a city block away, there was a curb cut – put there for handicap folks just like me – leading to extra-wide sidewalks that served as an exit ramp to my garage. Moving from a small room into an apartment meant I needed to buy absolutely everything. Furniture, towels, sheets, dishes, a vacuum, and so many dollars more stuff that normal houses require. I also bought a semi-cool stereo and stacks of records to drive my neighbors crazy.

Before 1984, all of L.A. was area code 213. At some point, they split the city in two and assigned the 818 area code to the San Fernando Valley, a region I generally avoided but playfully mocked friends residing there. Down the street from my apartment was a gas station that also sold car accessories, and I seriously considered forking over a grand to get one of those newfangled cellular car phones installed in my Sunbird. That is, until I found out that cell phone calls were fifty cents a minute, incoming or outgoing.

They Got Phones in Cars
Opening Ceremonies, 1984 Summer Olympics.

Within a month of owning that cash, it felt like everyone was in my pocket. My own dear Ma hit me up for a ten-thousand-dollar loan. I knew I’d never see it again, so instead arranged for her to get a bank loan by opening a collateral savings account. Mostly it was small loan requests, but one friend’s mother actually had the nerve to seek a loan to pay a four-hundred-dollar electric bill. I told her to pay it the same way she usually paid and drove off. Then there was Mike acting like he owned the big bank account, regularly running up bar tabs, helping himself to drugs, and messing my place up like I had maid service. It was the first time having my own place, and even though I wanted a little alone-time solitude, I was too wimpy to tell him.

One night, we had a couple of girls over, drinking rum and Cokes in my complex’s jacuzzi. The apartment manager – a super-duper fem-gay but alright dude – pointed out in a beyond friendly manner that glass containers were not allowed in the spa area. A far too drunken Mike started yelling, “faggot this, faggot that,” and stormed off. That month was the longest period of time I had ever spent with Mike. By the next day, when I dropped him at home, I mustered the courage to let him know of my desire to enjoy my place solo by telling him something like, “Fuck off, Mike.”

I was happy, and told Tracii that L.A. Guns was a far better band name than Pyrrhus.

I doubt it was a coincidence, but the very next day, Tracii Guns called to invite me to see his new band rehearse. That evening, I drove recklessly to Riverside and Fletcher, near Silverlake, to grab a burger from Rick’s before driving around the corner to “Nickey’s Love Palace,” the studio owned by Nickey Alexander. I halfway expected Mike to be there, due to him telling me he was considering joining Tracii’s new group, but there was no Mike in sight. I was happy, and told Tracii that L.A. Guns was a far better band name than Pyrrhus. Tracii later admitted the inspiration came from sort of combining names, New York Dolls and Sex Pistols, to get to L.A. Guns. Besides Tracii and Ole, that day’s version of the band featured an incredible skin-bashing monster, Dijon Carruthers, on drums. The trio proceeded to put on a beyond-impressive performance, and right afterward, Tracii pitched me for a small investment in L.A Guns.

Even though I found music’s forbidden seduction and elusive promises of wealth and pleasure intriguing, I said, “I’m not really into working with Mike.” After laughing and mocking Mike a bit, Tracii assured me that Mike was not even being considered. When Tracii walked me out so I could show off my new car, I asked if he knew of any upcoming Rose shows, but left out the part about them being the band I really wanted to work with. Apparently, Rose had broken up, and Izzy joined the popular local band London.

Finding out Axl Rose might be available was the first moment I considered investing in Tracii’s project. I kept the excitement to myself, while thinking if Axl joined L.A. Guns, it’d be huge. And if I invested, I’d end up richer than Elmer J. Fudd. With images of mansions and yachts filled with porn sluts dancing in my head, I said, “You think Axl would be interested in jamming with L.A. Guns?” Tracii told me he had invited Axl to come to a rehearsal, but he wanted to start his own project. I told Tracii I’d think about putting some cash into his band but needed a written proposal before I could decide.

