The album that changed Slash’s life and made him pick up a guitar
Saul Hudson—AKA Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses—has always been a guitar obsessive. From the second he picked up his first six-string when he was aged 14, he became hell-bent on becoming a rockstar. It’s odd to imagine Slash doing any line of work apart from strutting his stuff on stage to a field in front of thousands of rabid fans going crazy for his riffs but, up until his teenage years, Slash had other ideas. That said, after listening to one specific album, his life would completely change.
This record would make Slash become enamoured with the guitar after deciding to form a band with his friend and future Guns ‘N’ Roses sticksman Steven Adler earlier in 1979. Like many adolescent bands, they never actually materialised, but one good thing came out of it which was that it prompted Slash to take up an instrument. Since Adler had already designated himself the role of guitarist, Slash decided to pick the next best thing and learn the bass instead but he soon switched to the guitar and never looked back. In his heart of hearts, he always knew that the bass wasn’t for him from the second that he listened to one album that would make his life worth living.
The album in question is Aerosmith’s fourth record Rocks, a project which remains one of the most influential albums in rock history. The album played a part in the formations of not just Guns ‘N’ Roses, but also Nirvana, Metallica and many more. Rocks was the sound of a band living the cliched rock-and-roll lifestyle to the hilt, one which they had not stopped indulging themselves within since the release of their debut record a few years prior and hedonism had become their norm. Somehow, their craving for drugs and excess didn’t hamper their creativity, if anything it seemed to help them.
“I first heard Rocks when I was 13 or 14,” Slash once recalled to Guitar World when asked to name the record which had the greatest impact on his life. “There was this girl, Laurie, and I’d been trying to get into her pants for what seemed like forever. She was the hottest chick in school and just exuded-no, excreted-sex appeal. One day I rode my BMX bike over to her place. We smoked a bunch of pot, and she started playing me records.
“From the moment she put it on and ‘Back in the Saddle’ started playing, I was glued to the album. She just vanished into the shadows, and I completely forgot about her,” the Guns ‘N’ Roses man vividly recalled.
“Aerosmith delivered the songs with such urgency, and the music had an almost punk attitude, with its powerhouse rhythm section and guitars that were all over the place,” Slash added. “Rocks was loose and frenzied, and I could relate to the emotional angst-filled vocals of ‘Last Child’ and ‘Combination.’ It wasn’t pristine and perfect, but it gelled together perfectly. It’s an amazing record.
“Rocks was aggressive, loud and swaggering. It fit my personality perfectly. After I digested the album six or seven times at this chick’s apartment, I just got up, grabbed my smokes, jumped on my bike and went home. I never did get laid. But not too long after, I picked up my guitar, and I’ve been doing this ever since,” he concluded.
From that day on, Slash has been solely focused on mastering the guitar which it’s fair to say he’s done and some. The influence of Aerosmith wasn’t just on him as a 14-year-old who became obsessed with not just their sound but their reckless attitude which made them his idols and Guns ‘N’ Roses would pick up the mantle from them in due course — undoubtedly infecting teenage brains with a dosage of pure rock ‘n’ roll similar to the one Slash got when he first played Rocks.