A few days later, I drove up to Big Sur to retrieve my brother Joe for Ma’s birthday. On the drive back, I told him of my foolproof plan: “Heavy metal is going to make me a millionaire.” Joe thought it a foolish idea. He was not the only one that I didn’t listen to. Because soon after returning to L.A., Tracii and I had a sit-down where he offered me 5 percent of L.A. Guns for a ten-thousand-dollar investment. I counteroffered a five-grand investment and then see where we were, figuring if the band could not score a great singer, I’d be out.

My ace in the hole was to trademark L.A. Guns in my name, in case Tracii didn’t come through on the promised cut or tried to fuck me in any way.

Tracii, Ole, and me hired a lawyer to draw up a very minimal contract, promising me 2.5 percent of the band for every five thousand dollars invested, capped at 10 percent. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision investing twenty grand. It was merely put there as placeholder bullshit. My ace in the hole was to trademark L.A. Guns in my name, in case Tracii didn’t come through on the promised cut or tried to fuck me in any way.

Bands need vans, so Tracii and I set off for Huntington Beach to buy that bubble-top, fast-food-drive-thru-overhang-catching Dodge off of Pops. Next, I made an offer the owner of an hourly rehearsal space could not refuse and rented L.A. Guns a twenty-four-hour lockout studio. The best part was that studio sat right smack dab in the middle of Hollywood, hidden away down an alley off Gardner at Sunset Boulevard, right around the corner from the mediocre Sunset Grill and the extremely shitty Guitar Center. The windowless, seven-hundred-square-foot room’s back wall bordered the playground of Gardner Street Elementary, where a few years later, its auditorium got named in honor of their most famous alumni, Michael Jackson.

Within days of the band moving into the lockout, Dijon quit being a drummer, switched to speed-metal guitar, and quit the band. Former Pyrrhus drummer Robbie’s girlfriend’s uncle sold some excellent cocaine, so I was regularly in touch with them. When they ended up homeless, I let Robbie store his drums at the studio. As an added bonus, Ole loved having a jam buddy available 24/7.

Raz Productions, Up That Ramp to My Back Door [Google Maps]
Vintage Los Angeles
Hughes Market Highland/Franklin [Vintage Los Angeles]

Unrealized by me at the time, Tracii’s “written proposal” was more of a wish list of totally unnecessary crap. Apparently, we were in the market for a drum riser, so Tracii found one in the Recycler, a newspaper version of Craigslist. The seller lived on an old school bus, about two miles from Dodger’s Stadium. Because I excelled at deal-making, I preferred to do the haggling, but needed him to drive the van to the pickup location. I told him, “Park around the corner and wait for me. Don’t do any negotiating until I get there.”

When I drove up, Tracii was out in front of a nearby warehouse, laughing, clowning, and shooting the shit with the seller, Sam Mann.

Tracii told me, “This guy’s the coolest guy ever.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Great, now how the fuck am I going to negotiate price?”

Sam told me in no uncertain terms, “One fifty each is the price, junior. Those Wenger risers go for five hundred a slice, and I’m throwing in the stairs.”

After agreeing to terms, Sam took the opportunity to try selling us a drum kit by pounding away on it for several minutes. I took an instant liking to Sam, but only because he was a super-cool, sarcastic, funny, and pretty dude, as well an incredible drummer. When I offered him the L.A. Guns’ drum gig, he said, “I’m not a drummer, I’m a singer.”

I begged him to at least come down to try out, but he remained non-committal. It didn’t bum me out too much, because Ole and me really wanted Robbie to replace Dijon. His drums were already at the studio, he knew the songs, and he clicked with Ole. To top it all off, Robbie had a great coke connection and was a cool bro wholeheartedly dedicated to the project. Plus, we couldn’t hire a singer until getting a drummer. Even with all that, Tracii remained adamant that Robbie wasn’t who he wanted in the group.

A few days later, Sam actually dropped by to try out. Robbie was cool enough to show him a few of the songs and allow use of his kit. Sam gave it a halfhearted, thoroughly lackluster attempt, then pointed to Robbie and said, “He’s your drummer.”

It was all settled – L.A. Guns was one singer short of becoming rock stars. We spent our days planning and scheming world dominance at the offices of Raz Productions, which was very close to my apartment’s kitchen: the dining room. I had business cards and everything. My vision was to create a buzz for L.A. Guns by strategically plastering the bold and straightforward logo onto other people’s shit.

Geographically, the Hollywood rock scene was a compact, interconnected area to promote. We focused on the Troubadour and its nearby parking lots, the Rainbow from 2-3 a.m., Café L.A., as well as Ben Frank’s diner and the popular twenty-four-hour Mexican fast food joint, Naugles. Plus every music store we shopped, and just down the street from my place, Hollywood Boulevard with its cool record shops and various metal orientated businesses.

Almost a month passed, and even though the band remained singer-less, almost everyone visiting Hollywood received at least minimal exposure to the L.A. Guns brand.

We kicked some major ass getting shirts, stickers, and posters out there for relatively cheap: the price of gasoline, burnt rubber, and booze. I also scored two cases of L.A. Guns logo matches, about a hillside’s worth of free fire to pass along, and several Hollywood smoke shops, liquor stores, and the Troubadour gladly distributed the L.A. Guns’ name to drunks and smokers. Almost a month passed, and even though the band remained singer-less, almost everyone visiting Hollywood received at least minimal exposure to the L.A. Guns brand. I was following a promotional strategy I witnessed The Police employ for their 1979 Roxy gig. A few weeks prior to that show, they began a massive blitz of “Support Your Local Police” stickers and posters around much the same area we canvassed.

L.A. Guns 3 Different Shirt Designs on 1 Mark Up
Last of the Stickers ‘N’ Matches 2023

The coolest, funnest, and most awesomey thing about promoting a band was the built-in excuse to flirt with absolutely every chick we stumbled upon. We also chatted up any and all rocker dudes crossing our path and, if in a band, they got hooked up with as much L.A. Guns merchandise as possible. We’d go to their shows and support their efforts, and they eventually ended up amongst our crowd.

One evening, while on a whiskey run to the Hughes Market at Highland and Franklin, Tracii and me met a very cool dude, Rikki Rockett, who was on a similar rock ‘n’ roll mission. After a lengthy talk, he left with a shirt and we had tickets to Poison’s Thursday night Troubadour show. It had to have been among the first handful of Poison’s L.A. performances, which made it even more stunning to discover a crowd of over a hundred, with 80 percent chicks. With a ratio like that, I never missed a Poison show, and got to know them fairly well. Those guys were always energetic, friendly, hard-working, as well as sincere, and I still dig that “Unskinny Bop.”

Raz Records Office 1984
Tracii Guns, Raz Cue, Ole Beich at Raz Productions Office
Before any Rose Rockin or Guns Gigs, Axl Rose Fronted Rapidfire

The greater Los Angeles area is a mish-mash of districts, communities and stand-alone cities. In L.A. city proper, there were several different rock scenes, each with unique musical styles and popular genres. Plus, even around Hollywood, each club had its own flavor. Gazzarri’s held on tightly to the last remnants of the Van Halen wannabes, bands who rarely played the Troub. The Troubadour was all about the Aqua Net Extra Super Hold hairspray, and where Mötley-Crüe-inspired, leather-bound glamsters rocked. To see a real heavy – or metal – band, one needed to travel deep into the valley to Reseda and catch a show at the Country Club. Outside of L.A., the club was the draw. At the popular clubs in the hinterlands, most weekends, no matter what, there was a good-sized crowd who trusted a place not to provide low shit through high wattage.

It’s no secret there were scores of megastar L.A. rock bands in the 60s and early 70s, but after a brief lull, Van Halen got the club scene hopping again in the late 70s. And after Mötley Crüe broke big in 82, L.A. reaffirmed its title as the hard-rock capitol of the universe. By 84, MTV was saturated with heavy L.A. bands like Quiet Riot and Ratt, as well as the new kings, Crüe. Then, on a scale previously unimagined, great-looking dudes with varying degrees of talent flocked to the town in droves. And wherever there are hot dudes, chicks swarm about with an insatiable desire to drop down to their knees and eagerly earn the privilege of buying a bad boy some leather.

It wasn’t only music turning the entire world’s attention toward my city that summer. The Games of the XXIII Olympiad were in Los Angeles, drawing a few million eyeballs of their own. In the run-up to the games, the first order of civic business was clearing them sweet swarms of pesky prostitutes from Sunset Boulevard, as to not tarnish the city’s sheen. The freeways were also empty, even during rush hour, because those who could had split town due to three years of our evening news’ relentless horror stories predicting Olympian-scale gridlock traffic. My favorite Olympics tie-in was a McDonald’s promotion: “If the U.S. Wins, You Win!” If the greatest country in the history of the planet won gold in a specific event, there was a free Big Mac, silver got you free fries, and bronze provided a coke to wash the winning down with.

By the time that free food was over, the guys were conditioned to me sporting Mickey D’s, and it became lunch on me after I grudgingly added food to the investment list.

Kaboom, the Soviet Union blew a hole in McDonald’s marketing budget by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Games, in retaliation for the U.S. skipping the 1980 Moscow Games. Without the Eastern Bloc countries competing, the United States accumulated one hundred and seventy-four medals; eighty-three gold. When a car full of good-looking rocker dudes pulls up to the drive-thru window and asks the cutie-pie, “Can I have a bunch of those scratchers?” more times than not, she’ll hand over the whole damn stack. We literally had a free meal a day for several weeks. By the time that free food was over, the guys were conditioned to me sporting Mickey D’s, and it became lunch on me after I grudgingly added food to the investment list.

The coolest thing about having a rehearsal space in the middle of Hollywood was we had a great afterhours place to drink, party, rock out, party, and party. Ole’s friend Paul was in town to see some Olympic futbol, and tagged along to the Rainbow the night we met a couple German dudes from the band Nena, owners of a pretty big MTV hit “99 Luftbaloons.” Many Danes speak German, and vice versa, plus those Northern Europeans all stick together in their love for Jack Daniel’s; so back to the jam space. Though they refused my repeated requests to invite Nena over, it was a fun late-night groove-jam party. I also found out my theory about those 99 red balloons was all wrong when in three different languages I received repeated assurance the song was not about heroin delivery.

If The U.S. Wins You Win = FREE Big Macs

Gear-wise, Tracii seemed content with his two Marshall 100 Watt Super Leads, modified with master volumes by Jabco, and four 4-12 Marshall Cabinets, of varying wattage. But when it came to getting a guitar sound, he was a schizophrenic who couldn’t settle on one he loved longer than two days. Dude went through piles of pedals and rack-mounted signal processors, because he needed a _____, and couldn’t be expected to play without whatever the fuck his current “I need” happened to be.

When it came to guitars, Tracii started out with what he claimed as a pre-Jackson, Randy Rhodes model Flying V. But he soon tired of it and dragged me to Guitar Guitar, where I drove a hard bargain to trade it and a hundred bucks for a black-on-black Ibanez Strat. When we left with his new nine-hundred-dollar guitar, Tracii laughed and told me the traded Flying V was a two-hundred-dollar knockoff of a knockoff, and it didn’t look anything like the Rhodes model. After scoring a machine-gun-shaped guitar that sounded like crap and a blond 76 Gibson Les Paul Custom, I quit purchasing guitars.

Robbie already owned a complete drum kit, with hardware, so all he needed were a few cases, sticks, cymbals, heads, and other shit that regularly wore out. But Ole required all new gear to sonically compete with Robbie’s hard pounding above Tracii’s new stacks and lack of dynamics. Not yet aware of Ampeg SVT’s superiority, I believed the Nadine’s salesman’s pitch. Meaning, unfortunately, Ole ended up with a Peavey MAX head, two 1-15 Gauss bass cabinets, and matching 2-10 cabinets. The Peavey head kicked ass, but those Gauss cabinets sucked and blew up soon after getting unpacked.

The same day we shopped for the bullshit Gauss gear, Ole passed his time plucking away on a blond Music Man bass. He became smitten, sheepishly asking if I’d loan him money to buy it. After selling his Fender P-bass, I paid the difference for the axe, and Ole became happier than anyone ever saw him. It truly was love, that bass always in his hands or very close by. Dude played almost every waking moment, and especially loved AC/DC, Manowar, Stevie Ray Vaughn, or adding bottom end to whatever was on the TV.

But when Ole picked out a pink version of the same jacket, he said, “If we’re going to look like a bunch of fags, might as well be the best fags we can.”

After Tracii swore up and down that most band managers bought stage clothes for the group, I flashed back to my gang-adjacent days and thought matching leathers would be pretty cool. Me and Tracii got black biker jackets, Robbie got his in white. But when Ole picked out a pink version of the same jacket, he said, “If we’re going to look like a bunch of fags, might as well be the best fags we can.” My leather was such a burden, hot and cumbersome, that it mostly rode in my lap. Happily, one night, someone was kind enough to steal it.

In just the first month, I dropped more than five grand, and the band had yet to hire their singer. So I succumbed to the “sunken cost fallacy” and threw more good money after bad. With growing concern about how fast my money bags were shrinking, I thought another revenue stream would be helpful. I knew that during California’s nineteenth-century gold rush, the merchants were the most likely to end up rich. So one afternoon, whilst slaving away within the Raz Productions office, I put the bong down and suggested to Tracii we open a clothing shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Or maybe Melrose, which wasn’t a big scene yet. We’d make money and get the newest, coolest clothes and shoes far cheaper than paying retail, all the while promoting the fuck out of L.A. Guns. Maybe even find a space to jam, too.

That’s how I sold it, but Tracii summarily dismissed my idea, and in a mocking tone said, “Are you in the rock ‘n’ roll business, or are you a shopkeeper?” Still firmly convinced that Tracii knew what he was talking about, I let it pass.

Music Man Bass Guitar, Ole Beich Took the Pick Guard Off of His
Ole Beich & 85% of His Music Man Bass 1985

Bank of America sucked giant donkey dicks, usually giving me an extreme hassle whenever I tried withdrawing more than a few hundred bucks in a single serving. I’d end up sitting around for half an hour waiting, while sporadically mumble-yelling, “Give me my fucking money.” I didn’t have credit, and there were no debit cards in those days, so to buy gear, it was cash or a check. Try going into a music store and buying a stack of gear with a check. To avoid the furious waiting at my bank and have cash on hand when a deal popped up, I came up with the solid plan of removing two hundred dollars per day from an ATM.

At some point, I gifted Joe my old Pontiac Grand Ville, so he’d have a car to drive back to Big Sur and get the fuck away from me. It wasn’t constant bad times and violence between my brother and me; over the years, we got along minutes at a time, but forty-eight hours or more together ain’t pretty. To my chagrin, instead of pointing that Pontiac north, Joe got himself a job at a catering company. We all loved the free gourmet leftovers, but his real gig was head of the stage crew for L.A. Guns.

I tried firing him several times, but my inability to physically remove his ability to continue breathing meant he ignored me and kept showing up. If a dude’s going to break his back schlepping around a band’s gear, the band will not side with the barely-able-to-lift-a-guitar gimp manager. Besides, as much as I hate him, others love Joe. Except for his penchant for sweating the small stuff and stressing like a maniac on moonshine, his above-average technical and critical-thinking skills combined with an ability to make snap decisions meant he was a great roadie/stage manager. And I hate to admit it.

For some reason, a singer-less band believed it time to book gigs, so Tracii and me went to the L.A. Street Scene’s talent office to play the required demo. Up to that very wrinkle in time, I believed L.A. Guns had a demo tape. Because that was what dumbass me was led to believe. Instead, we got to hear a shitty boombox recording of a rehearsal from back in the Pyrrhus days, with Mike Jagosz’s vocals barely heard amongst blaring overloaded guitar. We got rejected, dejected, and ejected. The agent told us we needed a studio demo before L.A. Guns could be booked. When Tracii protested and tried to get her to listen again, I shut him down. After he sulked away, I lagged behind and apologized for wasting her time, and then told of the demo the guys were just finishing up with. She had seen the logo around town, and told me to bring a professional demo within three weeks. And if it was to her liking, L.A. Guns could have a spot at the Street Scene.

So if she wanted a demo, I’d get her a demo. A block from Fairfax High School, the bargain-basement 24 track, Hitman Studios, became the band’s destination. For twenty-nine bucks an hour, the place also provided an engineer, Chuck Rosa. The Guns were well rehearsed and tight, so I figured they’d lay down two songs in about ten hours. Then, upon landing a singer, pop back into Hitman and record some vocals with a four-hour session.

After Chuck spent an eternity getting drum sounds, when the band finally played, Tracii was unwilling or unable to lay down a simple rhythm track. After eight hundred and forty-two takes – maybe a few less – we gave up on our begging him, because the session was over. And L.A. Guns were not even close to having a demo. Chuck spoke glowingly about his love for the band, and how sweet a demo we could produce with another ten hours of studio time. Having never done recording studio business, I was unaware of a standard recording studio up-sell being personally delivered.

Axl seemed happy to see me and introduced me to his mate. “This is my drummer, Steven.”

A few nights later, I ran into Axl in the Rainbow parking lot and smacked him on the ass, then let my hand linger momentarily while saying hello. Just kidding, he’s more steer than queer. Axl seemed happy to see me and introduced me to his mate. “This is my drummer, Steven.” Axl passed me a few tickets with “Hollywood” handwritten across a rubber-stamped red rose.

1984 Hollywood Rose Ticket

I’d been searching high and low for him, so I told of L.A. Guns recording a demo, auditioning singers, and how great it’d be were he to drop by the studio to give it a shot. Axl pulled Steven Adler in tight for a chokehold hug and said, “I love my band, and I love this guy.”

Later, when I told Tracii of the conversation, he suggested offering Axl a pair of leather pants to join. I said, “I don’t want him in the band if that’s what I have to do.”

About a week later, I ran into Axl and, to my surprise, learned that Hollywood Rose had broken up. I thought it was great, but didn’t act overly happy. I pitched the gig again, but he still wasn’t interested in joining L.A. Guns. Axl explained, “I don’t think Tracii and me have the same vision.”

I told him, “Tracii loves your voice, and I think he’d be willing to at least hear you out.”

Axl merely shrugged, and we left it at that after I became distracted by the utterly sweet Monique gliding elegantly toward us. She hit me up for a ride to some after party, and because I never could say no to her, gladly obliged. Axl, always down for the party with utterly sweet treats, said he’d tag along and so I began rolling car-ward.

After getting a decent downhill clip going, just past The Roxy, I knocked over the metal valet parking sign, which slammed onto the sidewalk with a loud crash. A valet dude with limited English skills ran and grabbed my chair’s handle so I couldn’t get away. He got up in my face, yelling and screaming while I struggled to break free of his grip. I yelled back, “Fuck you, it was an accident!”

Axl ran up to let the dude know he needed to release me or end up in the hospital. Two other valet guys rushed over to back up their buddy, but Axl was clearly ready to throw with all three of them, and didn’t flinch or back down as he bellowed warnings their way.

The valet guy had no end game, so he just let me go. I continued on downhill and yelled back, “Fuck you, motherfuckers!”

As we sailed up Holloway, Axl sang along full-throated, wailing, crooning, and impressing with his warm, signature rasp.

A few minutes later, the three of us were tooling along Sunset Boulevard, top down, with Axl and Monique sitting on the boot, singing along with a song on KMET. I veered off onto Holloway to avoid the 2 a.m. Strip logjam as the piano intro to Queen’s “Spread Your Wings” began. Axl became happily animated and said, “I can’t believe it. They never play this song on the radio.” As we sailed up Holloway, Axl sang along full-throated, wailing, crooning, and impressing with his warm, signature rasp. It made me wish even more that he’d sing for L.A. Guns.

A few nights later, Ole, his friend Paul, and me were at the studio getting shitfaced on Jack, coke, and weed to celebrate Paul’s heading back to Denmark the next day. Around two thirty, Tracii showed up with Axl, and, I think, Steve Darrow. We all partied for a while before the guys started to jam, with Steve on drums. They played some covers and a few of Axl’s Hollywood Rose songs. And it was awesome! While they rocked out, Paul leaned over and yelled in my ear, “That’s the best rock ‘n’ roll singer in Los Angeles!” I looked toward Axl, nodded in agreement, and then took a chug. When the band drifted off into a prolonged blues jam, Axl put the microphone down and sat with us to pass the Jack to and fro. Good fun. That night, I didn’t once bug him to join the band. Having asked so many times – and always been shot down – I concluded it was not to be.

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“The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Malcom X